Banovsky’s Car of the Day sets the clock back 15 years to look at a vehicle that was tragically ahead of its time. So much so, that it makes the Prius look unimpressive.
The Audi A2 was an all-aluminum microvan capable of hitting 78 mpg in its most fuel-efficient trim level. As Banovsky writes,
The impetus was simple: get four people from Stuttgart, Germany (the most direct route passes through the middle of Switzerland on the way!), and on to Milan, Italy using only a single tank of fuel. Distance? 500 km (310 miles.)
Of course, after you’re done designing a 4-seat, 5-door MPV with a length two inches less than a modern Toyota Yaris 5-door, there’s not much room for a massive fuel tank for long journeys. At just 34 litres (8.9 U.S. gallons), that means the A2 would have to consume just 6.8 L/100 km or (34 US MPG). Don’t forget, though: the route from Stuttgart to Milan would take you over the alps and you’d have four people onboard, some bags, and a few sticks of gum.
The target Audi hit? Just 3 L/100 km (78 US MPG.) If you’re keeping score at home you’ll know that’s an improvement of 17 mpg over a Toyota Prius.
Of course, the 78 mpg figure was for the A2 TDI 3L, which used a special, ultra-efficient diesel engine and other tricks like redesigned body panels to hit that figure. The A2 was also made entirely of aluminum, which makes the bespoke body panels all the more amazing. And expensive.
The A2 cost an absolute fortune to produce, and fuel prices weren’t high enough to entice people into buying one. Production lasted just a few brief years before Audi cancelled the program. One can only imagine that with the current adoption of aluminum, the greater acceptance for small, fuel-efficient vehicles and the increased cachet of the Audi brand, the A2 would have a much brighter future today – and be capable of even greater fuel economy gains. Then again, with the improvements we’ve seen in the last 15 years, would aluminum construction and other expensive technologies even be necessary?