'The cars we specify have to show what’s realistically possible with an Audi options wise, and as far as possible, we try to avoid having a black car in the press fleet.'
STORY BY Lee Nian Tjoe, Senior Manager - Corporate Communications / Audi Singapore
There are five different shades of grey available for the Audi A8. Nine different wheel designs, 12 different upholstery colours and stitching combinations to choose from. Then there are other considerations like how many speakers and whether there should be a chiller in the back.
As a Top Gear Singapore reader, you may already be familiar with the online car configurators offered on the car brand sites. If you’re not, you should start. It’s an incredible way to while away a slow day at the office, even if it happens to be'work’ in my case…
I get to configure the cars to be used for media reviews. After working on the configurator, I get to 'checkout', as they say in online shopping parlance. In a couple of months, the car appears in our fleet.
The cars we specify have to show off what’s realistically possible. As far as possible, you will not find a black car in the fleet. Dirt shows too easily and magazine photographers aren’t handy with the chamois. A light coloured interior with cream carpets look fantastic but won’t survive a road tester’s denims and wet sneakers. And it will always rain when you have a black car with white seats. It just does.
Cosmetic concerns matter a lot because a picture on a glossy magazine tells a thousand words. However, it’s even more important to be particular about the things that do more than look cool, although sometimes, this means saying 'no' to some tasty options.
For instance, with high performance RS and R8 models, it’s always tempting to put on ceramic brakes. While they look a treat and are excellent on-track, the regular steel ones offer good pedal feel on the road, especially in start-stop traffic, which is nearly 100 per cent of the time for the local road testers.
There are also the realities of timelines. More often than not, the press car is among the first to be built for the country, when the production line is just getting warmed up. When specifying the latest RS 4 Avant last year, there was an opportunity to equip the car with the '5-arm peak' design 20-inch wheel instead of the stock one. Milled from aluminium, the unusual construction translates to immense strength and lightness, which pays dividends in terms of driving dynamics. But ticking that box puts us at risk of delaying the car’s arrival because the factory hadn’t made enough of them back then. We took the gamble and by some miracle, the car arrived on schedule.
There are instances when we don’t get precisely what we want. For example, the Dragon Orange Q8 making its rounds in the media has a panoramic glass roof. It is not a standard feature. It went in because we wanted the dynamic all-wheel steering option to show just how agile the big sporty SUV 'coupe' can be. The roof and steering are part of an equipment package, and we couldn’t have one without the other.
When the time comes to sell the car on to a dealer, a big glass roof is lot more obvious and easier to appreciate than the workings of all-wheel steering. So I guess everybody wins. Now you may have your ideas about the 'perfect' Audi Q8 or any model for that matter. I’d get on to that online configurator, if I were you…
PHOTOS Supplied by Lee Nian Tjoe