am widely known throughout my industry as the Audi Fanboy. ‍‍‍My first car was an Audi A4 B5 1.8T. It's a 6 year old used car when I bought it in 2003. It was the first generation 1.8 Turbo, and it's the only car other than the Ferrari 355 to have 5 valves per cylinder and a rather advanced 5-speed ZF auto transmission at that time. That car was so successful it is still arguably the only Audi A4 with a cult following, it was also devastatingly quick in racing that it ruined the BTCC. The A4 B5 was the last racing car after the Audi IMSA GTO in US to have met with a similar fate of being banned for dominating a racing series. In short - quattro rules. Or to be precise, AWD rocks.

A few years later, I got myself an Audi S4 B8 Avant which I'm currently still driving. It is a very fast and very safe, all weather high performance monster. It's now making 520Nm without a squeak of wheel spin either. Rain or shine, my car drives with such a conviction that it lays its own imaginary bullet train tracks wherever it goes.

Thing is this, putting power down on all four wheels is always better than pulling or pushing with two wheels. The key is to decide when to send power to which wheel. With current technology, it's not impossible to decide when and how much power to be sent to each individual wheel in order to get the car around corners in the fastest possible manner.

This is why both Mercedes-AMG and BMW M has turned to All Wheel Drive recently, simply because it's just physics at work. Coupled with torque vectoring, quattro is then a magician at work, capable of sending power to the outer wheels to pivot the car into corners.

And why Audi Malaysia should only sell quattro

words by BOBBY ANG

Thus my reputation as an Audi fanboy has thoroughly been established by my fraternity. But I have my own logic for picking them. First of which, is their understated styling. Second, that impeccable interior build quality that sets them apart. Third, is of course their unique proposition (in my opinion) as the best driver's car for the real world. Let me explain.

In the real world, BMW owners won't suddenly switch off their traction control and slide the tail out while running an illegal after-work street race with an Audi - the DSC will just kick in and cut power to his engine preventing his tail from stepping out at the first place. In the real world, predictability and grip are all that matters. Most car owners are used to understeer traits when it comes to driving - or speeding. You go too fast into a corner, you'll expect your car to push wide due to the laws of physics. Your forward momentum wants to push you out while you are dependant on how much grip you have while trying to switch the directions of said forward momentum.

‍‍‍A common misconception of AWD is that you can go faster in a corner. That is not true at all, having four wheels on the road in a front or rear wheel drive car means you have the same grip levels as an AWD car with four wheels gripping the tarmac beneath you. What AWD does is to have better ability to continue accelerate or put down power because all four tyres are sending power down to the road. There're much lesser chances of its ability to move forward in an accelerative manner to be hampered by road cambers, slippery surfaces or individual differences in tyre grip, because you double the chances of getting it right at the first place - Four vs Two.

The genius behind Audi's famed quattro drivetrain was non other than Ferdinand Piech, the son of Louise Piech, who build Europe's largest car dealer network - Porsche Holdings - a company that predates the famous Porsche sports car maker. And of course, they all carry the bloodline of Volkswagen's prodigy founder - Ferdinand Porsche.

‍‍‍As a brand, Audi has always been forward looking. It made a 427km/h land speed record Type C Streamliner in 1937, it was also the first car maker that made variations of right hand and left hand drive cars. But after three decades of absence from the world due to the war, the brand was restarted by Volkswagen in the 60s. By 70s, Audi invented quattro, the most advanced 4WD system in the world by having a shaft within a shaft to power all four wheels. It dominated every race it entered, and the rest was history.

This important milestone became part of Audi's legacy, and established a unique selling point for the brand, and actually rekindled interests, following and racing fan boys all around the world. The quattro system has become synonymous with Audi, and with it, the idea of all weather, and absolute all terrain confidence from customers.

As if the story of fantasies, I was invited to experience the joy of what is Audi's crown jewel - not their most expensive car, nor the most powerful or the most luxurious, but the quientessential  Audi - a 'humble' Audi S4 Avant in Finland.

You see, Audi was the first of the premium marques to begin downsizing their engines en masse in the mid 1990s. Audi was also synonymous with AWD, and the other thing that Audis are kno‍‍‍wn to be experts in - are high powered sleeper wagons. They're singlehandedly responsible for establishing the modern genre of family oriented looking wagons that are packed with an impossibly powerful engine, giving chase to unsuspecting 911s on the Autobahns. Yes Volvo began this back in the late 80s, but Audi turned wagons into a cult, an art that garnered mainstream attention. And to be able to drive the new B9 Audi S4 Avant packed with a 3.0 turbo engine that channels 354hp through all four wheels under whatever weather or road condition makes this one of the fastest family cars in the real world. Is the RS6 a family car? Yes in form factor, but more of a super wagon more costly than an R8 in its execution. And what better place to showcase its outright capability than the Laplands of Finland? Where it showcases how half of the world that lives in snowing regions actually lives like, a quarter of 365 days a year.

