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Six years ago, social commentator David Brooks published his book Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There. Brooks’ explained how the countercultural values of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s were adopted by the mainstream by the mid-‘90’s. Marketers devoured Brooks’ book like it was crab legs on a Chinese buffet. Ever since, we’ve seen an explosion of style in every aspect of our lives and every room of our homes– except, of course, the garage. If Wal-Mart (of all places) sells dinner plates suitable for the Museum of Modern Art, why are today’s cars so dull? My theory: car designers are still in the thrall of the 1984 Audi 5000.

When the Audi 5000 debuted in 1983, the motoring press slobbered all over themselves. They showered the model with endless praise, touting it as “the world’s most aerodynamic sedan.” In fact, the car’s styling was a remix of the previous year’s 5000. Its soft corners, unsculptured sides, flush glass, and understated “blackout” trim had all been done before. The new 5000 simply combined all these exterior features into an easy-to-fawn-over form. Inside the car, the 5000’s interior belied its upscale aspirations; it was a Jetta wearing a corduroy blazer. Maybe the sublime (for its time) experience of driving the 5000 blurred the critics’ judgment.

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The Imitable Audi 5000

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