Audi's Sportback Concept
25th January, 2009
Audi unveiled the Sportback concept car at the 2009 Detroit Motor Show in USA.
With systematic refinements to the brand’s characteristic design elements, the five-door model offers a
glimpse at the Audi's future design 'vocabulary'. With its pronounced coupé-like silhouette and large rear
hatch, the 4.95 m long, 1.93 m wide and just 1.40 m high vehicle is boldly progressive for the luxury class.
The technology of the Audi Sportback concept is markedly futuristic. Power is provided by the world’s
cleanest diesel technology: the 3.0-litre V6 TDI clean diesel almost completely eliminates nitrogen oxides.
This engine already meets the emissions limits of all 50 U.S. states and the EU6 standard scheduled to take
effect in 2014. Numerous extra measures employed to ensure top efficiency mean that the Audi Sportback
concept is expected to achieve impressive fuel consumption figures of 5.9 litres of diesel per 100
Driving dynamics in a new guise – the idea
Since its introduction in 2004, the concept of the Sportback has established itself in the compact class.
The success of the A3 Sportback has exceeded even the expectations of its makers – far more customers choose
the four-door model with the large rear hatch than its three-door 'sibling'.
But it is far more than two additional doors that sets the A3 Sportback apart from the base model. It is
characterised by the sporting elegance of a coupe, the versatility of a five-door model, sophisticated
technology and pronounced sportiness – driving dynamics in a new guise.
It also offers even more space and variability thanks to a tail end that is a total of 54 millimetres
longer that of the three-door model.
The launch of the first production Sportback marked the second time that Audi started a new trend in the
automobile market. The development of the first Avant models in the seventies laid the foundation for a new
class of automobiles far beyond the matter-of-fact utility of the classic station wagon. The marked
accentuation of a futuristic and dynamic design, high-quality equipment and extreme variability have been
the distinguishing features of every Audi Avant from the very beginning.
The Audi Sportback concept show car is now rolling up to the starting line with a dual mission: As
suggested by the name, it symbolises the Sportback principle in its purest form in the combination of
elegance, sportiness and variability.
And the show car also signals the company's determination not to limit Sportback versions to the compact
segment. As previously indicated by the Audi A1 Sportback concept – at the 2008 Paris Motor Show – the brand
with the four rings is going to dramatically expand the number of Sportback models on the market.
The design of the Audi Sportback concept is characterised by an almost monolithic clarity and a vast
reduction of the number of lines. The roof, 'shoulder' and sill lines appear to have been drawn with a single
stroke. The window strip of the coupé with its four frameless doors was kept pronouncedly flat. Viewed from
the side, the softly contoured wheel wells over the 10-spoke, 21-inch wheels reinforce the impression of the
precisely defined surfaces of the body.
One feature familiar from the two-door Audi A5 coupé is even more boldly accentuated here: The markedly
horizontal shoulder area emphasises the orientation of the vehicle body to the road. This effect is further
reinforced at the front and rear by the broad, flat LED light units. The shape of the almost fragile-looking
side mirrors is inspired by the upturned tips – the “winglets” – of modern jet aircraft wings.
The show car also offers a new interpretation of the single-frame grille. The decision not to use vertical
struts and the low overall height emphasise the sporty basic proportions of the vehicle front.
Also particularly striking is the modified outer contour of the single-frame grille as also featured on
the A1 Sportback show car. The flattened top edges lower the visual centre of gravity and provide a striking
look for the front end.
The aerodynamically designed air intakes under the headlights function as air deflectors which guide the
required cooling air precisely into an intake duct. They have the stylistic effect of accentuating the
impression of width.
The tail of the show car is also evidently related to the A5 coupé. The high top edge of the rear hatch
gives rise to a strikingly clear surface below the rear lights.
The low separating edge and the horizontal lines – another characteristic feature – underscore the width
and therefore the sporty nature of the Audi Sportback concept. The four tailpipes integrated into the body
and an air deflector in the diffuser insert are cues borrowed from the sports car sector.
The interior design is tidy and downright purist yet elegant at the same time. The large glass roof
underscores the width and feeling of spaciousness. In the driver-oriented cockpit, the air vents,
instrument cluster and retracting MMI monitor are outlined by a filigree aluminium border.
