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Frankfurt show: Audi sketches A2 concept

Light-hearted: The A2 concept demonstrates Audi’s latest thinking on automotive illumination technology.

EV concept previews potential BMW i3 fighter and successor to Audi’s aluminium A2

Audi logo2 Sep 2011

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

GERMAN premium brand Audi will use the Frankfurt show to unveil an all-electric potential successor to the innovative all-aluminium A2 hatchback sold in Europe between 1999 and 2005.

Should the concept lead to a production model, Audi could use the A2 in a head-to-head battle with the BMW i3 that will also make its public debut at Frankfurt – and is due to enter production in 2013.

Described as a “premium-standard space concept that offers plenty of room for four people,” the design study is a fraction shorter, lower and wider than its diminutive spiritual precursor – and 154mm shorter than the A1 hatch – at 3800mm long, 1490mm high and 1690mm wide.

Distinctive lighting is now an Audi hallmark and the concept packs next-generation headlights – dubbed matrix beam – that comprise LEDs and micro-reflectors to produce what Audi says is a “high-resolution and non-glaring high-beam light,” complemented by fibre-optic daytime running lights.

Audi is using the concept to demonstrate its thinking in the area of improving safety through the use of lighting, with tail lights that automatically adjust to visibility conditions, a laser-based rear fog lights that projects a red warning triangle onto the road and brake lights that indicate the intensity of deceleration to following drivers.

7 center imageLeft: Audi concept. Below: Original production Audi A2.

More lighting innovations include a strip linking the front and rear indicators that functions as a side marker during normal driving and operates as full-length turn signals when required.

Audi says the strip also responds to driver gestures when approaching and unlocking the vehicle.

The concept’s crossover-like proportions are less ungainly than those of the pioneering tall-boy original but it carries over the A2’s signature aerodynamic blanked-off grille, updated to reflect the brand’s current single-framed design theme.

In the absence of a conventionally-opening bonnet, the old A2’s faux grille served as a ‘service hatch’ behind which were receptacles for topping up the screen-wash fluid and engine oil, complete with dipstick, although on the concept it could act as a flap to protect the battery charging point.

A completely flat interior floor – likely to hide batteries stored in a sandwich format – enhances versatility and the four individual chairs enable extra storage solutions, such as the ability to carry a small bicycle between the rear pair. Like the original A2, there is a generous two-level luggage area.

The cockpit features a driver-focussed, minimalist wraparound dashboard with aluminium highlights and a floating centre console attached to the driver’s seat.

A new take on the multi-function steering replaces buttons and switches with touch-sensitive controls, two extra “control surfaces” reveal themselves when starting the vehicle and traditional instruments are replaced by a seven-inch multi-purpose screen – shown in the press images as serving up Facebook dialogue and satellite navigation – flanked by twin auxillary displays.

Interior fabrics include a neoprene-like polyurethane material for the door trims and a ribbed floor covering derived from recycled polyester.

No details of the A2 concept’s all-electric drivetrain have yet been published, other than it being described as having “agile performance and long range”.

The original A2 was intended to compete against the original Mercedes-Benz A-class and featured an aluminium space-frame construction like that of Audi’s flagship A8 sedan, resulting in a sub-900kg weight for the base model.

Its space-liberating upright stance and lightweight construction famously resulted in the motion of its windscreen wipers famously causing the whole car to gently rock.

That lightness coupled with a super-low drag coefficient – as low as 0.25 on the 1.2-litre diesel ‘3L’ variant – provided impressive fuel economy.

The aforementioned super-frugal diesel ‘3L’ edition introduced in 2001 featured then-revolutionary idle-stop and, as the name suggested, offered fuel consumption below 3.0 litres per 100 kilometres and in certain conditions, as little as 2L/100km – figures few cars, including hybrids, can achieve even today.

However despite all its technological achievements the A2’s high price-to-size ratio, coupled with high insurance premiums commanded due to the cost of repair, limited sales - with fewer than 180,000 being built in the model’s six-year lifespan.

As GoAuto has reported, the industrious Ingolstadt-based carmaker will also be showing its wacky Urban Concept EV, a hybrid version of its A8 limo and – at the other end of the environmentally-friendly scale – three rip-snorting new V8-powered ‘S’ variants of the A6, A7 and A8.

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