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17/07/2010 2064

Audi - Al2 Open End

Cheerful and easygoing, but highly practical too: Audi is now presenting its design study Al2 in a different guise at the Tokyo Motor Show. Whereas the pioneering idea exhibited at Frankfurt placed the emphasis on transparency and celestial light, the Al2 open end version is firmly rooted in everyday reality. This car is relaxed and unconstrained: carefree, tough-taking and nimble, it literally holds its head high, always taking the right approach to life. Thanks to its easy-care materials, the Al2 open end even seems to invite encounters with dust and dirt - the manner in which it simply shrugs them off makes it all the more serviceable and genial. The Al2 open end is intended as a laboratory vehicle which tests the feasibility of various concepts and demonstrates the scope for pushing back the defining frontiers of existing vehicle segments. In common with the Al2, it is based on the plateau concept which yields advantages in terms of both space and safety. The space frame technology first used on the Audi A8 permits bold, weight saving concepts, since it is no longer dependent on pressed-steel body elements for its supporting structure.

The team of designers, headed by Peter Schreyer and Project Manager Stefan Sielaff, was inspired to create a breezy, self-assured concept with a pronounced quality of openness, manifested by its two doors, fully retractable side windows without centre bar and a plastic roof that can be rolled up to the front. To preserve the characteristic Audi waistline even with the roof open, the C-post stretches all the way up to the roof line, providing greater safety and stability and acting as a guide for the roll-up roof. The tailgate lid can be retracted by remote control until it disappears completely behind a jointless cover at bumper level. The slender bridge element between the rear lights can then be removed, affording unrestricted access to an aluminium load platform. Hence the name Al2 0pen end, a reference both to its physical design and to the fact that there are still countless possibilities to be explored with this enterprising concept.

The uncomplicated, robust appearance of the interior conceals a surprising range of high-tech elements: the glove box, ash tray and mobile phone compartment have a touch-free opening function using photo-electric cells. The headlights have an innovative bar-optic design: the light emerges from a source located to one side, and is then deflected out through a system of lenses.

In common with the Al2, every opportunity for maximizing passive safety has been taken. The advantages of the plateau concept and the use of high sills complement the impressively strong cage/frame structure. There are six airbags: two front airbags for the driver and front passenger, side airbags in the backrests of the front seats, and head airbags in the roof posts mean that all occupants are protected by this established safety concept.

The precision-control running gear, with the classic configuration of McPherson spring struts made from aluminium at the front and torsion-beam rear suspension, is perfected by the reduction of unsprung masses. The brake callipers of the front and rear disc brakes, in common with several other features, are made of aluminium, as are the special two-piece cast wheels, of course.

In creating the Al2 open end, Audi's designers and technical experts have succeeded in reconciling an avant-garde prototype with the basic essentials of a car. The outcome is an automotive concept that bridges the gap between practical reality and visionary intent.

Avant-garde and human touch

Never before has the automotive industry, particularly in Germany, been demonstrating such imagination, versatility and foresight. More than any other, Audi has been encouraging consumers to express openly their feelings and passions through its bold concepts and solutions, highly ingenious techniques, new materials and evocative designs.

Safety, responsibility and sensitivity towards the world in which we live need not necessarily conflict with good living, the pleasure of mobility and the opportunity to express personal liberty. In fact, unappealingly sullen car designs, however well- intended, however laudable their moral objectives and however low their exhaust emissions, will ultimately fail because they are simply not what the market wants.

The future of successful automotive design depends not so much on meticulous . technical concepts as on creativity, style, and evocative properties, materials and atmosphere - in short, on that highly topical zest that gives shape to life around us. The individual's awareness of his or her role in shaping the future is part and parcel of this. As such, the car is rapidly becoming an object which actively defines trends, instead of simply following them.

Audi now follows up the surprise Al2 technology study presented at the Frankfurt Motor Show by unveiling its freestyle version, the Al2 0pen end, in Tokyo. This is now the variation on a theme: based on the Al2, it incorporates many features that are entirely feasible and realistic, thus demonstrating technological leadership. At first glance, the Al2 0pen end primarily appears to be a more universal, leisure- oriented car than the Al2, placing even greater emphasis on personal freedom. It too, however, is based on a high-tech structure comprising the plateau concept and the Audi Space Frame principle that was originally developed for the Audi A8 and then successfully introduced on a production scale.

From airship to motor scooter

Whereas the guiding inspiration throughout the Al2 project was the symbolic vision of a Zeppelin gliding along silently and effortlessly, the Al20pen end owes more to the timeless urbanity and practical agility of the motor scooter: uncomplicated, universal, capable of taking the rough with the smooth, always swift, rugged, capable of accommodating high loads and with the right approach to life. Thanks to its washable materials, the Al2 0pen end even seems to invite encounters with dust and dirt - the manner in which it simply shrugs them off makes it all the more serviceable and genial.

This four-seater is based on the plateau concept of the Audi Al2 and shares the same overall dimensions, but has two doors and a more stretched overall appearance thanks to the flatter forward-pointing C-post. The fully retractable side windows and elimination of the B-post impart a touch of the convertible.

The blue, translucent fabric soft top with plastic rear window can be rolled up forwards electrically at the push of a button and moved steplessly into a narrow, concealed recess above the windscreen. The resulting impression is one of unrestricted openness. There then remains an easily detachable support element with third brake light between the rear light clusters, which allows the load area to be increased still further: the tailgate is retracted into the bumper by remote control, leaving a brushed-aluminium load platform 160 cm long and 95 cm wide. Another new feature of this concept is that this car can travel with its tailgate open, as the lid is not left protruding precariously.

