Audi is synonymous with innovation, perhaps more than any other automaker. It was a pioneering spirit that made the brand with the four rings a top global competitor, and it continues to embody this spirit. Audi has realized key accomplishments with its quattro permanent all-wheel drive, TDI engine, lightweight construction of car bodies based on the ASF principle and, last but not least, its uncompromising quality thinking. At present, the brand is pushing as quickly as possible to incorporate technologies for piloted driving.
Launching into a new era: the Audi quattro
The angular coupe that Audi presented at the1980 Geneva International Motor Show launched a new era. The Audi quattro was the world’s first car to feature a lightweight, efficient and fast-running permanent all-wheel drive system. The technology was so new and unusual that Audi only dared to introduce it on the market in a niche role. The original quattro was produced in a limited edition series for sporty customers.
Right from the start quattro technology enjoyed overwhelming success in motorsport. Its illustrious accomplishments include four titles in the Rally World Championship, three victories at the Pikes Peak mountain race, driver and brand championship titles in the Trans-Am series, two DTM titles, ten national super touring car championships and one touring car world cup. The R 18 e-tron quattro won the 24 hours of Le Mans race between 2012 and 2014. This hybrid prototype has a part-time all-wheel drive system. The quattro drive also left indelible impressions in advertising. The quattro ski jump commercial from 1986 has long been considered a marketing classic.
What began as the radical idea of a small, independent engineering team in the late 1970s has long since grown into a world success and a key pillar at Audi.
Today, it is available in all model series – as either optional or standard equipment. It is built in different configurations adapted to each individual model. To date, the brand with the four rings has produced over 6.5 million cars with quattro drive systems. It offers the all-wheel drive system in more products than any other premium automaker, currently ranging over 180 models.
Pioneering Audi achievement: the TDI engine
The three letters TDI represent the second solid pillar of the brand – here too Audi accomplished a crucial pioneering feat. The Audi 100 2.5 TDI, which was presented at the 1989 IAA show in Frankfurt/Main, had a five-cylinder turbo diesel engine with direct injection and all-electronic control under its hood. Initiated in 1973 in response to the oil crisis, it became the product of goal-oriented development work conducted over many years.
Ever since, the brand has continually extended its lead and achieved many milestones. TDI technology has made the diesel engine a global success, and it played a crucial role in enabling the interplay of hefty torque, smooth engine running and pioneering fuel efficiency. The TDI engine from Audi has also proven its potential in motorsport – the world’s toughest testing grounds. It made its debut at the 24 hours of Le Mans race in 2006, and since then it has claimed eight overall victories in ten starts.
To date, Audi has produced more than eight million cars with TDI engines. In recent years, the technology has made a significant contribution towards reducing the brand’s EU new vehicle fleet CO2 emissions by an average of three percent per year. The Audi A3 ultra, with its 1.6-liter TDI, has a combined fuel consumption of just 3.2 liters of fuel per 100 km (85 g/km CO2). At the other end of the scale there is the 4.2 TDI that confidently powers the Audi A8 flagship with 283 kW.
Now, the next big step for the brand with the four rings is electrification of the TDI. The technical matrix is broad-based, ranging from electrically-driven compressors that assist the turbocharger in building its power to the V6 engine with plug-in hybrid technology, which will soon make its debut in the large Q7 SUV. Audi is convinced that the TDI engine still has a great future ahead of it.
The new body invention: ASF from Audi
The third supporting pillar is lightweight design. Back in 1982, a small team already began to work with aluminum as a material that is around two-thirds lighter in weight than steel. Audi practically had to re-develop the design of the body and production processes from the ground up – and the result was the Audi Space Frame, ASF, which saves around 40 percent in weight compared to a conventional steel body.
The first Audi A8 to feature the ASF construction method made its debut in 1994, followed by the Audi A2, Audi TT, Audi R8 and two further generations of the Audi A8. Audi has built 800,000 cars using the ASF construction method over the past 21 years, and it has continually advanced the technology – along with the all-aluminum ASF, hybrid solutions with steel were introduced. In the new high-performance R8 sports car, the multimaterial Space Frame integrates large parts made of carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP). It weighs just 200 kg while offering excellent rigidity, acoustics and crash properties.
Quality – a mindset at Audi
Along with the innovative strength of Audi comes another pervasive strength – quality. It is part of the brand’s DNA, and it is a mindset that is an integral component of corporate culture. At Audi, all thoughts and actions focus on the customer who should remain enthused about the product over many years.
Together with the quattro drive, TDI and the ASF, quality thinking was also a crucial factor in the advance of Audi into the premium segment. Back in 1982, the Audi 100 was already coming off the line with many galvanized body panels, and from 1985 it was even fully galvanized – rust, which had been the nemesis of cars for decades, was no longer an issue. Ever since, the brand with the four rings has consistently elevated its quality standards.
Quality means continually raising the bar a bit higher. Numerous independently conducted tests, surveys and analyses confirm the leadership role of Audi in quality, and customers experience it daily in their cars. Every Audi sets standards in its class for material selection and a high-quality impression. Sophisticated surfaces, joints with precise fits to the tenth of a millimeter, meticulously tuned actuating forces, precise acoustic and touch feedback – all of these details combine to produce the overall image of Audi quality.
Another field of technology in which the brand with the four rings has been carrying out pioneering work for years is piloted driving. The new technologies that Audi will introduce in series production models before the end of this decade can take over driving in certain situations if the driver so wishes. Their precursor can already be experienced in the new Audi Q7: The optional adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist also takes over the steering if traffic is slow and moving at speeds of no more than 65 km/h.
The central driver assistance controller (zFAS) makes a decisive contribution to the lead that Audi enjoys in the area of piloted driving. It processes the information from the sensors to produce a detailed picture of the vehicle’s environment. The zFAS is only about as big as a tablet PC; its modular concept makes it flexibly scalable and therefore future-proof.
The brand has been demonstrating for years just how emotional piloted driving can be. Audi piloted cars are driving on freeways, they can master twisty hill climbs and fast racetracks. The Audi RS 7 piloted driving concept completed a circuit of the Grand Prix racetrack at Hockenheim without a driver in October 2014, hitting top speeds of 240 km/h, as the world’s sportiest piloted driving car. At the start of 2015, an Audi A7 piloted driving concept drove on public highways from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
The equipment, data and prices specified in this document refer to the model range offered in Germany. Subject to change without notice; errors and omissions excepted.