The car of the future... probably

With the internal combustion engine living on borrowed time and fully autonomous cars on the horizon, we’re starting to see more and more futuristic concept cars that focus more on what cars of the future will be like than what we can expect to see in the next five or six years. Audi has really jumped on that wagon, and at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, it debuted the Audi Aicon – a vehicle that looks to the days of self-driving electric mobility with absolutely no compromises. As a 2+2 sedan, the Aicon has an attractive silhouette and a roomy interior. Comfort is of the utmost importance, and you’ll find that the interior is void of the usual necessities like a steering wheel or pedals and buttons. As an all-electric vehicle, it boasts four electric motors and a battery pack that should be good for nearly 500 miles of non-stop driving. And, not that it matters in a car that you can’t drive, but system output is rated at nearly 350 horsepower and more than 400 pound-feet of torque. Not bad.

With this in mind, and as attractive as this concept is, we’re still a long way out from Level 5 autonomy. The world just isn’t ready for a car of this nature quite yet (look at all the idiots that abused the functionality of Tesla’s AutoPilot in the early years) so don’t expect to see this thing shift into production anytime soon. It may someday, but I wouldn’t expect to see it before 2025 or 2030 at that earliest. Be that as it may, this concept is a very cool design study and a look at the future of the automotive industry, so let’s take a good look at it and see what all we can expect in our not-so-distant future.

Continue reading to learn more about the Audi Aicon.

Official video


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Now, some of the futuristic concepts that we’ve seen in the past have been ugly or just outright ridiculous as far as exterior design, but the Audi Aicon is a completely different story. See, this concept – while futuristic in nature – features an attractive exterior that is void of the fake vents and grilles or unnecessary nonsense commonly associated with concepts these days. There isn’t even a bunch of obnoxious exterior accent lighting or scrolling message boards – props to Audi for that.

See, this concept – while futuristic in nature – features an attractive exterior that is void of the fake vents and grilles or unnecessary nonsense commonly associated with concepts these days

What you do get, however, is a very sleek structure that is as much glass as it is carbon and metal, making for an open-feeling cabin. The nose of the car is just as short as the rear, another feature that makes for such a large passenger area inside. Up front, a black insert surrounds the Audi logo, which represents what the “Audi grille” will look like when a grille is no longer really needed. The addition of the front lip and the way the front fenders curve around up front is more aesthetic than anything and gives the front end some character.

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2017 Audi Aicon AutoShow High Resolution Exterior Interior
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Walk around to the side and take a few steps back, you’ll immediately realize just how long the concept is and how low-slung the roof is, as well. With the long and heavily angled windshield transitioning into that glass roof and ultimately the glass of the rear hatch, it becomes painfully clear that this is far from the Audi driven by the rich douche bag down the road. No, this is a car designed more for comfort and versatility, offering of tons of room inside and plenty of opportunities to look outside while the car shuttles you to your destination. But, that doesn’t mean looks aren’t important, and that’s why this baby rocks out those sculpted and muscular rear haunches. The Aicon didn’t skip leg day either, which is clearly evident by those massive wheels and the muscular front fenders.

This is a car designed more for comfort and versatility, offering of tons of room inside and plenty of opportunities to look outside while the car shuttles you to your destination

Since this is designed as a fully autonomous car, there is no need for side view mirrors, so those are gone while the doors will be opened upon proximity and voice command automatically, so there’s no need for door handles either. The side glass is just as sleek as the rest of the body, and the sharp angles in the lower corners meet up perfectly with the upper body lines. Down below the doors have a concave presence to them that’s accented by the gentle curves of the doors and the way the side skirts bow in the center. I don’t know why, but this is very attractive.

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Around back, the Aicon turns away from its luxurious sedan presents and goes full sports car in a very quick fashion. The upper body curves around and extends upward to create an integrated and hovering rear spoiler. Down below that, the taillights are integrated into an insert similar to what surrounds the Audi emblem up front and allows for backlighting of the emblem, a nice touch. And, no car would be complete without an aggressive, rear-diffuser like element that despite the lack of exhaust outlets, makes us think this thing is going to eat whatever pulls up next to it for dinner.

On a side note, Audi should build a small sports coupe with this exact rear end and powerful twin-turbo V-8 under the hood. Now that would be a looker, don’t you think?


