Chassis and suspension
As a means of handling such abundant power efficiently, the Avantissimo has been given aluminium suspension elements and the most carefully planned suspension geometry. At the front, a four-link layout ensures maximum steering precision and combines good lateral location with excellent ride quality. At the rear, this mighty version of the Avant has trapezoidal-link suspension with separate springs and shock absorbers, a design principle that has already demonstrated its potential in the latest Audi A4 models, which have been highly praised for their agility.
The concept car's air suspension, however, breaks new ground. Continuously controlled damping enables a perfect balance to be maintained between ride comfort and dynamic handling. Ride height control is incorporated in order to keep the centre of gravity low but also ensure that full ground clearance is available despite load changes.
The `MMI module' provides a choice of three suspension settings: Automatic, Sport and Comfort. If Automatic is selected, the electronics not only vary the firmness of the spring and shock absorber settings according to the car's road speed, but also alter the ground clearance. In other words, as road speed goes up, the centre of gravity is lowered, so that both body control and aerodynamics are optimised.
If the manual suspension control setting is chosen, electronically defined safety thresholds, as on the Audi allroad quattro, prevent the car from being driven at too high a speed with inappropriate suspension settings in use.
The `Pax' wheels fitted to the Avantissimo are an entirely new feature, not so much because of their giant 255 x 740 x 560 format (with 245 x 560 wheel rims) and their almost entirely smooth-surfaced design, but rather because of a feature concealed from the onlooker: a special anchoring principle means that there is no risk of the tyre coming away from the wheel rim.
This not only helps to keep the car directionally stable if a tyre should go flat: the Pax design principle also maintains mobility if this happens during a lengthy journey. It allows the car to be driven for a maximum of 200 kilometres at speeds up to 80 km/h in such an emergency. For additional safety, the tyres have built-in air pressure monitoring so that the driver is fully informed about their condition.
When the car has reached its destination, the electro-hydraulic parking brake is applied simply by pressing a button, and released again when the car is next driven away.
One thing is obvious at a glance: the Avantissimo is something of a revolution in the large luxury car category, an area to which it clearly belongs by virtue of its overall length of 5.06 metres and width of 1.91 metres. These dimensions, however, are accompanied by a decidedly sporting character and a totally new interpretation of classic Avant body styling.
Well-balanced proportions, the tension of the panel surfaces and the high waistline with a mild wedge outline are characteristic elements in what is none the less familiar as a typical Audi Avant styling approach. The wheels are a visually dominant feature that emphasise the dynamic aspect of this design concept.
At the front of the Avantissimo the typical Audi brand personality with double cooling air inlets and the four-ring emblem has been re-interpreted. Broad clear-glass headlights, with the optical elements clearly visible, frame the front end and emphasise its low silhouette, which rises gently toward the rear. Another characteristic Audi front-end feature are the clear lines of demarcation between radiator grille and front side panels.
An entirely new development, as echoed in their design, the bi-xenon headlights behind their clear glass covers add special emphasis to the front end of this design study.
The actual light source in these headlights always remains vertical. The reflectors are raised to a 45-degree position when the lights are in use and thus deflect the vertical light beam on to the road. When the headlights are switched off, the reflectors return to a horizontal position and prevent light from emerging. The big air inlets beneath them seem to underline the presence of these advanced new headlight units most effectively.
The movable reflectors are in fact more than just a design detail: the concept car's headlights are the first time that Audi's new Advanced Lighting System has been seen. It alters the light beam pattern when the car is cornering to match the driver's viewing angle.
The illuminated area is varied according to road speed and steering angle, and can even process information from the car's navigation system. It knows when the car is approaching a bend in the road and is capable of altering the headlight reflector's setting as the car reaches the point where the driver needs to `see round the corner'.
At the rear, a further new interpretation of Avant styling principles can be seen. The concept car, with its overall height of 1.43 metres, makes a bold, powerful impression and, despite its undoubted size, still possesses admirable refinement and clarity thanks to the recessed area above the waistline.
The large-area, glazed tailgate can be opened continuously to an angle of 70 degrees by an electro-hydraulic mechanism operated from the car's remote-control key. A drawer compartment provides additional storage space and can also be slid out electrically.
Large sections of the roof consist of sandwich glass with a continuous dimming effect - an ingenious principle that gives the roof panel a sense of lightness that belies its size. There are additional photo-voltaic elements in the roof as well; they supply sufficient solar energy when the engine is stopped to operate the ventilation system's blower and keep the interior of the car cool in hot weather.
The Avantissimo's body is made of aluminium, using the Audi Space Frame (ASF) principle. This yields a structure of excellent rigidity but very low weight, and has already proved successful on current Audi A8 and A2 series-production models. This new design is a further development of the ASF principle and establishes a new benchmark in terms of weight-saving design quality.