The innovative colour and material concept of the Audi Q4 e-tron is just one of the aspects that make the all-electric SUV so interesting. Discover how versatile, innovative and environmentally aware the new Audi Q4 e-tron is.
A visit with the Audi Q4 e-tron experts in Audi’s Color & Trim department reveals what customers can particularly look forward to.
Only consumption and emission values according to WLTP and not according to NEDC are available for the vehicle.
“Many people think that creativity is a snapshot – a flash of inspiration, an epiphany,” says Simona Falcinella when asked about the myriad of ideas that are possibly in the making right now – behind carefully closed doors. “When a job is based on creativity, the process requires a certain ‘Creative Resilience’: the combination of creative instinct with experience and competence. Creativity for us is a daily practice, a continuous exercise.”
Designer Annika de Boer joins. “What makes our team so special?” She ponders for a moment – there seem to be many possible answers to this question. “Although we each have our own identity, we all speak the same design language,” she finally says.
“Yes, we actually have a common and very precise idea of what Audi is and how we can continue to innovate it in line with the brand’s identity,” Simona Falcinella adds.
The two ladies lead the way past showrooms, desks, high shelves, and what is known as the “material library” into the innermost part of the Color & Trim department, where two other team members are waiting: Tiziana Mauri and Christina Wittmann. All four bring their expertise to the material and color surface treatments of the Audi Q4 e-tron.
But where exactly does the creative journey begin on a major project like the Audi Q4 e-tron fit-out? “With a conceptual idea, an intuition based on broad trend research that encompasses design, technology, and society. Then we elaborate these ideas, filter them, and translate them into a pure and distinctive Audi code,” says head of the Color & Trim series projects Tiziana Mauri. “The entire team is involved in all phases of the project – from the first conceptual level to the final series development. We are all designers and material specialists at the same time. We zoom in and out, working on a micro and macro level.”
The first practical step is to develop a color and material concept that matches the specific character and message of the model. In this phase, the designers use mood boards and trend research as tools to visualize and underpin their ideas, intuitions, and research.
Then the concepts are turned into concrete samples: partly in the in-house Audi Design Center, which includes a paint shop and a saddlery for trim trials, and partly by external suppliers. “When we’re looking for the perfect color, for instance,” Christina Wittmann explains, “we give the state of play, i.e. the preliminary color data, to the paint shop, where it’s processed on a test piece.” The mudguard is particularly suitable for this because it has an exciting three-dimensionality and reflects the light very dynamically. For example, until the perfect new shade of purple was found for the Audi Q4 e-tron, various painted samples were inspected in direct comparison, and the color gradually further adjusted. More blue pigment, more metallic particles, less metallic, more red pigment ... Until, at some point, the team decided: now it’s right.
Such selection and weighing processes are usually not limited to the Color & Trim studio: synergies between the different departments play a role in every production step. As the definition of the interior and exterior shapes and surfaces progressed, the C&T designers arrived at an increasingly precise color and material palette. This then represented the common thread that later turned the exterior and interior into a harmonious unit.
Once the right materials and colors have been found, the team continues to work closely with colleagues from Technical Development, the Quality department, marketing, and strategy experts. “In the process, it is important to integrate our ideas into the different work areas as well as the wishes and requirements of all individual business areas into our concepts without losing our vision,” explains project manager Christina Wittmann. So all ideas are subjected to a feasibility check before they can be produced. No one works in an ivory tower here.
Annika de Boer shows a physically small but extremely important innovation that she worked on for two years: the Audi rings in the steering wheel. “After a long process of experimenting with gloss levels, color gradations, and different brushings, we can now see the result on the road. That really feels good.”
On one of the tables in the room lies a large roll of wafer-thin material with a perfectly natural-looking tree grain. “The new premium surface ‘Lime Sediment Greyish Brown Naturelle’ is a technical veneer,” Annika de Boer explains. “We have developed it with a special focus on the 3D effect and the haptics. When you touch it, you can feel the three-dimensional wood structure, it’s really there.”
Using a material sheet not yet drawn on a sample, Tiziana explains the aesthetic trick of another new surface option: “Aluminum Convergence Anthracite.” “To ensure that the area intended for it in the car doesn’t look too massive later on, we visually split the design in two – by working with two different graphics and brush directions that follow the shape of the component.”
Annika de Boer
Meanwhile, Simona Falcinella drapes a large sheet of fabric in front of her. It is a fabric that feels solid to the touch and looks sporty, pure, and luxurious with its light shimmer – rather like the raw material for a futuristic haute couture design. “We call it Technikgewebe,” says Falcinella pragmatically. What is the fabric made of? “Partly discarded fabrics and PET bottles.”
In the Audi Q4 e-tron project, the team has implemented their claim of sustainability with particular passion – right down to the last detail: The carpet and the rear shelf for instance contain partly recycled material. Later, as a car buyer, you will hardly notice this most extensive of all interior surfaces. All the more important, given the large amount of material, are the inner values. “The carpet backing is made from discarded fabrics from the textile industry, e.g. wool and cotton, maybe even old jeans,” Annika de Boer explains, “and the soft upper material is partly made from recycled PET bottles and recycled granules.”
As the interview comes to an end, there is only one question left: Can the team name a collective favorite color in the Audi Q4 e-tron paint range? In fact, everyone agrees on that one: the optional “Aurora Violet” is particularly original. “Purple is culturally associated with luxury and psychologically with the idea of transformation,” Simona Falcinella gives an explanation. “We are in a time of change, which Audi is commenting on with a bold color. As such, the shade also fits ideally with the character of the Audi Q4 e-tron: a perfectly balanced combination of sporty vocation and sophistication.”