|February 25, 2000
Audi A2 - fascinating technology and a new form of agility. World's first volume-production aluminium car
At Audi, visions are rapidly transformed into reality: when Audi unveiled the design study of an aluminium-bodied car, the Al2, at the 1997 Frankfurt Motor Show, it was giving the automotive world a glimpse of the shape of things to come.
Just two years on, at the most recent Frankfurt Motor Show, Audi presented the production model based on that design study: the Audi A2. With a developed version of the Audi Space Frame (ASF), this is the first volume-production car in the world to have a body made entirely of aluminium. The A2 will reach the market very shortly.
The A2 is a particularly impressive illustration of Audi's motto for the Geneva Motor Show "In the Future - Audi".
The A2 resolves various seemingly irreconcilable contradictions. It is the lightest car in its class, yet at the same time has a reassuringly substantial, mature appearance. It is a common-sense car that is nevertheless not dull. Despite its low fuel consumption, it is highly enjoyable to drive. Its exterior dimensions are compact, but it provides an exceptional standard of occupant comfort.
The Audi A2 is a genuine Audi in every respect: its design, driving pleasure, high quality and technology uphold the claims that Audi makes for its products.
The Audi Space Frame (ASF)
The Audi A8, which went into production in 1994, established new standards in the large luxury car sector. Its all-aluminium body, built by the ASF principle, represented a quantum leap in the development of lighter vehicle bodies that nevertheless exhibit high strength. The weight reduction cuts fuel consumption and renders the car more agile. The ASF principle also affords optimum protection for the car's occupants.
Whereas annual production of the Audi A8 is running at around 15,000 units, Audi anticipates that the annual A2 sales volume will be at least 60,000 cars. The A2's revised ASF concept makes it a pioneer of aluminium technology for high-volume vehicles.
A new dimension to aluminium technology
The key claim "Fascinating technology and a new form of agility" expresses the character of this new Audi most accurately. Thanks to its Audi Space Frame aluminium concept, the Audi A2's tare weight is a mere 895 kg - some 150 kg lower than what vehicles of this size usually weigh. Technically speaking, however, the A2 is certainly no "lightweight". In fact, it is brimming with ideas and innovations that have never before been used on volume-built cars.
The idea behind the ASF concept is basically this: the panels are integrated into a high-strength aluminium frame structure, in which they also have a load-bearing effect. The Space Frame proper consists of extruded sections which are connected by vacuum die-cast nodes. This frame, in conjunction with high-strength aluminium panels, forms a highly rigid body that is nevertheless very light.
Compared with the Al2 design study, the Audi Space Frame has been further refined. One significant difference is the reduced number of individual components achieved by the use of evolutionary aluminium technology.
For instance, the high-pressure aluminium castings in the front roof post area are of a complexity that surpasses any element used for instance in aircraft construction. The resulting aluminium structure, with multiple reinforcements and varying wall thicknesses, achieves a strength that would entail a substantial weight increase if it were to be made of steel.
This drive to implement advanced joining techniques convincingly resolved the conflicting objectives of maximum strength and minimum weight. The roof frame consists of aluminium profiles shaped by an internal high-pressure technique. Thanks to this, it is possible to obtain a cross-section which varies several times in the course of its length, ideally reflecting the requirements which each zone has to meet. The necessary cutouts are formed in the same operation. The entire body, including doors and tailgate, is over 40 percent lighter than an equivalent steel structure.
Thanks to Audi Space Frame technology and the use of aluminium, the number of main body components has been reduced and the weight brought down correspondingly.
The side of the car is another masterpiece of leading-edge metalworking technology. The entire section, from the front roof post to the luggage compartment edge, including the door cutouts, is made from a single aluminium extrusion. This ensures high precision and reproducible quality, both of them essential requirements for maximum automation and high-volume production.
Other points in favour of the aluminium concept are the outstanding ease with which aluminium can be recycled, and the positive energy balance that results from its re-use. The energy consumption throughout the vehicle's lifetime, including the production process, its entire service life and its final reprocessing, is well below that of a car of this size and performance class when manufactured using conventional means. This even applies if primary aluminium is used.
The face of progress
The A2's progressive design reconciles two apparent contradictions: lightness and strength. Whereas the gently ribbed roof and expansive rear window are indicative of its lightness and subtlety, the sturdy, high-shouldered vehicle body creates an impression of considerable substance, suggesting security and protection.
The engine and passenger compartments on the Audi A2 are kept visually distinct by the two-box body concept. This concept, in conjunction with progressive overall design, gives the Audi A2 a very mature appearance.
The clear-cut lines with accentuated joints and consciously geometrical wheel arches communicate an emphatic formal idiom. The Audi A2's front end is particularly powerful. The principal design elements are the striking headlights, the bumpers almost fully integrated into the overall shape, and the radiator grille as a design feature which blends into the "service module" thanks to the surrounding chrome trim.
