THIS new car from Audi is now available in Europe and will be coming to the UK in right hand drive form early next year. A visit to Vienna recently to try the car has shown that it is well worth waiting for. It is a delightful car to drive, it is quiet and has plenty of room for four people, a large boot, good performance and excellent fuel economy. The exact specification of the UK cars has not yet been decided, neither has the price, but it is likely to have many features normally considered as optional extras fitted as standard, and to be priced at about £7,500 inclusive of taxes.
The bodyshell owes a great deal to the “Quattro”, and shares many of the body panels. Slightly wedge shaped in profile, the low front has four square headlamps over a substantial wrap around bumper and plastic spoiler. The rear is rather square, and reminds me of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta from dead astern, but the box shaped back has been sucessfully blended into the rest of the car and does not look like an afterthought as on the Alfa. Again there is a substantial wrap around bumper, and the boot lid carries a spoiler across the width of the car. Below the spoiler is a full width red reflective panel linking the two corner light clusters. The bumper line is continued around the car by a wide moulding, which like the bumpers, is made of steel covered in resilient plastic material to protect the car from minor bumps.
Inside, the level of trim is excellent, and the accommodation very comfortable. The seats and door panels are covered in an attractive tweed material, the floor is carpeted and the head lining is a single piece moulding of sound-absorbing material. The seats themselves are extremely comfortable, being firm and yet not transmitting any road shocks to the body. The individual front seats give excellent lateral support and the driver’s seat is adjustable for height (albeit in a rather crude pivoting manner) as well as for rake and fore-and-aft position. The rear seats are designed to accommodate three people, but I feel that the third person might feel somewhat cramped. For two, the rear is very comfortable with plenty of head and leg room and a fold down centre arm rest. Lap and diagonal inertia seat belts are fitted to the four corner seats, and a lap only belt for the occasional position in the middle at the back.
The steering wheel has four horizontal spokes and a well padded centre, which when pushed actuates the rather mute horn. The instrument panel is well shrouded and houses clearly marked dials for speed (on the left) and r.p.m. Between the two main dials and above the usual display of warning lights are two gauges, one for fuel tank level and the other for inlet manifold depression, marked “Econ”, which effectively gives the driver an idea of the amount of fuel he using at any given time. Between these gauges is a small arrow, pointing upwards, which lights up from time to time to tell the driver that he could change up a gear: not a gimmick, it could be very helpful for the slightly hard of hearing, or for those who play loud music, as the car is very quiet, but it is really intended to help the economically minded motorist to get the most from his petrol. (It took me some ten miles to work out and confirm, by judicious gear changes, the purpose of this arrow, and I could not then make up my mind whether to try to keep it permanently illuminated, or to try my skill at driving economically by attempting to prevent it from lighting at all), Three further dials for oil pressure and oil and water temperatures are positioned low down on the centre console, below the radio. Switches for lights, heated rear window, hazard warning lamps and accessories are positioned on either side of the instrument binnacle. Indicators and flashers are controlled by the left hand stalk on the steering column, while the right hand one looks after the wiper functions. Heating and ventilation is controlled by levers and a four position fan switch mounted on the centre console, and air is delivered from adjustable vents on either side of the dash and in its centre. There were comments that the ventilation system was not sufficient to cope with the rather warm and sunny conditions in which we tested the car, but I was able to maintain a comfortable temperature inside the car without opening windows, admittedly at the expense of having the fan on fast speed. A good capacity glove box is located above the passenger’s knees, and there are plenty of cubbyholes for the storage of oddments. The glass is bronze tinted, and there was annoying reflection in the windscreen from the top of the dash in sunny conditions.
The suspension follows established Audi practice, with Macpherson style struts located by triangular wish-bones at the front and a coil sprung, torsion stabilised dead axle at the back. The rack and pinion steering is precise and incorporates the self-stabilising geometry pioneered with the Audi 80 in 1972. There is an option of progressive power assistance. The brakes are disc at the front, drum at rear, and, with Audi’s self stabilising steering, the brake circuits have been split diagonally. The calipers on the front are fully floating and a large capacity servo is fitted, making the brakes feel extremely reassuring. 175/70 HR 13 Dunlop D 4 tyres are fitted to wide rim light alloy wheels. Wider, lower profile tyres are available as an option, although I cannot believe that they could improve significantly the road holding of the standard equipment.
The engine is a slightly shrunk version of Audi’s 5 cylinder engine. A reduced throw crankshaft has brought the capacity down to just under two litres, which will give Audi an advantage in some markets where there are heavy tax penalties for cars above this magic size. The smaller throw has enabled Audi to use a cast crankshaft as opposed to the forged unit used on the larger cars, and thus effect a useful cost saving. Otherwise, the engine is very much as in the larger cars, with the oil pump running directly on one end of the crank, the water pump incorporated in the light, but rigid, cast iron crankcase and doubling up as a tensioner for the toothed belt drive for the single overhead camshaft. The valves are parallel and are operated directly by way of bucket tappets. The exhaust manifold is of a new (but unspecified) material, which is shortly to find its way onto the larger engines, and the inlet manifold and carburation is also slightly amended from the larger units, although the thinking is much the same: the electrical heating element is retained, and the manifold is water heated, although the passages are now incorporated in the casting, obviating the requirement for external hoses. The compression ratio is 10:1, and the power output is quoted as 115 b.h.p. at 5,900 r.p.m. The torque curve is flat around the maximum at 3,700 r.p.m.
Either a five-speed manual gearbox or three-speed automatic is used, the former having a light and easy change and the latter being very smooth in operation. Fifth gear on the manual is an extra high ratio top for economical cruising, top speed being attained in fourth gear. Sadly, the legal requirements which make it necessary for the car to be able to start off on steep grades when fully laden, and with a trailer behind, have meant that bottom and second gears are quite low, leaving a gap between second and third which would annoy the really sporting driver.
On the road, the car is beautifully quiet with very little wind noise and hardly a trace of mechanical noises from the extremely smooth engine. The claimed 0 to 100 k.p.h. (62 m.p.h.) of 10.3 seconds and top speed of 115 m.p.h. show the car to be no slouch and coupled with the excellent handling, comfortable and firm ride with little body roll, it will be possible to cover long distances, fast, safely and effortlessly. The fuel consumption figures are, perhaps, the most impressive aspect of this fine car —43.4 m.p.g. at a steady 56 m.p.h., 33.2 m.p.g. at 75 m.p.h. and 22.6 m.p.g. for the so called urban cycle — figures which would not disgrace many smaller, lower performance cars. The economy has been achieved by great attention to detail, particularly in the design of the carburation system, and by reducing body drag to the lowest possible figure. Coupled to a petrol tank which holds 15 gallons, this low consumption gives the Audi 80 Coupe a tremendous range of 450+ miles between fills.
A car worth waiting for. — P.H.J.W.
(Note: The performance and fuel economy data quoted above apply to the manual version — the figures for the automatic are 12.5 sec, 110 m.p.h.. 36.7, 29.1 and 22.8 m.p.g. respectively.)