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If I had only one sentence to describe the interior of the Aicon, I would say that it’s probably nicer than your house. What you have on the inside are two very comfortable captain’s chairs and a small bench in the rear, allowing for a total of four passengers at one time. Most of the cabin is ride open thanks to the lack of any center console, button modules, or any of the other necessities that we find in today’s cars. If you’re wondering how everything is controlled, well, this is the future son – it’s all done by voice, touch, and gesture – just like you’ve seen in all of those science fiction movies.

If you’re wondering how everything is controlled, well, this is the future son – it’s all done by voice, touch, and gesture

Just think about this: You can get into your car after a 12-hour day at work (since our AI bosses will be slave drivers with no compassion for being tired) and say the words “Audi take me home.” From that point on, you can browse the internet, read the news, watch some porn – you know, whatever makes the ride home to that annoying wife and your kids that much easier.

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2017 Audi Aicon High Resolution Interior
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Okay; jokes aside, it’s really not that bad in the future (we hope), so let’s get back to the topic. Ahead of the front passengers sits a huge, wraparound screen that displays all pertinent information about your journey, battery state, etc. On the door panels sits a positionable control interface that can be adjusted by nearly 20 inches allowing for just the right reach. You can control anything you need without even moving the rest of your body. Meanwhile, the onboard assistant (known as PIA) instinctively recommends certain services before you even select them. Thanks to eye tracking capabilities of the interior, you can look at a certain control element to select it then make whatever adjustments needed (like the radio station or internet browsing) via voice or hand gestures.

You can control anything you need without even moving the rest of your body

The all-glass roof can be adjusted to block out the sunlight or go completely clear for stargazing on the fly. You’ll be able to communicate with the wife at home and others on the road, essentially making the roads a social network of sorts. With that last statement in mind, it’s probably a good thing all cars will drive themselves or road rage situations could go through the roof – I know I wouldn’t hesitate to call someone an idiot to their face via a quick video chat if they cut me off. And, in case you’re wondering about the lack of seatbelts and airbags, well that’s because our future will be accident-free once humans are banned from controlling their own vehicles.

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With that in mind, the future of transportation could be pretty cool as long as you’re not someone who enjoys the act of actually driving. Of course, you might give up spirited driving, red-light racing, and drifting, but you’ll trade that off for a lounge-like environment where you can kick back, relax, look at your phone without killing someone, and even have a few drinks or take a nap. Looks like the idea of booze- and doobie-cruising just might make a comeback.


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Just because you don’t have a steering wheel and pedals, it doesn’t mean you won’t have some decent power thrown to the ground. As such, the Audi Aicon features four electric motors – one for each wheel – that deliver a maximum system output of 260 kW and 550 NM. For those of you on this side of the drink or the two other countries that haven’t gone metric, that’s 348 horsepower and 405.7 pound-feet of torque.

The Audi Aicon features four electric motors – one for each wheel – that deliver a maximum system output of 260 kW and 550 NM.

Despite all that power, the autonomous future won’t allow you to go insanely fast, but a constant cruising speed of around 80 mph will be about standard in most areas and thanks to advances in technology and the sheer aerodynamic nature of cars like the Aicon, we’ll be able to see somewhere between 430 and 500 miles per charge. The 800-volt electrical system will allow for the battery to be charged to the tune of about 80 percent in a matter of a half hour, and can even happen while you nap since the car will know where to go and how to charge itself without any human input whatsoever.

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So, what about suspension and brakes? Those are part of the future, right?

You bet they are. In fact, they are more advanced than ever in the future. The suspension system uses pneumatic spring and damper units that are effective at combating any road irregularities. Meanwhile, electric actuators housed near each wheel manage to counteract body lean in turns, acceleration, and braking to keep the interior completely level at all times – another reason why this bad boy doesn’t have cup holders. You can quite literally set your glass of scotch on the floor and not have to worry about messing up that pretty carpet ahead of the front seats or losing out on the last of your Johnnie Walker. Thank you, fully active suspension, am I right?

Electric actuators housed near each wheel manage to counteract body lean in turns, acceleration, and braking

As far as the brakes go, well you’ve got to have good brakes, too, even if AI doesn’t make mistakes. But, this isn’t the typical brake system. Those brake rotors that you see behind your wheels today will still be in service (probably made from a more efficient material, of course) but they will actually sit much further in and away from the wheels. With the brake rotors positioned so close to the electric motors, it improves aerodynamics at the wheels and even provides for cooler design styles since the need to send air to the cool the wheel area is no longer needed. It also cuts back on unsprung mass for an even smoother ride. Since there are no steering hydraulics or a steering shaft, and everything between the front and rear is symmetrical, all-wheel steering is possible and standard. This allows for a turning radius of just 27.9 feet, which is far less than that of most compact cars. Pretty cool, huh?


