January 13, 2009 While the firebreathing 5.2-litre V10 R8 supercar is clearly the performance king of Audi's Detroit NAIAS lineup, the Sportback concept unveiled does an excellent job of marrying performance, economy, stunning looks and practicality. Its 3-litre, 6-cylinder direct-injection turbo 'clean diesel' engine puts out 225 horsepower and 550 Nm, for a top speed over 150mph - and yet its average fuel economy nearly tips 40mpg. Ultra-low CO2 emissions are the result of smart decisions throughout the car, from the advanced exhaust emissions control, to electric systems like the power steering that consume no energy when they're not immediately in use, to automatic engine stop-start at the traffic lights and power-smart sunlight-white LED headlights. The Sportback's ultra-clean lines and fastback hatch somehow make this four-door coupe look sportier than some of its two-door contemporaries. Beautiful.
Another German debut at Detroit this year, Audi's Sportback concept is intended to showcase the company's ongoing 'design vocabulary' while demonstrating the effectiveness of its exceptional clean-diesel powerplant. While delivering sporting levels of performance, the 3.0 litre TDI V6 returns an exceptional 39.87mpg while keeping emissions well ahead of both the 2014 Euro6 standards and California's tight emissions regulations.
The exhaust system incorporates AdBlue diesel emissions fluid injection upstream of the catalyser - a technology used to reduce nitrous oxide emissions from diesel engines. It's a common and proven emissions control technique for diesels, and incoming EPA laws starting in 2010 will mandate its use in trucks. Carbon dioxide emissions are kept to a low 156g/km, helped along by the efficient engine as well as a host of other energy-saving ideas.
Like many recent cars, the Sportback concept's engine turns itself off when the vehicle is stopped at the lights, and seamlessly fires up when you're ready to take off. Likewise the electric power steering consumes no energy at all when the car's moving in a straight line, kicking in as soon as the wheel is turned - and the fuel pump turns itself off the instant there's no fuel required, to save that extra bit of power. The electric assisted steering alone is estimated to save 200ml of petrol for every 100km travelled as compared to a hydraulic system. Temperature is also closely monitored for maximum efficiency and minimum emissions, with engine coolant partially diverted as the car warms up to bring it up to optimal temperature as fast as possible.
The Sportback body shape has been one of Audi's biggest sales hits since its introduction in 2004, customers liking the way the large rear hatch keeps the looks elegant and sporty while offering the practicality of back doors and a roomy luggage space. This concept car signals Audi's intention to bring the Sportback shape out of the compact segment and into its sports sedans, and as such it's a preview of what we can expect from the upcoming A7 sedan.
Ride-wise, CDC (continuous damping control) suspension constantly adjusts itself to driving conditions, and the damping can be changed from comfort to firmer sport settings instantly at the touch of a button. The system also tweaks the damping to control forward pitch under heavy braking and sideways body-roll during fast cornering to keep the low-rolling resistance but high-performance tyres planted on the deck without sacrificing a comfortable ride.
380mm ceramic brake discs on all 4 wheels and aluminium monobloc calipers up front provide huge fade-free stopping power to the concept's 21-inch wheels - and should last more than 180,000 miles without replacement.
The concept's interior is stunning in cream and grey leather, highlighted by scored oak panelling that gives it the watertight, integrated feel of a speedboat cabin.
The Audi Sportback concept is absolutely stunning in the flesh, and significant parts of the car like its ultra-efficient engine will be seen in production models very soon.