The Audi Prologue: Fantasy Coupe or New Brand Blueprint?
If an automaker wants to go for impossibly elegant and luxurious, the super coupe is the ticket. Just ask Cadillac how jaws still drop at the mention of the Elmiraj, a 17-footer that has wowed auto show audiences since its Pebble Beach debut. That fantasy concept is still being carted around while Cadillac’s popularity continues to decline. In the case of Audi, brand sales and overall enthusiasm are soaring, so the introduction of its uber-luxury coupe in Los Angeles is more a good omen than a fantasy tease. What’s more, Audi says the stunning Prologue is the blueprint for the brand’s upcoming designs.
The future of Audi
Marc Lichte, Audi’s head of design, presented the Prologue concept coupe in Los Angeles with an emphasis on the car’s future as the face of the brand. Its lower, wider face improves upon the existing A8 front fascia and features a giant, chrome-barred grille in the shape of a trapezoid. The crossbars of the grille have a diamond pattern that splits at the outer edges, reaching out to laser headlights. Air intakes accented with more diamond patterns round out the head-on highlights. In profile, 22-inch wheels and swooping elegance dominate the visual impression.
According to Lichte, Audi’s team has “put the sportiest car in the luxury segment on wheels” while maintaining it was “the future of Audi” embodied in a single vehicle. Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Board Member for Development, described the Prologue in a company statement as a signature car that “expresses the technological competence and quality claim of the brand perfectly.”
When seeing this type of drop-dead coupe at an auto show, most people feel like they are being kidded. Making a knockout is one thing while bringing it to market is a whole other matter. In the case of the Prologue, Audi has no dire need to improve the image of the brand, but it could help Volkswagen’s luxury brand make even steadier gains in the U.S. and overseas markets.
A sparsely populated segment
Powertrain specs for the Prologue concept are as impressive as its exterior styling. Its 4.0-liter TFSI engine produces a maximum 605 horsepower and 516 pounds-feet of torque. Audi says that torque hits 553 pounds-feet in overboost mode. Oh, and it can go from 0 to 62 miles per hour in 3.7 seconds, making it an absolute rocket for a car of its size.
Looking at the luxury coupe segment, there would not be much competition for the Prologue coupe it if entered the market. Only Mercedes’s S550 coupe ($119,900) and super-luxury models by Bentley play in this arena. According to the BBC, Lichte said the A8 sedan headed to market in 2016 would bring some of the elements suggested by the Prologue concept. There is hope for both a potential standalone Prologue and as a major influencer on the next generation of Audis.
In essence, this latest power play by VW’s luxury brand is a continuation of the brand’s offensive. Audi is already on a streak of record-breaking sales in 46 straight months in the U.S. After taking over second place among world automakers in 2013, there is only Toyota left in the automaker’s sights. With Audi accounting for two-fifths of the Volkswagen Group’s total profits, it makes perfect sense to make its strongest asset even more imposing.