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I’m really not fond of giving up my ability to drive, so I normally criticize concepts like this to the moon and back. Not because they are dumb, but because they are normally TOO futuristic and they take away the fun that is driving for me. But, much like the world is starting to ban the ICE – or say they will by a certain date – they will eventually ban driving yourself as well. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, either – I know 90 percent of you are probably reading this as you’re driving right now (the other 10 percent are probably pooping.)

By the time Level 5 autonomy is finally perfected and approved for on-road use, we’ll be able to put an end to the countless deaths that are the result of texting, drinking, and otherwise distracted driving

By the time Level 5 autonomy is finally perfected and approved for on-road use, we’ll be able to put an end to the countless deaths that are the result of texting, drinking, and otherwise distracted driving. I give that an A in my grade book any day, even if it means I have to give up controlling my car myself. So, when cars like the Audi Aicon become a household item in the next 10 to 20 years, what are all of us gearheads and speed addicts going to do?

Well, we’re going to have the best excuse in the world to buy that trailer queen we always wanted and spend each and every weekend at the track. It doesn’t matter what your poison is, you’ll still be able to get your fix, and it will be much safer than trying to ramrod the 405 like your name is Paul Walker, anyway. And, since the Aicon has more than 400 pound-feet, it should be more than capable of pulling your Mustang, Camaro, Supra, or BMW Z4 without a problem. And, the best part is, you’re not going to burn through fuel doing it either. Sure, your range won’t be as great, so there is that tradeoff, but just think about how much energy you’ll recuperate every time your Aicon comes to a stop hauling 8,000 pounds of trailer and car behind it. It may not be the dream we all had growing up, but it’s not all that bad when you look at it that way, is it?

What do all of you think? Will the Audi Aicon find a place in your heart when Audi throws it into production in the next decade or two? Or, will you go crazy not being able to drive yourself from place to place? What do you think of the way the Aicon looks? Feed us your thoughts in the comments section below.

  • Leave it
    • Audi hasn’t used this car’s rear end for a sports coupe yet
    • Will be expensive as hell
    • No ability to drive yourself... sigh


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The Elaine Concept Puts Audi's Autonomous Ambitions On Display High Resolution Exterior
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Press release

With the four-door design vision Audi Aicon, the brand with the four rings is presenting a autonomous Audi of the future – with no steering wheel or pedals. As a design concept, the four-door 2+2 boldly leaps ahead to show the exterior and interior design of the next decades. The technology demonstrator combines innovations relating to the drivetrain, suspension, digitalization and sustainability in a visionary manner. The Aicon, too, is designed for purely electric operation and should be able to cover distances between 700 and 800 kilometers (435.0 - 497.1 mi) on a single charge.

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Design study, technology demonstrator, mobility concept: The Audi Aicon exploits every possibility offered by a autonomous luxury sedan of the future with unprecedented consistency. As a design study, the four-door 2+2 boldly leaps ahead to show the exterior and interior design of the next decades. The technology demonstrator combines innovations relating to the drivetrain, suspension, digitalization and sustainability in a visionary manner.

And as a mobility concept, the Audi Aicon shows the world of tomorrow, in which the advantages of door-to-door individual transportation are combined with the luxurious ambiance of a first-class airline cabin. A cabin with no steering wheel or pedals that can thus offer all the comforts of modern communications electronics and perfect ergonomics – simply first-class.

One look is all it takes: In contrast to a robot taxi, which is reduced to pure functionality, the autonomous Audi Aicon concept vehicle pulls out all the stops. Its presence is impossible to ignore, and its exterior hints at the spacious comfort afforded the passengers and the upscale technical aspirations. The Audi Aicon is a sneak peak at a prestigious automobile of tomorrow that stirs the desires of demanding customers.

Pure presence – the exterior
The Audi Aicon looks spectacular from any angle. Its sheer size – an exterior length of 5,444 millimeters (17.9 ft), a width of 2,100 millimeters (6.9 ft) and a height of 1,506 millimeters (4.9 ft) – places it in the automotive top tier, the D segment. The wheelbase measures 3,470 millimeters (11.4 ft). That’s 240 millimeters (9.4 in) more than with the long version of the new Audi A8.