What's the relevance you may ask? Does it even snow in Malaysia? Of course it doesn't. But it rains, there are beaches, there are muddy terrains, there are opportunities of slippery shenanigans etc. And as an Audi owner myself who's been driving my B8 Audi S4 Avant for the past 6 years, I can attest that nothing much comes close when it comes to high speed cruising stability, the outright dominance launching the car out of a junction or traffic lights, and the ability to power through a curve like bullet train on rails in everyday driving. AWD is awesome, AWD is king. Hail quattro.

And it truly shows when we were in low grip conditions (albeit extreme) where the car just allows us to pretty much do whatever we want to. Go in a straight? Induced understeer? Induced oversteer? Reverse entry oversteer? Flipping the car from side to side? Everything. It's just so controllable, the throttle response (something Audi always beats its peers) and the way the car feels is just unbelievable. Couple all that with the wonderful snowy Lapland scenery that quattro calls home, it's an amazing experience.

So why then do I talk about Audi Malaysia shouldn't even be selling front wheel drive cars? Something that many Europeans who doesn't need AWD will opt for?

Because put it simply - Audi is a nobody in Malaysia - nobody yet. The mainstream luxury brands all have 30 to 50 nationwide dealers, they all have a network of training centres, local assembly partners, and at least 30 years of foundation in Malaysia. BMW and Mercedes-Benz might be smaller than Audi in Germany in terms of sales, but they are giants compared to Audi in Malaysia.  

And FWD Audis are entry level CBU Audis that aims to compete in a CKD market. If customers just wanted an entry luxury brand,  it doesn't even make sense to pick an  Audi at all. But for the discerning few, Audi's qua‍‍‍ttro is the differentiation factor - something that others don't have. And were if Audi Malaysia did not bring in FWDs, imagine the immense opportunity they can use, be it in marketing communications or roadshow event demonstrations to beat their peers in acceleration, cornering in wet conditions, tug of war etc - Everything that can place Audi into a blue ocean of having ZERO competitors, and then use quattro to fully build up a following first before being greedy in wanting to sell FWD cars to achieve big numbers.

‍‍‍"what made me like audis? their understated and classy exterior styling and their impeccably built interiors along with faultless ergonomics."‍‍‍‍‍‍

"my trip to finland proved one thing, audi has such an immense opportunity in malaysia. one that can be surrounded and built upon from the quattro drivetrain's superior dominance. but they threw it all away when they have so many variants of the a4. a product strategy that's too greedy too early."



Only when Audi Malaysia has fully monetise off quattro's advantages and gained a substantial foothold to build a base of followers and dealerships and local assembly facilities - only then should they use their cheaper FWD models to create more demand. It's called the 'Halo Effect' in marketing. Even Volkswagen did that back in 2006 and 2007 when they returned to the Malaysian market. Every single one of their billboards advertises the GTI, the Scirocco, the Passat CC or the Touareg. They create a 'want' factor from consumers, and when you can't afford these, you pick the Polo instead.

But to have their FWD lineups serving as their weak attempt at answering to the CKD EEV price wars, they'll just end up with cut spec cars that can't compete with the CKD premium peers that offers more. I once wrote a short piece saying Audi should just bring in the 2.0 quatt‍‍‍ro A4, as it is the fastest and most high tech of its segment, and then it will become something exclusive compared to the usual 3s and Cs, and the 1.4 TFSI A4 is a big NO NO because those who're price conscious would've picked up a C-Class or 3-Series anyway. And having 1.4 TFSI A4s lugging around 2.0 quattro TFSI ones is a major dilution of the car's image and thus its 'Want Factor'

Not that the 1.4 doesn't make sense or it's a bad car. You have more power than a BMW 318i, you have better handling than a C-Class, you also have the option to spec the Tech Pack LCD speedo-cluster too. But that's where the product positioning nincompoopery comes - "So you mean the bloke who paid RM240k can look exactly like the one who paid RM300k for the top spec?" The 1.4 TFSI an come later when you need to further develop opportunities for the A4 when sales demand plateaus. For now, if I want a premium car that makes me stand out from the rest, I'd go for the quattro A4 - but I'd be very pissed to see a 1.4 TFSI next to me.

The cars are good, the brand is great, quattro rules, Finland was great, Audi is a wonderful brand - Audi Malaysia's product strategy? Horribly greedy to want to down spec a great CBU car to price compete fully loaded CKD cars. And this horrible move actually affects how the marketing and communications department in crafting strategic messages that might've delivered a competitive advantage at the first place but impossible now.

It all starts or ends with the product, be it the wonderful 1997 A4 1.8T or the current 2017 A4 1.4T - both producing 150hp, 20 years apart. You make your own judgement.‍‍‍