The first car to be equipped with 4G LTE wireless connectivity will be the 2015 Audi A3 compact series, which was exhibited at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show. The entry-luxury line opens with the 2015 A3 sedan, which will go on sale in the Spring. Other models in the series, including an A3 cabriolet, an S3 sedan (performance model), and an A3 Sportback plug-in hybrid will follow over the next 18 months. A production intent concept of the Sportback was featured at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show.
The system, which uses a Tegra 2 graphics processing unit by Nvidia, has a 4 x 7.5 in (102 x 190 mm) color display in a magnesium frame, and it's under 0.5 in (12 mm) thick. A cover slides back and the screen automatically rises from a slot in the top of the dashboard center stack. The 4G connectivity can deliver download speeds up to 100 Mbps, which is seven times faster than 3G, Audi's previous Wi-Fi connective offering. The Tegra processor generates 3-D images and has been widely used in video gaming.
Although the A3 is basically a four-passenger car, the 4G LTE system is a mobile hotspot that can handle up to eight devices, so the multi-connected/multi-tasking passengers are set up while traveling. What is significant is the level of enhanced services the system can provide through Audi Connect, the car's infotainment system. The system module, supplied by Qualcomm Technologies, is a second-generation LTE chipset called Gobi MDM 9215, which is already in use on some new smartphones and tablets. Audi will install this 4G system on all new models as they are introduced.
Some features are "gimmicky," such as photo navigation, in which a driver might receive a smartphone photo from a friend or associate, with a message to "meet me here." The system uses the embedded GPS coordinates in the photo, and Google Maps to automatically find the location and produce route instructions. The driver also can store GPS-linked photos of favorite destinations (or 3-D scenes from Google Earth Street View) in a photo album of the MMI's (Multi-Media Interface) Navigation Plus, and use them in a similar way.
What should be more significant is the ability of the system to display high-definition video, and as an accompanying feature, initiate or just enter a video teleconference. So an executive on the road could participate. Other useful features include Google Voice activated searches, and enhanced versions of such Audi Connect services as text-to-speech for email and voice dictation of SMS text messages.
In addition, Audi Connect can read aloud social media messages from Facebook and Twitter, and provide access to RSS (Rich Site Summary), a format that delivers the latest content from chosen websites (typically used for news feeds) without going to the sites individually. Audi Connect also can provide access to over 7000 internet radio stations.
Audi said it expects the motorist to include the automobile's 4G service in a package that will be available from its first partner carrier (to be announced) including family plans.
On specific trim level
The system itself will not be a vehicle option, but will be included with a specific trim level to be disclosed closer to the on-sale date, although not the $29,990 entry level. Audi Connect is part of Audi's MMI operating system, which uses a control dial that can be rotated and pressed to move the system through menus. The dial has been surrounded by buttons to permit selecting individual functions. It was introduced on the top-of-the-line Audi A8 for the 2012 model year, and the 2015 model year will mark its debut on the entry-luxury line. The new version of MMI incorporates a touch pad in the dial.
In the long term, Audi said, it believes the 4G data connection will enable the car to access Big Data services and communicate with a "smart" infrastructure including other, comparably equipped cars.
A smartphone app to permit enhanced communication and new services with the MMI is included.
The A3 sedan is built on a 103.4-in (2625-mm) wheelbase and is 175.5-in (4456-mm) long overall. The base engine is a 1.8-L turbo four rated at 170 hp (127 kW). Optional are a 2.0-L turbo four rated at 220 hp (164 kW) and a 2.0-L turbodiesel at 150 hp (112 kW). The sportier S3 will be equipped with a specially tuned 2.0-L rated at 290 hp (216 kW). The hybrid powerplant, with a 1.4-L four and 76-kW electric motor are listed at a combined 201 hp (150 kW). A six-speed dual-clutch gearbox, the S tronic, is installed across the board.