The central element of the exterior is the cabin. Large glass surfaces at the front and rear as well as the significantly convex side windows create a bright expanse of space for the travelers. A distinct edge runs as a hard line along the side window surfaces of the Aicon back to the D-pillar – a first in automotive design. This line emphasizes the car’s length and effectively reduces the apparent volume of the cabin relative to the overall body. The darkened side sills rise subtly toward the rear, making it seem like the car is ducking.

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The strongly flared wheel wells emphasize Audi’s quattro DNA while simultaneously building a bridge to the latest production creations from the Audi designers. Giant 26-inch wheels are placed as far outward as possible. They underscore the car’s impressive presence.

The designers reduced the front and rear ends to a minimum of lines and focused on large, uninterrupted surfaces. As with the Audi e-tron Sportback concept, the Aicon front features the inverted hexagonal Singleframe, a typical feature of the upcoming generation of electric cars from Audi. The sharply inclined silhouette of the entire front end evokes a sense of forging ahead – this, too, is a typical sports car body line.

Emotion and information – the LED lighting technology
Conventional headlights and lighting units are absent from both the front and rear of this car. Instead there are fully digital display surfaces comprising hundreds of triangular pixel segments. They are three-dimensional recreations of the Audi AI symbol.

Grouped around the Singleframe are large light fields, in which – as at the rear – more than 600 3D pixels are arranged in space. The large surfaces and high pixel count enable versatile graphics, animations and information visualizations in any color. The Audi Aicon is thus no longer bound to a daytime running lights look, but rather can adapt to the driving situation and even its passengers. The customization is boundless.

Horizontally cut lighting segments to the left and right of the Singleframe look like eyes and can be expanded to resemble wide pupils or squinted for an aggressive look. If the car detects passers-by or other road users, it literally makes eye contact with them and follows them with its “eyes.”

The Audi Aicon supports its surroundings intelligently and uses animations on its display surfaces to warn pedestrians or cyclists of dangerous situations. Driving modes such as platooning, urban driving or driving at a walking pace can be visualized. Horizontal stripes of light move from the bottom up when the car accelerates and in the opposite direction during braking. Their speed increases or decreases in sync with that of the car.

Future cars will expand their sphere of communication to the surroundings. The Audi Aicon uses projector modules to illuminate the road and surroundings in high resolution and project signals onto the ground. This enables it to communicate warnings and vehicle information to passers-by with no direct line of sight to the car.

One thing that an autonomously driving vehicle of the future definitely won’t need anymore are long-range headlights. The Audi Aicon’s laser and radar sensor system also “sees” enough even in the dark, can reliably find the way and detects possible obstacles in good time. All this time the passengers can use the services provided by myAudi or even close their eyes for a while. When passengers exit the Audi Aicon in the dark, a “light companion” is activated: A mini-drone with a flashlight safely illuminates the user’s walking path.

Space, form, function – the interior
The Audi Aicon features opposed doors that open to the front and rear. There is no B-pillar. The entire breadth of the interior is thus exposed to the passengers as they get in the car. In the interior, the lines of the decorative surfaces and functional elements are markedly horizontal. Becoming lighter from bottom to top, the interior reinforces the impression of unique spaciousness, and the lack of a steering wheel and a classic dashboard creates a sense of openness and expanse.

This is underscored by the large glass surfaces, the transparent roof and the low waist line. Not to mention the special geometry of the side windows. Their top half angles distinctly outward, so that the maximum width is at eye height.

The interior appears to be particularly wide when the two individual front seats are slid all the way back. The Audi Aicon is a 2+2-seater. An upholstered, two-seat bench is integrated into the rear panel. The two front seats are designed for maximum comfort and optimal spaciousness. Passengers can slide them up to 500 millimeters (19.7 in) back and forth between the forward and rear positions. The seats don’t slide on rails, but rather on a platform covered in high-pile carpet that can be moved longitudinally, and on which the passengers’ feet also rest. The platform height is variable, so that it can also be used as an ottoman for your legs. The pitch of the seat cushions and backrests can be steplessly adjusted for a comfortable working or resting position.

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The individual seats can also be swiveled by up to 15 degrees. Turning the seats outward makes it even easier for the passengers to get in. Turning them inward makes it easier for the passengers to talk and interact. If the passengers turn around, the head restraints fold back like a collar and become an arm rest.

The architecture of the seats is the automotive reinterpretation of a classic piece of furniture, the lounge chair. The seat cushion and backrest are visually separated from one another. Two outer shells support the light-colored, pillow-like upholstery elements with a square-quilted surface. The side bolsters of the backrest are subtly angled to provide sufficient support in curves.

