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Auto blogWed, 27 Nov 2013 08:57:00 EST
The argument is made in a Reuters article: Audi is falling behind other luxury brands, such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW, due to a lack of research-and-development spending and "brain drain," or the migration of top executives and R&D chiefs to other parts of the Volkswagen Group. Reuters notes that Audi's current R&D chief is the third in 16 months.
Audi, which contributed to 40 percent of VW Group's $11.6 billion in profit the first nine months of the year, is delivering cars at a record pace: 1.31 million were delivered from January to October 2013 versus BMW's 1.35 million. Yet Audi, Reuters reports, doesn't have a halo car akin to BMW's new electrified i3 and i8 or an answer to Mercedes' plug-in-hybrid S-Class, and the R&D spending at Audi is less than BMW and Mercedes by a fair margin. It's noted in the article, however, that Audi benefits from other R&D spending within VW Group.
Reuters mentions that BMW "trumpets its new 'i' series" and the new Mercedes CLA and GLA ranges are winning "rave reviews" as part of its argument that Audi's recent lack of technological innovation could hurt future sales. Those cars do pack tons of new technology, some of which are firsts for mainstream production cars. But last time we checked, the i3 could be causing BMW's stock to slide, the CLA isn't receiving the rave reviews that Reuters would have you believe and the GLA hasn't been reviewed yet.
If we're being completely honest, we haven't exactly been in love with the aesthetics of the sixth-generation Mercedes-Benz SL-Class. It's mostly a front-end issue, with its glowering eagle-eye headlamps and upright, dinner-plate-sized Three-Pointed Star coming across to us as overwrought. That's particularly troublesome for a roadster whose history has of the most elegant designs of all time in its back catalog. Somehow, the new R231 generation's brash visuals seem more at home on this Brabus 800 Roadster to us.
That's probably because the high-dollar German tuner has turned up the wick on the SL's visuals even further, with carbon fiber bodywork, a more aggressive aero kit, matte hood scoop and complex two-finish wheels. It's all-the-way committed to its brashness, in other words - and justifiably so. Anything with 800 horsepower and 1,047 pound-feet of torque has earned the right to look however it wants, right?
Brabus started with the SL65 and its not-exactly-underpowered 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12, and went to town, fitting their own turbocharger and intercooler system, along with a less-restrictive exhaust system with driver-selectable sound levels and new engine electronics. The result is a 3.7-second 0-62 mph time, an electronically limited top whack of 217 mph... and one seriously compromised toupée.
A few weeks ago, we brought you news from the launch of the Aston Martin Vanquish Volante that the British brand, which is formally known as Aston Martin Lagonda, was still planning on going ahead with a Lagonda-badged crossover. Now comes word that that vehicle could very well be based on a Mercedes-Benz M-Class.
When the first Lagonda Concept debuted at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show, it sat on a Mercedes-Benz GL-Class platform, some four years before Aston Martin and Mercedes-AMG deal was inked. And with that partnership, which will see Aston Martin gain access to AMG electrics and "bespoke, V8 powertrains," the opportunities for platform sharing are many.
Dr. Ulrich Bez, the boss of Aston Martin, told the UK's AutoCar, "I look at what Porsche is doing with the 911 as its core business and then it is able to do models like the Cayenne based on the Volkswagen Touareg. It is good business." We've said many times that we'll tolerate exotic CUVs and SUVs if it means keeping the beloved core models alive, which has been the case with Porsche. We see no reason Aston Martin wouldn't be able to do the same.