|November 15, 2007
LA Auto Show 2007: Audi Recap
As anticipated Audi used the LA Auto Show to show a concept vehicle which, while not the production version of the upcoming Q5 SUV, still provided some further insight into how that vehicle will ultimately look. With a little imagination the brilliantly colored Audi Cross Cabriolet quattro Concept did indeed preview the Q5, at least in terms of the footprint. Indeed, Audi Head of Design Stefan Sielaff told us that "one can naturally expect the Q5 to display the same general dimensions".
Unfortunately for readers it is somewhat difficult to judge those dimensions from the press photography. We found the Cross Cabriolet quattro to be substantial both from the front where the now trademark single frame grille dominates, as well as from the rear where the relatively square shape is softened slightly by subtly curved body treatment above the bumper line and well-executed integrated tailpipes. Suffice it to say this concept appears beefy in person, and one Audi spokesman hinted that the paint color - Copper Sunset - could find its way into production.
Audi's next generation chassis and drivetrain architecture (MLP) that has so far propagated itself in both the B8 A4 and A5 vehicles will, as expected, also underlie the Q5 - and is thus on display with the Cross Cabriolet quattro. This means that the engine is longitudinally mounted, allowing a longer overall wheelbase and better driving dynamics. It also means that Audi is really starting to realize the potential of this shift to a modular philosophy which will ultimately streamline design, provide production cost efficiencies and allow Audi to bring new products to market more quickly.
One concept feature that continues to preview ready-for-production technology was the pervasive use of LED lighting throughout the vehicle (headlights, integrated fog lights, tail lights and turn signals). Audi currently utilizes LED lighting to provide a signature look on high end vehicles such as the S6 and R8, but we expect to see more and more of it on less expensive vehicles in the lineup. In fact we would not be at all surprised to see the LED fog lights from the concept appear as part of an optional lighting package when the Q5 debuts.
The interior of the concept probably is not the best place to look for clues about the Q5 since the Cabriolet treatment, and in particular the lack of a B-pillar, undoubtedly throw off the dimensions. What we do see continued, however, is Audi's focus on making the driving position feel more cockpit-like with the orientation of the dash and center console angled toward the driver. Audi also touts new Infotainment functionality with the integration of Google Maps into the navigation system and Internet radio. A Bang & Olufsen sound system is included, cementing Audi's move to B & O and away from Bose throughout its lineup.
The Cross Cabriolet quattro is powered by Audi's 6-cylinder, 3.0-liter TDI powerplant. Audi of America Executive VP Johan de Nysschen confirmed for us that this is the very same engine which will eventually be proliferated across the A4, A5, A6, Q7 - and obviously Q5 - lineup in the US. What we like most about it is not its 240hp, but rather the 369 pound-feet of torque which will make it potent even at low speeds. This performance comes together with 32mpg fuel economy and ultra low emissions that will make it 50-state legal and compliant with European emissions regulations all the way out to 2014.
The Cross Cabriolet quattro, as with most concept vehicles, also featured a host of other technology items. In the interior we saw heated and cooled cup holders, "air scarves" in all four seats to blow warm air around passengers' necks and a sound system which includes both an integrated intercom system to allow easier top-down conversation and noise cancelling capabilities to keep unwanted road noise minimized. Around the corners we saw massive 380-mm ceramic front brakes and electric ride height control. Under the hood we found an 8-speed automatic transmission, something rival Lexus already offers in the production LS 460.
While the Cross Cabriolet quattro was well received by the assembled press corps at the show, Audi's press conference itself was less than impressive. We tend to agree that the vehicles should speak for themselves, but Audi has recently featured stars as diverse as singer Seal, basketball star Dirk Nowitzki, filmmaker Woody Allen and musician Wyclef Jean as spokespeople for the brand at major events. Even last year's LA show included small screen stars Molly Sims and James Denton - and at least they added a little glamour to the tinsletown event.
This year Audi featured NBC's Today travel editor Peter Greenberg who bantered annoyingly with Chairman Rupert Stadler and Architect Frank Gehry who seemed to forget most of his lines before hastily adding "and I drive an Audi…" At least they have a few months to regroup before Detroit rolls around.