Audi’s 2012 Paris Motor Show concept previews the company’s future compact Q crossover SUV design language while serving as a platform to highlight an innovative chassis constructed with a combination of aluminum, carbon fiber, and fiberglass.
The startling design of the floorpan and bodywork is enough to make it easy to overlook the Crosslane coupe’s plug-in hybrid electric drivetrain with a 1.5-L I3 turbocharged gasoline engine.
Audi calls the Crosslane’s construction “multimaterial space frame.” An aluminum cage surrounds the cockpit for crash protection, while the crash structures at the front and rear are carbon fiber, along with the inner sills, central tunnel, bulkhead, and cross members. Surface bodywork is fiberglass, with carbon fiber reinforcement where necessary, to produce a complete body that Audi says is as light as a purely carbon fiber structure, but at less cost.
The mass of the complete vehicle is 1390 kg (3060 lb) including its lithium-ion battery pack.
Furthermore, carbon fiber and aluminum carry prestige with buyers, which lets the company highlight their use through details like the hood vents that expose the underlying aluminum frame rails, said Audi Group Head Designer Wolfgang Egger. “It was important to have the authenticity of the materials,” he said. “The frame is a sculpture.”
Unsurprisingly, though the company claims cost benefits compared to pure carbon fiber, it is obviously at a cost disadvantage to steel and is not destined for production in the immediate future. “It is not a production exercise,” Egger conceded. “This is for creating a new design language.”
He was careful to clarify that by “design” he did not mean “styling,” but rather the overall engineering of the vehicle. “Design is a lot of philosophy,” he said. “You have to decide whether to have something more or something less. We think less is more.”
Through this minimalist philosophy, Audi aims to deliver more value to customers, Egger said.
The design incorporates a lightweight 10-kg (22-lb) removable roof panel that stows in the back when the rear seats are folded forward. The roof and the seats lock together to form a secure rear storage area even when the roof is open.
The unusual hybrid drivetrain features a pair of electric motor/generators. One is an 85-kW traction motor that powers the wheels and the other is a 50-kW device mated to the gasoline engine that acts primarily as a starter or alternator.
The traction motor propels the Crosslane coupe by itself at speeds below 55 km/h (34 mph). Between 55 and 130 km/h (81 mph), the electric traction motor works with the 95-kW gasoline engine to propel the car. At speeds above 130 kph, the gasoline engine has primary responsibility, but with some assist from its integrated starter/generator as needed.
The combination of these components produces an astounding claimed efficiency of 1.1 L/100 km.