Audi Invited to Join VW's New Small Family

#Audi, #A3

In 2007, Volkswagen previewed its New Small Family (NSF) of eco-cars with three concepts, a two-door hatchback, a four-door hatchback, and a microvan. Originally intended for VW, Seat, and Škoda only, NSF is being expanded to include an Audi version, the E1. In fact, the E1 will spearhead a selection of innovative, low-emissions, high-mileage models for Audi. Marketed under the E-line moniker, the new Audis share the same mission as BMW's Project i vehicles. Audi's lineup could include up to five different products in various size and price classes. Here is what Audi's R&D team is currently looking at:

E1, based on the New Small Family (NSF). Audi has been invited to tap the NSF gene pool, but the brand doesn't want a badge-engineered model, so Audi will get a distinct body and interior. The most likely body style for Audi is a two-door, three-seat commuter hatchback. NSF can accommodate a small gasoline or diesel engine, but an electric vehicle is also considered a mid-term must. Because of its ultracompact dimensions, the two-door is not ideal for a hybrid application.

E2, a sporty mid-engine two-seater. This would be an Audi version of the even more radical VW two-liter car (as in two liters of fuel per 100 km, or 118 mpg). Volkswagen is preparing two closely related, exceptionally frugal halo products that could influence the E2 - the one-liter car (the second coming of the cigar-shaped tandem two-seater first seen in 2002) and the two-liter car (a more conventional design with driver and passenger sitting next to each other). Although the one-liter car is a very small-volume, expensive, high-tech showpiece, the two-liter edition is more practical and more affordable. For minimum aerodynamic drag and optimal packaging, a mid-engine layout is favored, with a pair of 75-hp, 1.2-liter three-cylinder units (an 80-lb-ft direct-injected unit and a 130-lb-ft turbo-diesel) most likely. Electric drive is also possible but may add too much to the price.

E3, the proposed A2 revival. Audi is reviving its aluminum-spaceframe A2 hatchback that was sold in Europe from 1999 to 2005 [By Design, page 16]. The new version "should be bigger inside than the A3 and yet more economical than the upcoming A1," says a source from product planning. Don't expect a rehash of the original. He adds, "The car needs to be space-efficient and aerodynamic, but it also must look sportier and more grown-up." Gasoline and diesel engines, from 1.2 to 1.6 liters, will be joined by a plug-in hybrid. All-wheel drive (with electrically driven rear wheels) will be offered, as will front-wheel drive.

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