As with the exterior, the interior is characterised by the emphasis on horizontal lines and large
surfaces. Especially the wide centre console – stretching from the dashboard to the back – seems to be a
pure expression of function.
The flat display of the MMI system is realised as a retractable system in the show car. When the ignition
is activated, it extends horizontally from a slot above the central air register before moving in an elegant
arc into a vertical, easy-to-read position.
The high quality of the materials and manufacturing-level fit and finish are obvious when looking around
the interior of the Audi Sportback concept and when touching the surfaces. The interior trim is almost
completely in leather: from the headlining, dashboard, doors and the entire seat upholstery all the way
through to the trunk, with the leather stitching underscoring the vehicle’s design language. The large wood
trim strips on the instrument panel, centre console and doors are machined from oak blockboard and sport a
delicate horizontal pattern of light and dark lines.
With its surfaces of piano lacquer and brushed aluminium, the MMI control unit also adds to the
exceptional exclusivity of the interior. The attention to detail even extends to the door opener: Its shape
is a nearly perfect reflection of the distinctive lines of the small rear side window – giving the interior
and exterior formal unity.
Four sporty seats await the driver and passengers. The diamond-shaped stitching of the leather surface
is reminiscent of a classic GT tradition. Shoulder, head and leg room are reminiscent of a premium-class
touring car. With a volume of 500 litres, the trunk is generously sized and is also appointed with
The developers at Audi chose diesel technology as the unit best befitting the Audi Sportback concept show
car. The six-cylinder 3.0 TDI clean diesel is equipped with a system for the effective reduction of nitrogen
oxides. The diesel engine development engineers at Audi have combined an entire package of innovative
measures for this latest TDI generation: The piezo common rail system with an injection pressure of 2,000
bar, highly efficient exhaust gas recirculation and optimised turbo charging result in significantly reduced
raw engine emissions. One of the highlights are the combustion chamber sensors that enable even more precise
regulation of the combustion processes in the engine – this is the first time that such sensors have been
installed on any engine in the world, marking yet another Audi innovation.
The status of the new-generation TDI as the definitive clean-running, high-tech diesel is sealed by the
downstream exhaust emission control system, which reduces emissions by up to 90 per cent. The system uses
AdBlue, a biologically degradable, waterborne additive that is injected in small amounts upstream of the
DeNOx catalytic converter.
In addition to the catalytic converter, the exhaust emission control system comprises the metering module,
the AdBlue tank and heated lines, as well as an extensive system of sensors. The additional oxidising
catalytic converter and the highly efficient, regulated diesel particulate filter round off the comprehensive
emission control system.
Thanks to their extremely low emission levels, these modern direct-injection diesel engines can be put into
service anywhere in the world, even in the U.S. state of California, which has the world’s most stringent
emissions limits. Compared with the fleet average of the petrol engines typically found in the U.S., the TDI
boasts a fuel-efficiency advantage of up to 40 per cent. The diesel technology thus makes a greater
contribution than any other type of engine to reducing the consumption of fossil fuels. Audi will offer this
engine in the U.S. and Europe beginning in 2009.
As in the U.S. version of the Audi Q7 3.0 TDI, the V6 also produces 165 kW and 550 Nm of torque in the Audi
Sportback concept. Power is transferred to the wheels via Audi’s most modern transmission: the new 7-speed
tiptronic. The quattro permanent all-wheel-drive system ensures that the torque generated by the powerful TDI
is also converted effectively into propulsion and dynamism under any conditions.
Weighing just 1,800 kilogrammes and with a drag coefficient of 0.30, the coupe will accelerate from 0 – 100
km/h in less than seven seconds and reach a top speed of 245 km/h.
The Audi Sportback concept’s average fuel economy according to the European ECE standard is only 5.9 litres
of diesel per 100 kilometres and its CO2 emissions no more than 156 g/km. These sensationally low figures for
a large model have been achieved by extensive efficiency-optimizing measures.
For example, this model’s electromechanical power steering only consumes energy when the steering is turned,
not when driving in a straight line.
The TDI engine features an innovative temperature management system. When the engine is warming up, part of
the coolant flow is diverted – another way to improve efficiency, since it helps the engine to warm up quicker.
