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Audi reveals A3 technology

Chips with everything: Audi’s next-generation A3 features upgradeable infotainment electronic hardware.

Advancements aplenty in next Audi A3 as production debut of VW Group’s MQB platform

Audi logo11 May 2012

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

AUDI has revealed more details on the third-generation A3 it revealed at the Geneva show in March, around a year before it is scheduled to go on sale in Australia.

As the first car to go on sale underpinned by Volkswagen Group’s new MQB platform, the next A3 will showcase plenty of trickle-down technology from Audi’s flagship models, while also introducing new innovations.

For example, upgradeable infotainment hardware enables the A3 to stay up-to-date with the latest developments, a special ‘phone box’ enhances connectivity and boosts the signal of mobile telephones, while a mobile wi-fi hotspot enables up to eight devices to access the internet.

Sophisticated driver assistance systems will also be available, including fatigue detection, lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring, road sign recognition, self-parking, and collision detection, avoidance and mitigation.

Like larger Audis, the adaptive cruise control system will automatically bring the car to a halt and resume progress in heavy traffic – if an automatic transmission is fitted.

These extra features do not come at a weight penalty, as the new A3 will weigh from 1175kg in base 1.4-litre TFSI form – around 80kg less than the car it replaces – despite being the same size as before.

Audi said the investment in reducing the A3’s weight was made possible by the MQB platform’s increased standardisation, which lowers the development and production costs.

The occupant cell is 25kg lighter due to the extensive use of form-hardened steels, while the bonnet, front wings and part of the frontal crash structure save a further 10.5kg as they are made from aluminium.

7 center imageFrom top: Radar-based driver aids, Audi Phone Box, touch-pad MMI controller, MMI screen.

Weight has also been saved through the use of aluminium in suspension and steering components, lightweight wheelarch liners, and a lighter blower motor for the climate-control system.

New engines – developed in conjunction with the MQB platform – are also lightweight, with an example being the 1.4 TFSI unit, which weighs 21kg less than before, and weight savings have also been made in the exhaust systems.

Inside, redesigned seats contribute a 4kg saving, lightweight plastic inserts are used instead of steel wire in the rear bench seat frame, and numerous small changes have been made to make the dashboard structure lighter.

An indication of the attention to detail applied to reducing weight is the redesigned layout of the A3’s electronic control modules, reducing the amount of wiring required and saving 1.5kg.

Steps have even been taken to ensure the optional 18-inch alloy wheels weigh no more than the standard 17-inch alloys.

In terms of infotainment, Audi has attempted to address the problem of vehicle product cycles being outpaced by advancements in technology, leading to dated sat-nav systems or incompatibility with the latest mobile devices.

A new modular infotainment system – another part of the MQB platform – comprises a separate ‘Radio Car Control Unit’ and ‘Multi-Media eXtension’ (MMX), the latter being a plug-in unit that can be upgraded via replacement.

The MMX module is fitted with a powerful dual-core processor that can process compressed audio and video formats such as MP3 and MP4, and provides three-dimensional in-car graphics, which Audi claims is a world first.

Images are displayed on a new slimline (11mm thick) seven-inch high-definition monitor inside a lightweight magnesium frame – with the glass being vacuum-sealed against the TFT screen for a purer image – which rises from the dashboard.

Audi claims its Phone Box, located in the front centre armrest, works with any mobile phone and wirelessly routes its signal to the car’s roof antenna via a booster, while a USB port is present for keeping the phone’s battery topped up.

As Chrysler announced it will do with the new Dodge Dart sedan, Audi is working on contactless mobile phone charging for its Phone Box.

In addition to the usual Bluetooth telephone and audio streaming, the Audi will use the technology to turn the A3 into a mobile internet hotspot, as it has done previously with other models.

The new A3 will also debut a new type of rotary Multi Media Interface (MMI) controller, the top of which features Audi’s touch-pad technology with handwriting recognition – including thousands of characters from Asian languages.

Audi’s touch-pad was first seen on the A8 and A6 as a separate area in the centre console to the MMI controller and enables the driver to draw the letters and numbers by fingertip as a way of inputting navigation destinations, searching track lists or phone numbers.

If the on-board internet function is enabled, the Audi Connect system comes into play, which enables the driver to pre-plan routes on Audi’s website for pre-loading into the car before the journey.

Satellite-navigation can be enhanced using Google Earth satellite images or even Google Street View to help with orientation near the destination, while live traffic information is displayed with alternative routes suggested if part of the planned journey is congested.

Internet radio stations, online news services and social networks like Facebook and Twitter are also accessible, the latter three having the option of being read out using text-to-voice technology if the vehicle is in motion.

Otherwise, messages and updates are displayed on the screen when the vehicle comes to a stop.

From its European launch in the northern hemisphere summer, the A3 will be offered with one diesel and two petrol engines, all of which have been developed to fit within the new MQB architecture to share as many ancillary components as possible.

All engines feature fuel-saving idle-stop technology and a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch S-Tronic transmissions with an efficiency-boosting coasting function under deceleration.

All-wheel-drive Quattro models will follow later, as will super-frugal four-cylinder engines with cylinder deactivation technology previously reserved for much larger engines like the V8 fitted to Holden’s Commodore.

Electric versions are also under development, as previewed by the A3 e-Tron plug-in hybrid sedan concept that was unveiled at last year’s Shanghai motor show.

Only the three-door A3 has been revealed to date, with production versions of the five-door Sportback, four-door sedan and cabriolet versions still under wraps.

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