The fully glazed tailgate extends all the way down to the bumper, for convenient loading of the spacious luggage compartment (390 litres of volume, or 1,085 litres with the rear seat folded). The rear spoiler optimises the aerodynamics and deflects the airflow over the window in such a way that it is kept clear in wet weather, even without a wiper.
The resulting drag coefficient of cD = 0.28, an outstandingly good figure, assures the Audi A2 the best aerodynamic performance in its class.
Space Floor Concept for optimum use of space
The Audi A2, with its relatively compact dimensions of 3.83 m long, 1.67 m wide and 1.55 m high, is surprisingly roomy and comfortable. The feeling of spaciousness inside the Audi A2 is quite remarkable. The driver, front passenger and rear seat occupants have plenty of headroom, leg room and elbow room.
The "Space Floor Concept" provides the ideal basis for a relaxing, anatomically correct seated position for the rear passengers in particular.
The secret of the Space Floor Concept is the Audi A2's extra-deep rear footwells. The rear passengers can in effect place their feet in a recess in the floor, keep their legs at a natural angle and thus sit in an anatomically correct, relaxed position.
The interior is remarkable for its versatility. The rear seats of this four-seater car can be folded down either individually or together in two stages, or can be removed individually if not needed. A three-seater rear bench seat can be ordered as an optional extra.
World first: the service module
The Audi A2 also sets new standards for ease of servicing. It is the world's first series-production car to have a "service module".
On the Audi A2, a hinged flap takes the place of the conventional radiator grille; the oil dipstick and filler caps for engine oil and washer fluid are readily accessible behind this flap, for maximum convenience. The service module permits easy checking and topping-up of fluids by the driver at the filling station.
The engine hood therefore only needs be opened by the service workshop. Instead of simply being hinged up, the entire hood is detached at quick-release connectors behind the service flap. To round off this highly customer-friendly service concept, Audi's maintenance intervals have been extended to 2 years or 30,000 km (50,000 km for the A2 1.4 TDI), whichever is the sooner.
The technical basis for a new form of agility
The Audi A8 demonstrated that Audi Space Frame technology provides an ideal basis for outstanding road behaviour. This is because the high structural rigidity of the body acts as a strong backbone for the suspension, thus permitting ultra-precise suspension settings. And the lower weight means that agile road behaviour can be obtained with a relatively low engine output.
The Audi A2 demonstrates that the high practical utility of a compact vehicle can be combined with maximum driving pleasure and extremely low fuel consumption.
The A2's suspension, which uses the proven technology of McPherson spring struts at the front and a torsion-crank rear axle, combines ultramodern electronic components. The ESP electronic stability program is standard equipment, and complements the functions of ABS anti-lock braking, EBD electronic braking-force distribution and ASR traction control.
Audi will be displaying two versions of the A2 at the Geneva Motor Show, each of them with an output of 55 kW (75 bhp) - one TDI and one spark-ignition engine.
At first glance, the Audi A2 appears to have less performance than its immediate competitors. In actual fact, however, thanks to its aluminium concept, every kilowatt of engine output on this car has less weight to propel than on a conventional vehicle. In other words, it has a very good power-to-weight ratio which makes it a very agile performer. For instance, the outstanding flexibility- which is so crucial for safe overtaking - makes for nimble, relaxing driving.
For dynamic acceleration and rapid progress whenever needed, engine torque is transmitted to the road wheels by way of a 5-speed manual-shift gearbox with carefully chosen ratios.
The diesel engine is a three-cylinder direct-injection TDI using the pump-injector principle. It has a displacement of 1.4 litres and an output of 55 kW (75 bhp). With this swept volume, the three-cylinder diesel is an ideal concept for minimum fuel consumption. In this version, the Audi A2 has a fuel consumption of only 4.3 litres per 100 kilometres (overall consumption according to 93/116/EC), yet its performance is the equal of many a larger conventional car: it too achieves a top speed of 173 km and accelerates from 0 - 100 km/h in 12.3 seconds.
The Audi A2 with 1.4 litre spark-ignition engine, again with an output of 55 kW (75 bhp), is no less agile. This engine, with multipoint fuel injection, propels the Audi A2 from 0 to 100 km/h in 12.0 seconds and on once again to a top speed of 173 km/h; it has a very modest average fuel consumption of 6.0 litres per 100 km (overall figure according to 93/116/EC).
The Audi A2 1.4 TDI complies with the EU 3 European emission limits, the 1.4-litre spark-ignition version with the EU 4 limits.
High standards of safety
As on the Audi A8, the ASF principle constitutes an ideal basis for high passive safety. This high-strength frame structure surrounds the occupants to protect them like a cage, impact energy is converted particularly effectively and the occupant cell retains its shape to the maximum possible extent.