Rough load, rough road

All interior materials are of a high quality, but also sufficiently durable for the driver to have no qualms about transporting everything from a double-bass or exclusive racing cycle to muddy hiking boots and boxes of vegetables: the firmly cushioned seats have two-tone plastic upholstery in brown and blue, and the panels inside the car have been trimmed in a napa-effect material. The exclusive, polished door handles and shimmering white horn-push ring create a tantalizing interplay of exclusive and hard-wearing materials. The floor is carpeted with a sturdy material that could just as easily be intended to withstand trampling by skiing boots in a cable car. The numerous grab handles and lashing points located around the interior are both stylistically attractive and very useful.

True to its penchant for creative ambivalence, the team which designed this study car, led by Head of Design Peter Schreyer and Project Manager Stefan Sielaff, opted for a brushed aluminium roll bar. This feature on the one hand emphasizes its convertible character, and on the other hand maintains visual harmony.

The ground clearance of this vehicle, which measures 3.76 metres nose to tail, has been increased to 16 cm compared with 12 cm on the Audi Al2, to broaden its scope as an all-purpose vehicle. It is nevertheless capable of racing down the motorway with verve: the four-cylinder 16-valve engine developing 74 kW I (100 bhp) is capable of speeds as high as 190 km/h. It is a nimble performer, thanks • to its aerodynamic body design and low weight of 790 kg, accelerating from a standstill to 100 km/h hi approximately 9 seconds.

High-tech for road and trek

The uncomplicated sturdiness of the load area contrasts with various high-tech jelements as seen on the Al2: activated by photo-electric sensors, the glove box glides out smoothly, the ashtray opens as if by an unseen hand and the mobile ffhone compartment opens touch-free - particularly useful if your hands are dirty!

The instruments, which have a black background by day, assume the familiar red night-time look. The headlights are of the same innovative bar-optic design that was used for the first time on the Al2: the light emerges from a source located to jone side, and is then deflected out through a system of lenses.

The multifunctional steering wheel allows the driver to operate the audio, navigation and telephone system and the air conditioner without the moving his or her hands away from the steering wheel. Whenever the car is unlocked via the radio remote control, and for approximately 20 seconds after it has been locked, at night-time the inside lights, headlights and rear lights come on to help passengers find their way to or from the car.

Safe and sure

The Al2 operi end shares the same constellation of safety features as the Al2 displayed in Frankfurt, starting with the high-strength frame structure that acts as a kind of protective cage. In the event of a collision, the plateau concept and the high energy-absorbing capacity of the Audi Space Frame with its crash elements prove highly beneficial. The high-position sill, in conjunction with the raised position of the seats, provides better protection in the event of a sideswipe. In addition to the two front airbags for the driver and front passenger, there are two further airbags integrated into the seats to protect the ribs and pelvis. A single head airbag on either side, located in the roof posts, provides protection for both the front and the rear passengers, to round off this comprehensive safety system.

Aluminium callipers, high-grip treads

Instead of an automated transmission, the Al2 open end has a manual-shift five-speed gearbox. The high inherent strength of the vehicle body has been preserved, providing an ideal basis for precision-control suspension. The McPherson spring-strut front suspension, including the brake callipers, is made of aluminium; Audi's engineers opted for torsion-beam suspension and aluminium brake callipers at the rear. The two-piece light-alloy 6J x 16 wheels are fitted with 175/55 R 16 tyres. This car's wheels have been specially created and developed for this design study. Together with the pronounced tread of the tyres, they convey a substantial, reassuring feeling, without appearing too rough and ready.

The Al2 open end, derived from the Audi Al2, is intended as a laboratory vehicle which tests the feasibility of various concepts and demonstrates the scope for pushing back the defining frontiers of existing vehicle segments. Its name expresses both its physical design and its status in an ongoing design process. The car's underlying philosophy is its ability to reflect on its own reason for being, and thus constantly adapt to the changing nature of personal freedom".

The real secret to this bold approach is the aluminium space frame, which explores new horizons in vehicle body concepts by making it relatively simple to add further body elements, since the actual body panels are of only marginal structural significance. This gives designers an unprecedented free hand for experimentation and creating new niche models.

In fact, the lower the production total, the lower the investment in costly series- production tools - an intriguing reversal of the established principle, and one that favours simplicity. Production volume could nevertheless be stepped up very rapidly if needed. In addition to its technical benefits and versatility, the ASF thus demonstrates a further, previously undiscovered talent for adaptability.

Without betraying the state of the art in automotive design, Audi's designers have pulled off a major feat by deploying pioneering technology in order to satisfy absolutely essential requirements. This vehicle revives the relaxed urbanity, practicality and timeless elegance of a Vespa, coupled with the uncomplicated, dirt-resistant, wash-it-off convenience of a utility moped that gets you from A to B. In addition to these low-end requirements, the Al2 0pen end has a strong hint of a pick-up vehicle that incorporates all the latest technology. This is a state-of-the-art automotive concept bridging the gap between practical reality and visionary intent.


Engine & performance:

Type: 4-cylinder, transversely 

Drive: FWD

Top speed: 190 km/h

0-100 km/h: 9 s



1997  Tokyo

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