Bahn storming: Germany’s industrial landscapes are still shaped by the automobile
The country’s big players are racing to stay ahead of the pack
Audi Q8, Ingolstadt
Audi’s Q8 concept exemplifies the Ingolstadt-based company’s next-generation luxury crossover. The backdrop is Audi’s new Academy building, opened as a training centre in Ingolstadt in 2015. As the brand’s traditional home, the city hosts around 40,000 workers and Audi’s largest factory (the second largest car plant in Europe), while the public face of the brand is the glass-walled Audi Forum museum. Buyers will soon be able to slip inside their very own Q8, which is due in showrooms in 2018. Sleeker than your average SUV, the model is the flag-bearer for Audi’s burgeoning electric-drive and autonomous technologies, alongside the dedicated all-electric e-tron model that the company hopes, will make it an EV class leader within a few years.
BMW 530d xDrive, Munich
The swoops and curves of Coop Himmelb(l)au’s spectacular BMW Welt stand in stark contrast to the conservative simplicity of the new BMW 5 Series. That’s not to say that the 5 Series is prosaic. The model has a well-deserved reputation as the most aspirational choice for corporate types, mainly because BMW uses it as a showcase for all the interesting things you can do with a conventional car. The current model, codenamed G30, is the seventh generation of the car that ushered in BMW’s current nomenclature back in 1972. Today’s 530d xDrive is a rocketship for the ambitious executive, stuffed full of quasi-autonomous tech and the design confidence, inside and out, that BMW has made its own. Bavarian Motor Works doesn’t do things by halves – it’s one of the most avant-garde mass-market manufacturers in the world, as its architectural commissions testify.
Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid, Stuttgart
Although Porsche has five other facilities, including an R&D centre at Weissach and another major production hub in Leipzig, the historic association with Stuttgart makes it the brand’s spiritual home. Ferdinand Porsche began working in the city in the early 1930s, but the first true Porsche factory opened in Stuttgart’s northern Zuffenhausen district in 1952, on what is now called Porschestrasse. Today, the brick-built structure is hemmed in by relentless and ongoing expansion, including Delugan Meissl’s striking 2009 Porsche Museum (in the background). Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid, Stuttgart The Panamera is now in its second generation, with the blunt edges of this big four-door sports saloon chiselled off to reveal something really rather handsome. Its low-slung bodywork hides a hybrid powertrain that allows for purely electric pottering as well as ferocious Autobahn storming. With an even swifter hybrid variant waiting in the wings, alongside the stretched ‘Executive’ version and a ‘shooting brake’-style estate, the Panamera has become one of the world’s most seductive saloons.
W Atlas, Wolfsburg
The chimneys of the Wolfsburg North power plant tower over a 5 sq km fiefdom dedicated entirely to the car. The Atlas illustrates just how far VW has come since its days of manufacturing a single model designed to suit all purposes. This ‘full-size’ SUV, 5m long and with seven seats, is pitched primarily at the all-important American and Chinese markets, and a hybrid version is in the offing. If long-term plans aren’t frustrated by political chicanery, VW’s aim is to lead the way in mass-market electric cars, sharing tech and expertise developed by sister companies Porsche and Audi.
VW Atlas, on sale summer 2017. For more information, visit the Volkswagen website
As originally featured in the April 2017 issue of Wallpaper* (W*217). Photography: Robin Friend