“Simplify, then add lightness.” This famous line from Lotus founder Colin Chapman has been one of the most oft-quoted in the automotive circles, especially in connection with performance. But minimalism and lightweight construction have become so integral to vehicle manufacturing that it’s now the mantra for even regular passenger cars. Every manufacturer devotes a major share of its research and development budget into figuring out the best combination of materials to add lightness to new cars. And if German automaker Audi’s strategy is anything to go by, the best mix to achieve this goal is one that has aluminium, steel, magnesium and carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP).
Revealing details of what goes into the making of the the next A8 flagship saloon, the Ingolstadt carmaker says this is the first time a mix of these four materials is being used in the weight-bearing body structure of an Audi. So, apart from making the car lighter, what does all this mean to the average customer? Here’s four ways in which the new A8’s new lightweight construction will benefit customers.
1-Better view, easier entry and exit: Audi uses 14 different joining processes, including roller hemming at the front and rear door cutouts. This is a mechanical, “cold” technology that joins the aluminium side wall frame to the hot-formed, ultra-strong steel sheets at the B-pillar, roof line and sills. Audi says this process has helped engineers improve the openings of the door cutouts by 36 millimetres compared to the current model. This will translate into easier, more graceful ingress and egress for passengers and a wider field of vision around the A-pillar for the driver.
2-Safer passenger cell: An ultra-high-strength, torsionally rigid rear panel made of CFRP forms a major part of the occupant cell of the new Audi A8. It apparently contributes up to 33 per cent of the torsional rigidity of the total vehicle. With up to 19 fibre layers placed one on top of the other to ensure a load-optimised layout, this passenger cell will be able to absorb longitudinal and transverse loads as well as shearing force much more efficiently than before.
3-Better dynamics and sound insulation: Audi says the next-generation flagship’s high torsional rigidity will contribute to significantly better handling dynamics as well as better acoustic sealing than the current model. This means the upcoming A8 will be better to drive and more comfortable to ride in than ever before.
4-Impact on cost and environment: While the low weight will have a positive effect on the car’s fuel efficiency and thus its operational costs, Audi says the new production process uses less energy and consequently less CO2 emissions. It also results in a 95 per cent savings on recurring costs in series production, which should have an impact on the product’s pricing as well.