Audi's Aicon electric concept car shows what can be done design-wise when there’s no need to house an engine.
Ingolstadt - Is Audi set to become the first of the three big German luxury brands to break free from the styling shackles afflicting current lineups?

It’s a common complaint that modern Audis, BMWs and Mercedes look very similar across their different model ranges, like different lengths of sausage cut from the same bratwurst, and it’s believed the practice of stylising cars with such monotony was started to familiarise buyers in emerging markets such as China.

But in a recent interview Audi’s design chief Marc Lichte indicated that the German brand might be ready to start giving individual model ranges more unique identities.

“We recognise that there is a place for more differentiation now,” Lichte told Autocar magazine.

“Since our cars are in production for a minimum of six years, in today’s world I think each model should have its own design to be attractive for this long time.”

The trend may have already started with the introduction of last year’s Q2, a compact SUV which shares little with other current Audis in terms of exterior lines.

And the design differentiation is taken even further in the near future with Audi’s X6 fighter, the Q8.

For now we’ve only seen the upcoming SUV/coupe in concept form, but its styling takes a big detour from the current crop of Q3s, Q5s and Q7s.

Electric drivetrains will also allow car designers to stretch imaginations a little further in future models, as the lack of conventional engines, gearboxes and drive axles will unlock completely new bodyshell shapes.

Three-box sedans with traditional bonnets to house motors, central tunnels for gearboxes, and boots for luggage could become a thing of the past.

At last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show Audi unveiled an electric concept car called the Aicon, which made use of storage compartments at both ends, offering similar cargo capacity to an SUV but in a relatively sporty coupe-like body.