To make their range less confusing, Audi have, this week, detailed a new numbering system to move their model badges away from engine capacity. It makes sense. The A4 range has 4 different 2.0L engines, all of them badged 2.0 and as more downsized engines and hybrid choices grow into the range in the coming years, it makes sense to badge based on performance rather than engine size, lest customers see smaller numbers as a step backwards.
Mercedes and BMW have already been doing this for years and you’ve got to give Audi credit for also jumping on the bandwagon to help distinguish their models more clearly. Now the choice is more meaningful than ‘I’ll have the one with the big grille on it please.’
Except what on Earth is this numbering structure?! It makes no sense at all! “30” will be used to define cars with between 81 and 96kW. Why start at 30? Why 81 and not 80kW? Or 79? Were they just throwing darts at a number chart? The next number up the hierarchy is “35” which is for outputs of 110 to 120kW. Are they suggesting that they’ll never make an engine with 103kW? What about 105? What is this madness?
Audi Badge > BMW Badge, Mercedes Badge
BMW and Mercedes at least seem to have an unwritten agreement to badge their cars like for like to avoid confusion. A BMW 330i, for instance, makes 185kW. A Mercedes C300, 180kW. It’s similar! It’s easy to navigate which cars compare and it’s like this all the way through the BMW and Benz ranges. The new Audi badge performance index number for this level? 45. Why? What is the significance? BMW justifies their number by saying a 30i engine “makes power like” a 3.0L. It makes good, simple sense.
The only reason for doing this? Marketing. It’s the old ‘our number is bigger than yours so it must be better.’ Audi would have been very well aware of this dynamic and could have lined their numbers up with the existing unofficial hierarchy. The third German luxury car maker has come a long way in the last 20 years, are they suffering from some growing pains? A bit of short man syndrome? An inferiority complex? Possibly.
But for now it just looks like they’re compensating for something.
Updated 21 October 2017
Are the cracks starting to show already? With the release of the new A7, Audi US has confirmed that the new badging strategy won’t be making it to the US. Audi US says they offer fewer powertrain options so it makes sense to keep it simple. This is a spectacular about-face. From the original press release; “Audi is adopting a standardized nomenclature for the power output designations of its worldwide range of automobiles.”
I guess ‘worldwide’ has a new meaning. Possibly they’re forgetting that the world is a small place for information travel these days. There’s nothing like calling a global product something different in two different places to create confusion among internet researchers and fans of the brand.