The models Lichte references as inspiration are two of the longest-standing and most successful in the SUV sphere. The Mercedes has been sold – almost visually unaltered – since 1979 and the Land Rover Defender can trace its spiritual roots right back to the firm’s eponymous debut model, launched in 1948.
Each has evolved into a much more refined and exclusive take on its sparsely equipped ancestor, but to great effect: the Defender was by far Land Rover’s best-selling car last year, with 66,805 sold, and the G-Class set a new sales record the previous year with 41,174 finding homes worldwide.Lichte did confirm that, even if Audi is looking to claim a portion of the rugged 4×4 segment, the new SUV will not seek to obviously emulate the blocky, two-box proportions of its rivals: “It will not look like a G-Class and it will not look like a Defender, I can promise you. It will be something else.”
The new Activesphere concept gives strong clues as to how Audi would approach the styling of a dedicated off-roader, and any similarly conceived production car is expected to follow suit with purposeful protective body cladding, short overhangs, lots of suspension travel and a significantly higher ride height than the firm’s more road-focused EVs.
Lichte said that Audi’s designers have much more freedom afforded to them going forward as EV platforms essentially allow for a dismissal of the established hallmarks of passenger car design. “Working as a designer is a dream because we are creating not only a new product portfolio, we’re creating the car on a white sheet of paper,” he said. Asked if bosses had green-lit any particular design for the SUV, he said: “It’s too early to talk about this, but we have very concrete ideas. Very concrete ideas.”