“Wow, what make of car is that …?” Difficult to say these days. With a few exceptions. There was a time once when each make of car had its own unique look. And there were (and still are) a number of faces in the crowd that stood out from all the rest – not least because of the design and arrangement of their headlights. Our mini-series will take a subjective look at some of the most spectacular designs and some of the weirdest, some long forgotten and some that are still on the roads today. Today’s striking specimen is the most current in our series and it strongly polarizes opinion – the Singleframe grille from Audi.
You can’t really argue about taste. Strictly speaking, neither can you about design, because what the car industry is trying to sell us as the latest hot stuff and must haves is ultimately based on market research, customer requests and a pinch of courage by the designers. So whether you like the grille or not, which Audi has courageously been adding to its entire model range since 2004, you don’t need to say. It sells well and it’s striking – a radiator grille which no longer simply dominates the “face” of the car above the bumper, but, stretched down all the way to the front spoiler, is not optically limited or separated by a bumper anymore. The Singleframe grille is big, pretty dominant and has definitely a distinctive design.
You’ve got to hand it to Audi: you can tell it’s an Audi just by looking at the front. I think that’s a good thing. If such a Singleframe appears in your rear-view mirror, you’d probably want to move out of the way a bit more quickly (depending on how aggressively the person is driving). OK, fine, that’s consistent with the sporty, fast image that the brand instilled into its models even beyond the “S” range. In modern vehicles there are also evil headlight eyes and narrow matrix headlights which almost give you an aggressive “look”. In any case, in the Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm factories the electronically controlled LED combinations are only installed in cars that make you move out of the way voluntarily and full of awe. From the mid range and up, the new Audi face only seems to consist of a huge single radiator grille and two evil-looking eyes. If you like it you’ll have the fast lane all to yourself.
Something the company has managed to achieve without a doubt is to establish a brand face that is unique. The model policies of many manufacturers today are pretty confusing, so that’s courageous and points the way ahead. And if you don’t like it you can always drive a different car. One way or another, a layman can identify a modern Audi as such at least from the front, as long as they can rule out a pumped-up Ford Focus, that is. Design becomes a thing. And with differing opinions Photoshop artists immediately appear on the scene and design alternative Audi fronts where not only the license plate divides the mega-grille. Whether that looks better or worse is in the eye of the beholder. We in the Osram team are curious about how car design will continue to evolve. Our new generation of headlights, as now shown in the Golf VI, and the wider spread of LED lamps still leave a lot of design freedom. We remain curious.