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Detroit show: Audi previews slinky A7 coupe

Getting CLS: Although BMW has canned the Concept CS program, Audi is pressing ahead with its own Mercedes-Benz CLS challenger.

Audi steals the Detroit limelight with its pre-production four-door coupe

12 Jan 2009

AUDI’S seemingly endless new model offensive continued at the Detroit auto show with the unveiling of what the company calls its Sportback concept show car – which is its thinly-disguised answer to the Mercedes-Benz CLS.

Expected to be badged A7 when it goes on sale globally in late 2010 or early 2011, the Sportback will be to the A6 sedan what the A5 coupe is to the A4.

It is evidence, Audi says, of its commitment to expanding the Sportback concept across its entire range, not just small cars like the A3, which it says has been more popular globally in five-door Sportback guise than as a three-door.

Launched in front of what was generally considered to be the biggest crowd of the first media day at Cobo Center, the sleek Audi actually drove on to the stand in a lavish production that contrasted with the austere American companies.

The production A7 will feature normally-aspirated and turbocharged V6 petrol engines, while the sporty S7 version is expected to get a turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 and the flagship RS7 the twin-turbo 5.2-litre V10 from the RS6.

But the show car features what Audi claims is the world’s cleanest diesel technology in the form of a new 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel engine that “almost completely eliminates nitrogen oxides”.

7 center imageAs well as meeting the emissions standards of all 50 US states and the EU6 standard scheduled to take effect in 2014, Audi says that numerous extra measures ensure maximum efficiency with a fuel consumption figure of just 5.9L/100km and CO2 emissions of 156g/km.

To be introduced to production from early 2009, this new engine produces the same 165kW of power and 550Nm of torque as the 3.0-litre V6 TDI fitted to the big Audi Q7 while being considerably cleaner and more fuel-efficient.

Audi claims that the engine features the first application in the world of combustion chamber sensors that enable even more precise regulation of the combustion processes.

Other efficiency gains downstream include the use in the exhaust emission control system of ‘AdBlue’, a biologically degradable, waterborne additive that is injected in small amounts upstream of the DeNOx catalytic converter.

Driving all four wheels via a seven-speed S tronic transmission, the turbo-diesel V6 pushes the 1800kg machine from 0-100km/h in less than 7.0 seconds and on to a top speed of 245km/h.

However, it was the overall design of the car that really captured the media’s attention as it contains elements that the company says will feature heavily in its future design language such as the latest interpretation of the deep Audi grille.

The coupe-like five-door utilises the same flexible platform first seen last year under the A5 coupe, followed by the latest A4, but with the front axle located 154mm further forward to not only extend the wheelbase but also improve weight distribution.

The Sportback concept’s body is some 4.95m long and 1.93m wide, but only 1.40m high, and has a drag coefficient figure of 0.30.

“With systematic refinements to the brand’s characteristic design elements, the model offers a glimpse at the Audi’s future design vocabulary,” said the company at the launch.

“The design is characterised by an almost monolithic clarity and a vast reduction of the number of lines. The roof, shoulder and sill lines appear to have been drawn with a single stroke.

“The window strip of the coupe with its four frameless doors was kept pronouncedly flat. Viewed from the side, the softly contoured wheel wells over the 10-spoke, 21-inch wheels reinforce the impression of the precisely defined surfaces of the body.

“One feature familiar from the two-door Audi A5 coupe is even more boldly accentuated here: The markedly horizontal shoulder area emphasises the orientation of the vehicle body to the road.

“The show car also offers a new interpretation of the single-frame grille. The decision not to use vertical struts and the low overall height emphasise the sporty basic proportions of the vehicle front. Also particularly striking is the modified outer contour of the single-frame grille.

“The tail of the show car is also evidently related to the A5 coupe. The high top edge of the rear hatch gives rise to a strikingly clear surface below the rear lights.

“The low separating edge and the horizontal lines – another characteristic feature – underscore the width and therefore the sporty nature of the Audi Sportback concept. The four tailpipes integrated into the body and an air deflector in the diffuser insert are cues borrowed from the sportscar sector.” Audi says that the air intakes under the headlights have the stylistic effect of accentuating the impression of width and function as deflectors that guide the required cooling air into an intake duct while the unusual side mirrors were inspired by the upturned tips – the “winglets” – of modern jet wings.

The four-seat interior features a retracting information monitor that reveals itself above the air vents, and a wide centre console that extends from beneath the dashboard through to the back seats.

Occupants sit beneath a large glass sunroof and are surrounded by hand-stitched leather, but the interior is dominated by wood strips on the dash, centre console, doors and steering wheel that give the show car a distinctly nautical feel.

Audi claims that shoulder, head and leg room for all four passengers are competitive with a premium-class sedan while the boot has a volume of 500 litres.

Audi has employed electromechanical power steering (for the first time with a longitudinal engine) that only consumes energy when the steering is turned, not when driving in a straight line, which the company claims saves as much as 0.2L/100km.

Other energy-saving innovations include a coolant system that allows the engine to warm up more quickly, a fuel pump that only runs only when there is a demand for fuel, an engine start-stop system and a transmission oil heating system so that it reaches operating temperature much earlier and therefore has a lower level of internal friction.

Sitting inside the show car’s 21-inch wheels are huge long-lasting ceramic brake discs that are gripped by 6-piston monobloc aluminum calipers at the front and floating calipers at the rear.

More production-likely is the familiar multi-link A4 suspension, which employs various aluminum components to reduce unsprung weight, while the damping system is a variation of the Q7’s electromagnetic continuously variable system.

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