This means significant practical savings, because many journeys are fairly short. The fuel pump also runs only
when there is a demand for fuel, and therefore uses less energy.
The 7-speed S tronic transmission is a very efficient unit with a wide spread of gear ratios. For the first
time, it has been equipped with transmission oil heating, so that it reaches its intended operating temperature
much earlier and therefore has a lower level of internal friction.
When coasting, the Audi Sportback concept – like the Audi A4 and Audi Q5 production models – recuperates
energy. This boosts the output of the alternator and is used to charge the battery. This energy, which in effect
costs nothing to recover, is fed back into the vehicle’s electrical system when needed. An automatic start-stop
system shuts the TDI engine down to save energy, for instance when waiting at a traffic signal.
And when it is on the move, tyres optimised for low roll resistance cut fuel consumption significantly
without incurring any disadvantages in the performance area.
The Audi Sportback concept show car took the basic architecture and many components of its suspension from
the brand’s latest and most successful model family: the very dynamic A4/A5 model series. The dynamic
suspension sets standards here, as well, combining precision and dynamism with stability and poise. The
suspension mountings, steering, wheels and brakes have been developed for performance and numerous aluminium
components are used to keep unsprung masses to a minimum.
The new five-link front suspension makes a major contribution to the car’s dynamic character. By moving the
differential further forward and the clutch further back, the design engineers were able to reposition the
front axle 154 millimetres further forward. The result is an optimal distribution of weight between the front
and rear axles.
The front suspension is made up of five links per wheel – a support link and a control arm at the bottom
and two control arms at the top. The fifth link – the track rod – connects the steering box and the pivot
All these links are made of forged aluminium, ensuring low unsprung masses, ultra-precise wheel control and
a high level of crash safety. The anti-roll bar fabricated from a high-strength tube saves additional weight.
The 'backbone' of the rear axle is a subframe with high flexural and torsional rigidity.
If sporty handling is to be combined with a high standard of ride comfort, the unsprung masses must be kept
as low as possible. Audi has pursued this approach for all the rear-axle components. The upper control arms and
the track rods are of forged aluminium. Their high rigidity ensures that toe and camber angles change very
little when dynamic forces act on the wheels.
The CDC (continuous damping control) shock absorbers, similar to those that Audi already uses on the Q7 SUV
with air suspension, are twin-tube, gas-filled hydraulic units with an additional external valve and connecting
pipe. Their operation can be continuously varied.
An electromagnetically energised, proportional-action valve regulates the flow of hydraulic fluid between
the inner and outer damper tubes. A smaller flow cross-section makes the damping characteristic firmer, a
larger one makes it softer.
The control unit applies adaptive operating characteristics within the mode the driver has chosen via Audi
drive select. It adapts to match the driver’s driving style and the road conditions. Even from the comfort
mode, the shock absorbers can be switched in an instant to a firm setting if desired, though not to the
absolute limit. They are fitted in conjunction with sports suspension springs, which still provide a good level
of ride comfort, even off-road.
The control unit selects the optimum damping force for the current driving situation, for instance firmer
damping to prevent body roll and pitch when cornering fast or braking, or lower damping force where the surface
under the wheels is hard and uneven.
The show car marks the first time that Audi has used electromechanical steering in a car with a longitudinal
engine. Its primary advantage is that, unlike conventional power steering systems, it only consumes energy when
actually steering. On average, this means a fuel saving of 0.2 litres per 100 kilometres, depending on driving
The electromechanical steering of the Audi Sportback concept also enables the coupling with the parking
steering assistant for fully automatic steering when parallel parking.
The Audi Sportback concept is equipped with ceramic brakes on all four wheels for effective deceleration
even under the most demanding conditions. Compared with conventional steel discs, ceramic brakes not only last
four times longer, up to 300,000 kilometres, but also offer high resistance to fading. The significant reduction
in weight also leads to advantages in terms of comfort and handling, thanks to reduced unsprung masses.
On the front axle, 380-millimetre ceramic discs are fitted in combination with 21-inch wheels. The rear discs
have a diameter of 356 millimetres. The elaborate cooling duct geometry of the ventilated brake discs ensures
optimal cooling of the brake discs. Firm grip on the brake disc is guaranteed at the front by 6-piston monobloc
aluminium brake callipers, and at the rear by floating-calliper brakes.
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