Frankfurt 2017: Audi Aicon

12 September 2017 | by Lem Bingley

Huge 26-inch wheels rob Audi’s Aicon autonomous vehicle concept of its true sense of scale. In pictures, they tend to shrink the car below its actual size, whereas under the lights of the Frankfurt Motor Show they appear like cartoonish wagon-sized hoops slapped onto the sides of the vehicle.

Wide, textured spokes and skinny 195/40 tyres only add to the wheels’ visual dominance. They jump out against the taut, plain surfacing of the body sides. The lack of visual fuss in the sheet metal seems very un-Audi, or at least unlike most Audis of late. The Aicon is, in places, as clean as an A2 or TT from two decades ago.

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The plunge of the Aicon’s rear screen as it dives beneath a smoothly contoured boot spoiler is a noticeable feature, echoing a similar plunge at the leading edge of the bonnet.

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The DLO, meanwhile, echoes that of the Volkswagen ID concept hatchback unveiled at the Paris show a year ago. Indeed the Aicon’s overall form could be read as a squashed and stretched re-imagining of the ID.

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By contrast there’s not much influence from the VW Group Sedric self-driving concept in evidence. The Audi is virtually the opposite of Sedric’s space-efficient monobox, yielding only a 2+2 cabin under its fastback shell, between axles that are further apart than in a long-wheelbase A8.

The Aicon’s interior delivers a wraparound feel, trimmed with enough teak to resemble a 1960s stereogram. There’s no wheel, not even a fold-out item, underscoring the Aicon’s job of forecasting a car with full, Level-5 autonomy.

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As Audi points out, self-driving cars will rely on radars and laser range finders and won’t need the bright headlamp beams of today’s vehicles. The front mask is, as a result, a decorative matrix of diamond-shaped pixels capable of creating a variety of (quite fuzzy) different expressions. The rear offers a similar matrix, as well as an illuminated four-ring logo.

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As a concept, the Aicon is allowed is most impractical feature – a join in the door glazing that allows a major feature line to swoop from the front of the car to the rear via the glasshouse. It would, of course, prevent the window glass from dropping into the doors.

As a concept and a statement of intent, the Aicon seems strangely muted, however. It doesn’t make a bold statement about the future direction for Audi, other than what we already know: that there’ll be a lot more electricity and autonomy.

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