Audi Sportback Concept - Click above for a high-res gallery

Car and Driver sat down with Audi's global head of product engineering, Michael Dick, to discuss the future of the automaker's offerings and how it plans to tackle the ongoing issue of weight. While all automakers cite consumer demand and government regulation as one of the major reasons overall vehicle weight has skyrocketed in the last 20 years, Audi is actively pursuing its "smaller-is-better credo." To that end, the automaker currently has a next-generation A5 prototype running around that's 880 pounds lighter than the current car. Dick told C&D that the mule is using an increased amount of aluminum, magnesium and high-strength steel to reduce mass, and says while the current TT is 69% aluminum, the next A6 (due in 2011 or 2012) will have even more, and the next A4/A5/S4/S5 will feature more still when they arrive in 2014.

Dick went on to say that the down-sizing of the current S4 and S5's engine from a V8 to a supercharged V6 is the first step, and its possible that the next generation Ss will be 20% lighter, pack 30% less displacement and will likely come with turbocharged four-cylinder engines (think TT, TT S and TT RS mills).

On the topic of styling, expect the next generation of Audis to take cues from the Sportback concept shown at the Detroit Auto Show. The Audi A7 will arrive in production form later this year, and while the overall shape won't disseminate throughout the Audi line-up, the headlamps, tail-lights and refined single-frame grille will carry over to the rest of the range. Dick claims that the A7 is already eight seconds faster than the current S5 around the Nurburgring, thanks primarily to its curb weight, which is expected to come in at around 3,000 pounds. We won't believe that until we see it on an official spec sheet, but it's comforting to know that at least one luxury automaker gets "it" and there's no doubt it will pay dividends in the marketplace if all these initiatives come to fruition.


Related GalleryAudi Sportback Concept

[Source: Car and Driver]