Consistent with the previously leaked Audi Roll Out Schedule Until 2012 document, the next generation C7 Audi A6 is set to be unveiled in 2010 for the 2011 model year. With the established Audi grille and new headlamps with eye-catching LED daytime running lamps already certified, the overall A6 body design seems to confirm initial worries that it will end up looking like an enlarged Audi A4.
Despite the lightly evolved design, the new A6 under the skin is just the opposite with a new construction method resulting in 50% body shell weight loss and 50% increased rigidity. Car Online spoke with Audi chief strategist and reports the A6 will be the first model to introduce the new body structure which incorporates both steel and aluminum materials.
Similar to the ASF (Aluminum Space Frame) body construction seen in the low volume R8, TT and A8 models, the new A6 will receive this hybrid body of steel and aluminum, dubbed ASF II, consisting of an all aluminum passenger cell with steel/foam reinforcements. The front nose and rear tail sections will also be reinforced with compact and lightweight subframes which are currently being developed. As any metallurgist knows, aluminum and steel do not mate well, however, advancements in bonding techniques and epoxy resins make it possible resulting in streamlined production, top build quality and cost savings.
After the A6, the ASF II system will be introduced in the A8 and new A7. However, the challenge for Audi engineers will be applying the technology to its smaller cars. Audi engineers are currently exploring how alloys can be used on the Mk2 A3 and upcoming A1.
Clearly the advantages of a lighter vehicle are most evident in improved handling, fuel economy and reduced emissions. For example, applying the ASF II to the heavy Q7 SUV could save as much as 300 kg. However, Audi needs to be more competitive in the handling department and this ASF II system puts them one step closer to narrowing that gap between its German rear-wheel-drive brothers, the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class.