"To differentiate Audi, we have to stress all four wheels," he said.
Another major theme is the roofline. Sedans will have a fast, long, sloping roofline with a thin C-pillar and narrow greenhouse. Lichte says the shape is inspired by the TT's half-teardrop greenhouse.
Audi's future SUVs and crossovers will be notable for their strong C- or D-pillars, which will be thicker and angled forward to create a perception of strength, another idea seen on the e-tron quattro concept.
Each vehicle will have its own interpretation but will follow those two broad themes.
"These are the two rooflines you will see on Audi in the future, and that's it," Lichte said. "If you do something in between, you're already entering into the territory of what maybe BMW is doing or Mercedes, and I want to have a clear differentiation."
Other "progressive" aspects of the design language will be seen in the detail work. Lichte says his team will continue to push the lighting envelope with new 3-D daytime running lights -- especially on the next-generation A7. The lights gain depth from the design of their housing and from the light they project, he said.
Lichte says Audi also will "visualize" aerodynamics. As an example, he cited the hard-edged lip sitting above the taillights on the e-tron quattro -- a feature developed in a wind tunnel to reduce drag and that also serves as a "character" detail.
He says the time is right for his top-down design overhaul. The single frame grille created by de Silva -- then Audi's head of design, now VW Group styling chief -- gave Audi its first recognizable face when it appeared in 2004, connecting its vehicles and standing out from the iconic grilles of BMW and Mercedes.
"This was an amazing step because ever since this time, Audi has had a face. Before, there was a TT and different cars, but never really a face," Lichte said. "But now, after 10 years, because everybody knows this is Audi, now is the time to take a bigger step."