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Report From The Street!
Audi Enters the Supercar Ring
In 2003 at the Frankfurt Auto Show Audi unveiled its Le Mans Coupe concept car. Many concept cars have no future when it comes to actually being built. Back in 2003 it was anybody’s guess as to what would hold true for the Le Mans. As it turns out Audi has announced that it is moving forward with the project. The concept car was a twin turbo version of the engine that Audi has decided to use in the new Le Mans. Audi decided against the turbo charge version as to save something for its true sports car label Lamborghini. The concept car claimed 0-60 in 3.7 seconds so figure about 4.1 seconds for the new Le Mans. The name Le Mans comes from the fact that Audi won there three times, and Audi wants to remind people of this fact, and be considered a sports car company that happens to make luxury cars.
Audi has really found a reason to be glad it own Lamborghini. The Lamborghini Gallardo is considered by many to be the best looking car on the planet. Audi has decided to borrow the Gallardo engine, a 5.2 literV-10 that produces 500 horsepower and build their own supercar around it. Audi will call this new model the Le Mans coupe. The design will follow the layout of the Gallardo although it will be a little bigger. Audi knows that the Gallardo lines rock, so it will basically take these lines and round them a little. When I saw the first drawings I was immediately reminded of a car from the future the, the year 2050 to be exact, according to the movie I, Robot. The Audi in the movie might be a bit wider but I am sure that the spirit of the car in the movie will be in the new Audi Le Mans. It only later occurred to me that maybe Audi didn’t build a car for a big budget movie and then said, let’s build that car, more likely Audi was thinking of building a supercar, and then went to the big studios and asked in which movie they could showcase their futuristic supercar.
The new Audi Le Mans will be a chance for Audi to see if they can sell cars in the ultra sports car marketplace. Recently VW was unable to sell $100,000 luxury cars (many dealers were selling the 12 cylinder Phaeton at $17,000 under sticker). More surprisingly neither Mercedes nor Porsche was able to easily sell their $450,000 supercars the McLaren and the Carrera GT.
There isn’t exactly a shortage of supercars, but Audi has been trying to recently position its Quattro onto some pretty hollowed ground. Audi has for the last 30 years been the manufacturer that fell between Porsche and VW. Porsche was all sports cars and VW was about practicality. Even the sporty VW, the GTI was small enough so at least it was easy to park even if it wasn’t as “practical” as VW Golf.
The Quattro turns 25 this year and Audi is building 250 anniversary editions with the 3.2 liter 255 horsepower engine, but the real anniversary Quattro is the RS4, the new Audi rally car with 434 horsepower. Why this is important to the History of the new Audi Le Mans is that rarely do mass market manufactures make money on their super cars. Acura lost thousands on every NSX and Ford has so far on their GT’s. Audi hopes the new Le Mans will move Audi into the sports car arena so that selling $80,000 RS4’s won’t be impossible.
Audi already builds an $115,000 car the A8 with the V-12 engine, but the Le Mans is entering new territory for them because the A8 was viewed as a luxury car while the Le Mans should be scene as an exotic. Audi wants the Le Mans to put Audi back on the radar of upscale German car buyers. Audi already gives a lot of bang for the buck when compared to Porsche or Mercedes and offers an alternative to BMW. Owners of the new Le Mans should get a fairly good car as Audi is way past the days of stuck accelerators and freefall resale values.
Expect the Le Mans to be priced at around $150,000 which should be around the same price as a Lexus LF-A. Both of these cars should be out as early as fall 2006 as 2007 models. Because Audi already builds the Gallardo and they have been tooling around with their concept car since 2003 this project should stay on schedule. Audi hopes that the Le Mans will push up the perceived values of all Audi’s in a way that the VW Phaeton could not do for VW. The only problem for Audi is how do you get people to spend that much money without offering the exotic nameplate that cars like Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini or even Lotus come equipped with?
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