Audi enters luxury hatchback market

  • 30-Nov-2010 03:15 EST

Aluminum's contribution of 20% to the A7's body shell helps trim the car's weight by 15% compared to that of an all-steel car.

Audi is diving into the nascent market for large five-door hatchbacks with the introduction of the A7 Sportback, an entrant in a market that has so far had mostly ungainly contenders in the effort to demonstrate the inherent beauty in hatchback flexibility.

Eschewing the all-aluminum construction of the flagship A8, the A7 features a hybrid 20% aluminum/80% steel construction that delivers a 15% weight savings compared to a conventional all-steel design, according to the company.

The front-suspension strut mounts are cast aluminum, while stamped aluminum is used for the front and rear crossmembers, front fenders, hood, hatch, doors, and rear-seat bulkhead. In areas where strength is critical, Audi uses high-strength steel and tailored blanks that are thicker where loads are higher.

The arching roofline combines with underbody aerodynamic covers to produce an impressive 0.28 drag coefficient, with a frontal area of 24.65 ft² (2.290 m²).

Under the skin, the A7 is powered by a range of four different V6 engines for the global market. There are two 201-hp (150-kW) engines, a 2.8-L direct-injected gasoline engine, and a 3.0-L TDI diesel unit. Up-level engines include a 295-hp (220-kW) 3.0-L supercharged, direct-injected gasoline engine and a 241-hp (180-kW) TDI diesel.

The normally aspirated 2.8-L engine relies on adjustment of intake valve lift to control output so the throttle plate remains open at most times for reduced pumping losses. This engine achieves 44 mpg in mixed driving, according to Audi. The engine is employed on front-wheel-drive models paired with a conventional torque converter automatic transmission, while the other engines are used in quattro all-wheel-drive models and feature a dual-clutch computer-controlled manual transmission.

Both transmissions use information from the A7’s navigation system to help make gear-change decisions, a technology that also links to the car’s active headlights to steer them into upcoming curves.

The A7 uses the latest edition of Audi’s quattro system, with a crown gear center differential that the company promises can shift a greater range of torque to the front or rear wheels depending on the conditions. A sport rear differential also vectors torque to the outer wheel in corners to help the A7 steer through turns.

Similar coordination exists among the A7’s dynamic systems, with the power steering, suspension, and automatic transmission working together according to any of the four different programs to provide responsive handling.

The A7’s optional head-up display not only shows information about the car, but also shows night vision data highlighting people within view of the system and marking them in red if the computer concludes they are on a collision course. This combination of HUD and automatic identification of pedestrians promises to finally let night vision technology fulfill its promise to reduce pedestrian fatalities.

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