With two airbags at both the front and sides, seat belt tensioners and belt force limiters, plus the optional SIDEGUARD head airbags that are available for all seats - a unique feature on a car of this class - the Audi A2 assures supreme standards of safety for all its occupants. A pioneering feature in this class of car: head-level airbags were until now only available in larger cars with a very full equipment specification.
Equipment: both practical and luxurious
Variability - this is a very special feature which the Audi A2 is able to offer its owners, and in particular when they are choosing their own "dream car". Many high-quality items of equipment are available and can be combined in a variety of ways.
One of them that is unmatched either in this category or indeed in any other is the Audi A2's "Open Sky System". This novel form of glass-panel sliding roof has a 66 percent larger opening than a conventional sliding roof - in other words, 66 percent more light and air for the car's occupants.
The Open Sky System's divided glass panel can be opened in two ways. If the rear end of the front panel is raised, a small amount of fresh air enters the car without causing any unpleasant draughts, even at high speeds. If the panels of the Open Sky System are opened fully and slid to the rear, a quite new and brilliant view of the sky is obtained.
The ingenious Multibox System has also been specially developed for the Audi A2. As well as a recessed 12-Volt power socket in the load area, it includes the Space Floor Box and the centre console storage compartment with integral drinks holder.
The Space Floor Box is a means of using the recessed rear footwells as additional storage space. The box is inserted until flush with the remainder of the floor and can be slid under the front seat. It has a lift-up flap and provides ample space for toys, drinks or a woman's handbag. One of its most practical secrets is that it can easily be removed from the car and used as a picnic box or even an outdoor seat.
The centre console storage compartment extends back towards the rear seat area and is secured by a holder between the rear seat mounting and the centre console. In two sections and opening from the top, it is ideal for carrying small items such as paper handkerchiefs or sweets in the car.
Storage pouches are also available as an optional extra for the front seat backs, and are a most suitable way of keeping various items conveniently to hand inside the car. Coat hangers can also be attached to the front seats, so that a jacket or similar garment can be carried without creasing it or occupying valuable space.
In the load area a safety retaining system consisting of a net, retaining straps and an anti-slip floor covering with foil mat ensures that all kinds of loads can be secured and transported without risk. Another optional extra is a load-area cover, which prevents enquiring eyes from looking into the car and seeing what the owner happens to be carrying.
There are other items of equipment for the Audi A2 which are certainly luxurious but also practical and highly informative, for example the Navigation System Plus, which has a monitor screen that can be used for TV viewing when the car is at a standstill. Or one of the various high-quality audio systems, which have an excellent standard of reproduction, particularly when combined with the BOSE Sound System.
Automatic air conditioning is an optional extra for the Audi A2 that will appeal to all those who value a consistent temperature and climate during the journey. New technical features cut energy consumption considerably compared with conventional air conditioning systems. Nor should one forget that air conditioning is not only intended to make the journey more pleasant but also enables the driver to "keep a cool head" and is thus a very significant safety factor.
The same advantage can be claimed for the telematics system that will be a future optional extra. Its combined traffic information and emergency call functions are particularly valuable if the car is also equipped with a navigation system: areas of traffic congestion can be identified and avoided, thus minimising one of the most serious causes of stress in modern traffic.
For a very distinct hint of luxury, the Audi A2 owner can choose leather upholstery and trim in Grey and Pearl nappa. Together with one of the leather-covered steering wheels that are also available as optional extras, this colour scheme adds a highly elegant note to the interior.
The leather option can also be combined with sports front seats, which provide a most satisfactory degree of lateral support if the car is driven hard. For the A2's youngest passengers, Audi has a child's seat programme suitable for various age-groups, and reliably secured in the car's rear-seat area by the standard ISOFIX mountings.
Aluminium decor elements inside the A2 can be chosen for a particularly individual effect. Trim rings at the grab handles, the inside of the doors, the gear lever gaiter and the glove box add an effective touch of contrast to the otherwise restrained, clear outlines inside the car.
A price bonus is enjoyed by those who choose the Style Package, which groups together a number of attractive and at the same time thoroughly sensible accessories. They include 6J x 15 cast alloy wheels, a seat package with variable-height front seats and also radio-operated remote control for the central locking system, a four-spoke leather-covered steering wheel, a leather gear lever gaiter and handbrake handle, two illuminated make-up mirrors and four floor mats. The Style Package is rounded off by outside mirrors painted in the body colour.
Many people will wish to carry unusual loads in or on their Audi A2, and various accessories have therefore been designed for this purpose: a basic roof rack for bicycles (not available with the Open Sky System) or a rear-end luggage rack. Another rather special item makes shopping with the A2 a particular pleasure: a high-quality trolley of modern design that can be folded up flat. It makes light work of transporting drink crates, boxes or bags. Although the trolley only weighs 3.5 kilograms, it is has a load limit of no less than 40 kilograms.