Audi transforms the TT coupe into a 123-mpg plug-in off-roader
By C.C. Weiss
April 23, 2014
Audi appears committed to injecting the SUV segment with added sportiness, at least insofar as concept cars are concerned. Last year, it showed an off-road supercar named the Nanuk Quattro. At this week's Beijing Motor Show, it got a little more practical in transforming its TT into an off-road-ready hybrid crossover based closely on the Allroad Shooting Brake concept from earlier this year.
While not quite as potent as the 544-hp/737 lb-ft Nanuk, the TT offroad's 408-hp/479 lb-ft hybrid powertrain is no slouch in the performance department and jacks efficiency through the roof. A transverse 292-hp 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder and 40-kW electric motor in the six-speed e‑S tronic transmission team up on the front wheels, while an 85-kW rear-axle-mounted motor handles things in back. The car has McPherson front suspension and four-link rear suspension.
The drive units pair up to send the TT offroad roaring to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 5.2 seconds, right on up to the electronically limited top speed of 155 mph (250 km/h). When directed at efficiency instead of outright performance, the hybrid powertrain can cut consumption all the way down to 123.8 mpg (1.9 L/100 km), delivering 31 miles (50 km) of all-electric range in the process.
The TT concept's numbers are quite similar to the Volvo S60L PPHEV also on display in Beijing, with both cars also featuring all-wheel drive. The TT offroad separates itself from the Volvo, and most other small plug-in concepts, through its off road-fortified design. It would take an awful lot of aftermarket attention for the TT concept to resemble a full-blown off-roader, but its heightened ground clearance and short overhangs are aimed at light off-road utility.
The hybrid management system governing the powertrain combines output from the rear electric motor and front engine when increased traction is needed, such as in slick off-road conditions. The driver can enjoy quick, sporty coupe handling around the track, while keeping comfortable on dirt roads and trails that would shred the underbellies of other sports cars.
The TT offroad draws its e-tron power from a 12-kWh liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery pack mounted in front of the rear axle. Audi explains that the placement of the battery contributes to a low center of gravity and 54:46 front-rear weight distribution.
In addition to standard wall charging, the concept is equipped for wireless inductive charging courtesy of an integrated coil that accepts 3.3 kW of magnetic AC from a grid-connected charging plate mounted in the parking space below. Audi says that the induction system is 90 percent efficient, unaffected by the weather, and safe for humans and animals. The charging time is said to be comparable to a standard wired system, but Audi doesn't provide a specific estimate for the TT offroad.
As is standard in other plug-in hybrids, the TT concept manages gas-electric output by way of several driving modes. The pure electric mode deactivates the front drive unit and operates solely under power from the rear-mounted motor, offering up to 31 miles (50 km) of range and 80.8 mph (130 km/h) of speed. Hybrid mode manages output from both electric motors and the engine, often dedicating the front motor to energy generation for extending battery life. In Sport mode, the system dedicates its output to quick acceleration and speedy performance. The concept's "Hold" and "Charge" modes help maintain the highest levels of battery power.
The TT offroad concept employs two of the latest driver assistance technologies, which Audi says are nearly ready for production. The intersection assistant uses radar and a wide-angle video camera to scan around the front and sides of the car at intersections and merges. It provides warnings on the virtual cockpit if an approaching vehicle is detected. Meanwhile, Audi's online traffic light information system helps drivers navigate through traffic lights more efficiently.
The TT offroad has been stretched in comparison to the TT, filling the gap between the sporty coupe and existing small crossovers like the Q3. Its 16.2-foot (4.39-m) length, 6.1-ft (1.85-m) width and 8.6-ft (2.63-m) wheelbase are very close to the dimensions of the Q3, but its 5-ft (1.53-m) roof height rests between the 5.25-ft (1.6-m) Q3 and 4.4-ft (1.35-m) TT coupe, giving the car its crossover-meets-coupe profile. The shape of the roof further develops this profile, angling more sharply toward the rear than on a full-fledged crossover.
The offroad's ends and roofline are straighter than the bulging curves on the TT coupe, and Audi aimed to make the Sonora Yellow steel-and-aluminum body appear carved from a single block. The concept's embedded grille includes a bit more shaping than the new TT, along with the Audi four rings within its borders. The concept stands on 21-in five-arm wheels set below muscular, two-tone arches.
The sports car-meets-crossover theme continues inside, where a 2+2 configuration easily transforms into a 2+gear configuration thanks to the rear hatch and power-folding rear seats. The trunk offers plenty of room for gear, but it also comes with a little gear of its own: a 1:8 scale radio-controlled car stored in a custom-made box – just in case driving a sporty road/off-road coupe isn't enough fun. It's not quite as inventive as Renault's integrated drone, but it's a fun, little inclusion.
The sporty part of the design includes side-bolstered sport seats and a wing-like aluminum dash with jet-inspired air vents. Interior technologies include a 12.3-in TFT display-based virtual cockpit, smartphone tray with infotainment integration and inductive charging, a Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System with dual speakers in each head restraint, and a touchpad multimedia interface (MMI). Passengers enjoy three Android-based Audi Smart Display tablets, offering media streaming, Web browsing, apps, and control of car functions like radio and navigation. The tablets can also be removed from the car and used on the move.
Audi hasn't announced any plans for a production car based on the TT offroad concept, but it's certainly hinting at the possibility. Besides the fact that the car is essentially the second iteration of the Allroad Shooting Brake, an indication that Audi is refining the design for production, Audi execs have mentioned the possibility of a TT family.
"The Audi TT offroad concept provides a glimpse of how we might imagine a new model in the future TT family,” says Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, a member of Audi's Board of Management for Technical Development. "It combines the sporty genes of the TT with the strengths of a compact Audi SUV. Its plug‑in hybrid drive with the option of inductive charging is a major step toward the mobility of the future."