With an already-stated intent to meet increasingly demanding fuel-economy and emissions requirements by transitioning many of its vehicles from V6 to four-cylinder power, Audi has unveiled a lightweight version of the A5 Coupe designed to serve as a bellwether for the total performance potential of the next-gen A5 and S5 packages. Embodying the latest developments in the automaker's well-proven Aluminum Space Frame (ASF) design technology, this slimmed-down A5 variant sheds some 240 pounds by replacing its standard steel unit body with an ASF alternative and fitting a number of smaller aluminum and carbon-reinforced plastic components. In place of the production A5's 265-horsepower/3.2-liter V6, this experimental A5 is fitted with a 211-horse/2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four that delivers virtually identical performance but provides huge advantages in mpg and CO2 emissions. However, the tangible benefits go far beyond those areas. Dropping the curb weight from 3,131 pounds to 2,888 pounds allows for a rescaling of the A5's ancillary components like the transmission and brakes, while the lighter four cylinder underhood also improves the overall balance and enhances vehicle dynamics.
Audi's first foray into aluminum-intensive construction began in 1994 with the original A8. Now some, 555,000 vehicles later, ASF remains a key ingredient in the automaker's engineering arsenal as seen in vehicles like the R8, TT and TT Roadster as well as the current A8. "One of our most enduring aims for the future is to reverse the weight spiral," says Michael Dick, Member of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, Technical Development. "Lightweight design is the foundation of our entire approach to improving efficiency." Audi also sees state-of-the-art ASF construction as being critical to the success of a new generation of hybrid and electric vehicles by providing a strong and rigid, yet relatively lightweight, platform capable of managing the additional weight of battery packs while maintaining excellent handling characteristics.