The ultimate Avant
Taking the very concept of the Audi Avant to extremes.
The Audi idea of a luxurious wagon is of course called Avant – but the Audi Avantissimo took that concept to the limits for its time.
4 June, 2021
The Audi Avantissmo made a bold statement with its unmistakable presence when it was revealed at the 2001 Frankfurt Motorshow
Audi is well known for producing some of the most desirable ‘wagons’ in the world, although at Audi they’re called Avant. From the sleek and luxurious A4 Avant, to arguably the most desirable performance Avant on earth, the RS 6 Avant. Audi essentially reinvented the very idea of the station wagon, consigning the old image of a practical, but soulless family conveyance to the bin forever.
But in our continuing look back at the concept vehicles that spawned some of today’s most exciting Audis, comes a vehicle that even by Audi standards, took the concept off the Avant to extremes.
The Audi Avantissmo measured in at 5.06 metres long and 1.91 metres wide. It made a bold statement with its unmistakable presence and was the talk of the 2001 Frankfurt Motorshow when it was revealed to the press and public. Even for a concept design it broke with tradition – after all, who would use the world’s premiere motorshow to whip the dust covers off a wagon?
But the Avantissimo was far from being just a wagon. It was designed as Audi’s concept of the ultimate Avant, a luxurious A8-sized limousine with that added dash of practicality.
As is so often the case – especially at Audi – many of the innovative, high-tech features first shown in the Avantissimo were destined to become series production reality shortly there after in some of the brand’s full-sized luxury models. In fact at the show itself, Dr Werner Mischke, then Member of the Board of Management at AUDI AG for Technical Development, said of the car:
“In both form and content, the Avantissimo represents the direction in which our brand will be heading.
“You are perfectly entitled to interpret this vehicle as a foretaste of future developments.”
The Avantissimo was the perfect blend of space age features and old world luxury. The driver and three passengers, in their four, individual leather seats were surrounded by every conceivable luxury. Like the seats in the first class cabin of a plane, the seats could be moved to a specially relaxed position, and the complete seat cushion could be moved forward by up to 110mm and the seats inclined a further 19 degrees compared with the normal upright position. Needless to say, the Avantissimo’s seating was also equipped with myriad supports and massage functions.
This sort of technology and comfort is commonplace in the likes of the Audi A8 with its incredible interior and particularly its rear seating, and highly adjustable rear seating is available in models such as the Audi Q3 models for example – but remember this was 2001.
Many of the innovative, high-tech features first shown in the Avantissimo were destined to become series production reality shortly there after
The sheer width of the car was further emphasised by glazed areas of the roof which extended right back to the tailgate
Conceived as long-distance tourer, the Avantissimo naturally provided generous space not only for occupants but for their luggage and equipment. For maximum convenience when loading and unloading, the Avantissimo had a slide out load area floor which could be extended rearwards electrically by up to 460mm. If the entire load area was needed, the rear seats could be folded fully forward automatically and allow the load area floor to slide forward by up to 750mm.
The sheer width of the car was further emphasised by glazed areas of the roof which extended right back to the tailgate. The glass was able to be dimmed as the outside light intensity increased to protect occupants and each passenger could also manually dim the glass for his or her individual area for comfort.
This ‘Varilite’ technology was used on the Avantissimo not only for the glazed roof panels and tailgate window, but for the upper section of the windscreen to also protect the driver against afternoon sun glare.
Controlling the extensive infotainment and various other functions was an early version of the Audi MMI system. Using the now superseded large rotary switch, it controlled amongst other things, the TV with DVD player, sound system, car phone, navigation and another first, at the time, the ‘internet access facility’.
While multiple individual settings are now standard equipment on modern Audis, the Avantissimo broke new ground with a driver identification system that recognised the authorised driver via a signal sensor on the key. Only after the driver had been identified did it allow the engine to be started and there was also a fingerprint scanner to ensure the driver was indeed who they said they were!
Once the driver had been successfully identified, the seat position, pre-set air conditioning and MMI configuration previously chosen by the driver would be automatically selected. Standard inclusions these days, but almost sc-fi at the time.
Performance too was the stuff of dreams. The Avantissimo boasted a twin turbo, 4.2-litre V8 engine, producing 316kW of power and a massive 600Nm of torque. Still impressive figures by today’s standards. Audi quattro permanent all-wheel drive was naturally standard and the car also boasted air suspension which allowed variable ride height. Familiar technology on modern Audis now, but cutting-edge technology for 2001.
Of course, climbing behind the wheel of the Audi RS 6 Avant today with its 441kW of power and 800Nm of torque, the Avantissimo may seem a little like yesterday’s hero. But in this case, we’re talking about a yesterday that was two decades ago, and its plethora of technology, performance and superb luxurious finish laid the platform for today’s Avants at Audi – in particular the mighty RS 6 Avant. The Audi Avasntissimo really was an impressive look at the future.
The Avantissimo boasted a twin turbo, 4.2-litre V8 engine, producing 316kW of power and a massive 600Nm of torque
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