Audi Avantissimo concept
Audi presented the Avantissimo concept, which was one of the more popular cars at the show. The Avantissimo is a preview of a possible future large Audi wagon, and a showcase for new technologies in lighting, a driver identification system, and advanced multimedia interfaces.
The Avantissimo concept plots a course into uncharted territory for any prestige car maker. It offers the blend of form and function which has made models like the A4 Avant estate the most popular in Europe, but for the first time it interprets these in a design aimed at the D-Segment the largest car class which has traditionally been the preserve of saloon-only luxury models such as the Audi A8.
As befits a car in this sector, the 5.06 metre long and 1.91 metre wide Avantissimo bristles with power and ground-breaking technology. Power from a new 4.2-litre V8 biturbo engine is transmitted to the road by a new six-speed automatic transmission, which can also be operated manually via shift paddles behind the steering wheel.
A choice of three suspension settings can be selected by the driver at the touch of a button: Automatic, Sport and Comfort. If Automatic is selected, the electronics not only vary the firmness of the spring and shock absorber settings according to the cars road speed, but also alter the ground clearance. In other words, as road speed goes up, the centre of gravity is lowered, so that both body control and aerodynamics are optimised.
The Pax wheels fitted to the Avantissimo are innovative in their own right too, not so much because of their giant 255 x 740 x 560 format (with 245 x 560 wheel rims) and their almost entirely smooth-surfaced design, but because of a special anchoring system which eliminates the risk of the tyre coming away from the wheel rim. The tyre can be run flat for over 120 miles at speeds of up to 50mph while built-in air pressure sensors monitor their condition and keep the driver informed.
The Avantissimo design study also incorporates many other technological advances that will appear on future model generations. One particularly important feature is a new ergonomic control system that simplifies cabin functions and reduces the drivers workload.
The 'Multi Media Interface' (MMI) unites all the information and communication features available, from the audio system to the Internet link, by means of a single unit which can be understood instinctively and is exceptionally easy to use. Selection of functions within each menu is by means of a large rotary switch and the pushbuttons surrounding it. Information is displayed on a monitor in the drivers direct field of view above the control elements.
Large sections of the roof are constructed using panels of sandwich glass with a dimming facility which extend right down to the tailgate. There are additional photo-voltaic elements here as well; they supply sufficient solar energy when the engine is switched off to operate the ventilation systems fan and keep the interior of the car cool in hot weather.
The movable reflectors of the bi-xenon headlights are in fact more than just a design detail. They incorporate Audis Advanced Lighting System, which alters the light beam pattern when the car is cornering to match the drivers line of sight. The projection units are visible in a slot under the main lamp.
Interesting details included a new approach to the fuel filler cap, a recessed aluminium panel which rotates to expose the filler opening.
The Frankfurt show also saw a new exhibition stand design for Audi, replacing the organic glass and tubular design of the previous two years with very simple slab-like shapes in frosted glass, orange and grey. Large free-standing walls featuring video projections actually moved slowly across the stand, constantly changing the appearance of the display.