Audi A3 Notchback Concept with 400PS [2011 Geneva Motor Show]

A new take on the Audi A3 is hatched this week at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, where for the first time in its history the ultra-successful premium compact car not only adopts a striking ‘notchback’ saloon body shell, but also uniquely combines it with a power output of over 400PS for epic performance. Known simply as the A3 concept, the fastest ever factory-produced A3 is the latest in a long line of one-off Audi design studies, and is characteristically laden with technological advances in everything from construction to infotainment.

Apart from the tautly contoured new body shell, the most immediately obvious highlight of the A3 concept is its five-cylinder Turbo FSI petrol engine, whose 408PS output outnumbers its closest series production relative, the potent RS 3 Sportback, by 68PS. Peak torque of 500Nm is also 50Nm up, and is available over a broad rev range between 1,600 and 5,300 rpm, making an explosive 4.1-second 0-62mph time a reality. Top speed is electronically limited to 155mph.

Fuel economy in this latest Audi study looks all the more impressive when these remarkable figures are taken into account, with up to 31mpg possible on the combined cycle, giving CO2 emissions of 212g/km. A regulated oil pump, the intelligent Audi thermo-management system and an energy recovery system – technologies from the brand’s modular efficiency platform – all contribute to this high efficiency. The rack-and-pinion steering also draws minimal power because its electromechanical drive system requires no energy when driving straight ahead.

A compact seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch transmission also helps to optimize efficiency, while at the same time delivering the trademark lightning-quick gear changes that are especially appropriate here.

Weight-conscious design
At 4,440mm long, 1,840mm wide and just 1,390mm high, the A3 concept has a dynamic stance that suggests great agility. It can deliver on this promise thanks to the use of ultra-modern components, design methods and joining techniques. These include the use of custom-tailored blanks in the floor area, carbon fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) in varying proportions for the grille surround, front air intake, door mirror elements, rear apron and even the 20-inch alloy wheels, and aluminium for the bonnet, doors and boot lid.

These weight-saving elements help to pare the A3 concept back to a relatively light 1,540kg, meaning its RS 3 Sportback-derived McPherson strut front and four-link rear suspension is even less encumbered through the bends. Front and rear tracks that at 1,572mm and 1,542mm are even wider than the RS 3 Sportback’s also help to plant the study even more firmly, and of course quattro permanent all-wheel drive via an electronically controlled multi-plate clutch acts as the mainstay.

The Audi drive select dynamic handling system appears for the first time in an A3, giving the driver five modes with which to fine-tune engine characteristics, power steering feel and gear shift points for the seven-speed S tronic transmission. As well as the more familiar comfort, auto, dynamic and individual settings, the latest iteration of the system features an efficiency mode designed for maximum economy.

To gain access to all this in the A3 concept, the driver need only touch the door handle with its brushed aluminium clasp. It then power extends outwards, opening the door to a futuristic cabin which, thanks to the best-in-class 2,630mm wheelbase, is also suitably spacious. This applies to the ‘boot’ as well, which offers an impressive 410L capacity.

Front sport seats with prominent side bolsters provide suitable anchorage for high- performance driving, and position occupants perfectly in relation to the dashboard with its aviation-inspired air vents and control knobs. The high-quality sound system features speakers in the doors and the rear shelf with aluminum trim panels, and when turned on, these extend a few millimetres to give a visual accompaniment to the system’s excellent sound.

Located behind the compact, flat-bottomed, three-spoke multifunction steering wheel are two analogue dial instruments with black dials and red needles, complemented by additional kidney-shaped displays. In between these is the large, eight-inch display for the driver information system. The display is user-programmable – the driver can select the content to be displayed from an extensive menu.

Luxury class appointments
The control panel for the MMI multimedia system is located on the centre tunnel console, and for the first time the surface of its large rotary pushbutton also incorporates the touch pad for the MMI touch system which allows the driver to ‘write’ navigation destinations and other commands using a fingertip.

This new solution, which makes the already exemplary MMI operation even more intuitive, will soon be introduced in series production Audi models. The ultra-thin MMI monitor power-extends out of the dashboard, another feature taken from the full-size car class. Notable new departures at this level also include the electromechanical parking brake control and the stunning LED headlights.

In terms of infotainment, the Audi A3 concept further emphasizes why the brand is one of the leaders in this field. A UMTS model provides full access to the Internet, allowing the car to access services from Google, and thanks to the WLAN hotspot, passengers can surf and send e-mail using their own computers. Holders for iPads are installed on the back of the front seat backrests.

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