Audi’s raising of the connected car bar brings its own challenges for carmakers

Audi’s delightful new A4 shows just what a difference just a few months makes in the world of vehicle connectivity.

We’ve all become used to the digital world releasing products that become ‘old-hat’ and even virtually obsolete within a couple of years but the automotive industry has not yet had to move at the same pace. Carmakers take about three years from drawing board to full production galvanised steel for their products so this situation is hardly surprising. Except, now that manufacturers are having to lock horns with the big digital players over who dominates in-car data harvesting, they are going to have to raise their game in terms of market agility.

And so I have seen with my latest sortie into the connectivity packages being offered by the German manufacturer, Audi.

It pleases me to report that my rather frustrating experience of trialling the Audi Connect platform during a European tour last year has been replaced by a seamlessly enjoyable surfing session while testing the new A4 during an Audi range tasting day in near the famous Belfry golf course in the UK’s Midlands.

Having driven many of the carmaker’s products over recent years, it came as little surprise that the A4 is a consummate performer on the greasy early springtime rural roads made all the more challenging by farmers busily field-hopping in mud churning tractors.

Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system needs little introduction save to say the latest incarnation made light work of the limited traction through the narrow winding lanes outside Coventry.

The system fitted to the A4 2.0 TDI quattro I drove boasts a self-locking centre differential system that splits power asymmetrically to achieve balance between all the wheels.

Yet the car’s prowess on the road and mix of 190PS performance and a claimed fuel economy of just 64.2mpg, was not the stand-out revelation. Instead, the use of Apple’s CarPlay in the A4’s infotainment system simply transforms the ease of internet connectivity that Audi vehicles now enjoy.

A simply Bluetooth connectivity backed up by the power-charging USB connection, allows the CarPlay option to mirror the main apps on your smartphone to be controlled through the car’s 7-inch colour touchscreen. It also features voice control that can either use the car’s Audi voice recognition or your smartphone’s own voice assistant to keep things nice and familiar.

Interestingly, Facebook, which had originally been one of the CarPlay apps, has now backed away from the platform posing the possibility that ‘something’s afoot’ with its mobile solution plans.

The main issue now for all carmakers is, having raised the digital bar on current models and building in the consumer’s mind the anticipation of even greater speed of development and change with a car’s connected technology, will they be able to seriously challenge the digital world’s agility while maintaining technology robust enough to last the life of the vehicle?

Because most satisfying part of Audi’s latest system is its sheer ease of use and it is bound to accelerate the consumer’s use of connectivity features and services, together with their expectations, as we race towards a world of fully connected cars.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *