|September 14, 2007
Frankfurt IAA 2007 Show Coverage
Frankfurt Germany – home of the world’s largest international auto show. It’s the perfect place for Audi to reveal its new mainstay production car, the B8 A4. Based on the all new A5/S5 chassis, it’s the first major redesign of the A4 since the B6 platform was introduced more than 5 years ago. The new design offers a number of technological and performance improvements over previous A4 designs, and will continue to offer consumers a vast palette of options and configurations to suit a large customer base.
On first glance, one can see the smooth and flowing resemblance to the elegant A5/S5 coupe. This design departure is understated in a typical Audi fashion, yet lends flowing lines that are very interesting to the eye. As is the case with many modern vehicle designs, the feeling must be experienced live. Pictures don’t seem to adequately capture the presence of the car. At the front the signature Audi grille remains, flanked by newly designed headlight fixtures which appear to be more streamlined than the previous shape. Another emerging Audi trademark has the headlight fixtures outlined by a curved series of LED daytime running lamps which offer a very unique and aggressive look similar to the R10 TDI race car and R8 supercar. The front overhang has been reduced creating a longer wheelbase and more balanced shape. More importantly, the engine has been placed further back in the chassis due to a redesigned drivetrain/front differential layout which improves weight distribution and cornering performance. Audi displayed a very clever cutaway A4 which allows one to see the underpinnings of the new chassis design.
As is the usual trend these days, the external dimensions of the A4 have grown in length and width. The significantly smoother shape keeps the drag coefficient at an impressively low 0.27, which will offer a very quiet ride at highway speeds in addition to improving efficiency. Although the overall frontal area has increased, the new A4 is 3-5% slipperier through the air than the outgoing model. A smooth spoiler is integrated into the rear decklid to increase rear axle downforce at speed. Audi has definitely been doing their homework in the windtunnel. Despite the size increase, Audi claims the unibody chassis is about 10% lighter than the previous models. Time will tell if the weight saving measures are enough to reduce the curb weight of comparable vehicles when full specifications are released.
The interior appointments should be familiar to anyone who knows the Audi line. The design motifs from the higher end Q7, A6, and A5 lines have trickled down to the A4 ranks. A centrally mounted LCD screen serves as the main user interface and navigation display, if so equipped. An MMI knob with four peripheral control buttons now sits in the center console area on navigation equipped A4’s. The typical mechanical handbrake lever has been replaced by an electronic switch in order to free up space in the console area. The dash speedometer and tachometer gauges now zero out at 6 o’clock, adding a unique and sporty feel to the control center. Material textures together with the fit and finish leave no disappointment. The interior has better ergonomics and a higher quality feel than the BMW 3 series, arguably Audi’s closest competitor.
The wheel design seen on the world premier A4 is definitely a design departure from Audi’s typical wheel selection. The bold and aggressive 5-spoke design will certainly appeal to the younger crowd. Other options available in the European market also have a more aggressive style which shows off the larger disc brakes underneath.
One of the most promising changes on this new B8 platform is the revised engine placement. By swapping the front differential and clutch locations, the engine is now located roughly 6-inches further back in the chassis to improve weight distribution and polar moment of inertia for a more precise turn-in response. Now standard across the A4 line on quattro equipped vehicles is the asymmetrical 40:60 split Torsen center differential. This fully mechanical self locking system provides a slight rearward bias under normal driving conditions which should lend itself to a more sporting feel during low traction situations by reducing understeer.
A wide range of diesel and gasoline engines offer consumers a choice to match their preferred blend of performance and economy. All engines now feature direct injection technology (FSI or TDI) for maximum efficiency combined with clean performance. US specification engine choices have not been officially announced yet, but the 3.2 liter FSI V6 combined (maybe with supercharger) with one of the V6 TDI diesel variants would be a good bet.
It’s obvious that Audi is shifting their designs in the right direction for the sporting driver. The reduction of weight, improvement of weight distribution, rearward biased quattro system, and powerful engine lineup will make these cars a genuine pleasure to drive. New optional features for the A4 line like ventilated seats, lane assist (warns through vibration when car wanders out of lane), Audi side assist (warns of cars in blindspot during lane changes), Audi advanced parking system (graphical parking help with proximity sensors), and a clever iPod interface for the MMI entertainment system, Audi is bringing a class leading level of luxury and refinement to the lower midsize sedan category. One thing is for certain, we can’t wait for our first test drive!
See AudiWorld’s official A4 press release for more technical information.
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