There is also plenty of space in the Audi Aicon long-distance vehicle for luggage, of course. Thanks to the space-saving design of the electric drive, there is a storage compartment at both the front and the rear of the vehicle with a combined capacity of roughly 660 liters (23.3 cu ft). The Aicon also offers numerous storage options in the passenger compartment.

Accommodating – operation and communication
The oft-cited paradigm change in the automotive world – it shows in the Audi Aicon. One glance is all it takes to realize that all of the controls and displays are missing. Steering wheel, pedals, groups of buttons and instruments – nothing. Instead just wide, uninterrupted surfaces. The passengers are enveloped by the gently curved armrest along the doors, which rises slightly from back to front. Instead of a dashboard in front of them, there is a generous shelf and the central display below the windshield.

The interior quickly comes to life once passengers enter. Illuminated lines of LEDs set colorful accents in the area of the doors. The front display lights up with a welcome message. PIA, the empathetic electronic vehicle assistant, recognizes the passenger by his phone and activates all of his personal settings. There are custom settings for the air conditioning and seating position, interior light color and the layout of the infotainment system. The navigation system awaits entry of a destination, and all accessible channels of communication are ready for use, connected via the fastest available standard.

New are the variably positionable control interfaces in the encircling door rail. Depending on the position of the seats, which can be shifted by up to 50 centimeters (19.7 in), ergonomically perfectly positioned touch and display elements are available in the digitized wrap-around. Your hand instinctively finds its way to the touch-sensitive control panels. Passengers can set the most important settings by tapping with their fingers without having to sit up in their seats or leaning forward. Operation is also interactive. The PIA system is often one step ahead of the passenger and offers services before they actively chose them.

There are multiple input modes available for engaging with the car. Besides the haptic-manual layer, there are also voice control and eye tracking, in which sensors in the front end of the interior track where the passenger is looking. The passenger locks his onto a control element in the area of the front main display to select it and performs fine adjustments using his hand or voice.

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The full range of services offered by modern communications electronics are available at all times in the Audi Aicon. Travelers can relax and watch a film or surf the web. Video conferences are another option, as is interaction on social media. Depending on the seating position, the passengers can use the large front display as the output surface or a virtual head-up image displayed above it in the windshield.

The glass roof panels can block out the sunlight, if desired. Their transparency level changes upon application of an electric voltage. Integrated OLED lighting elements allow for precise mood lighting or the even illumination of the interior when getting in or out of the car, for instance.

The Audi Aicon opens up a new world of mobility to its passengers. Freed from the tasks of driving, they can choose how to spend their time in the car. Working, communicating or simply just relaxing and even napping: Anything is possible while the car autonomously and safely finds its way.

Optimized for the long haul – drivetrain and suspension
The very shape of the Audi Aicon reveals that it is a car from another world, an automobile of the future. The technology used in the concept vehicle has also been systematically designed for this world. It presumes a transportation infrastructure in which autonomously driving automobiles are a given on every street. Road users are connected to one another and their surroundings.

This also means that traffic will be less hectic and flow more smoothly in the future than is imaginable today. Even at moderate speed limits, long distances can be covered at a high constant speed of around 130 km/j (80.8 mph). Passengers experience the journey as comfortable cruising without constant braking and accelerating.

Accidents will also be a thing of the past thanks to the highly advanced sensor systems and networking. Passengers in an automobile like the Audi Aicon will therefore no longer need classic restraint systems. They will also experience a physical sense of freedom during their journey that in 2017 still appears visionary.

The drive and the total vehicle have also been optimally adapted to this new world of mobility. A highly efficient electric drive provides for the dynamics of the Audi Aicon. A total of four electric motors are located in the area of the front and rear axles. The energy storage units are integrated into the area below the floor. These are solid body batteries with considerably more energy capacity than lithium-ion batteries.

The four electric motors produce a total of 260 kW and 550 Newtonmeters (405.7 lb-ft). Each drives one wheel, enabling electronically controlled, variable quattro all-wheel drive. Maximum acceleration played a less important role in the specification than maximum efficiency and thus also range. This operating strategy is also pursued by the powertrain and electric brake units, which use recuperation to recover energy. Targeted lightweight construction of the multimaterial body and optimized aerodynamics also help the Audi Aicon to achieve ranges between 700 and 800 kilometers (435.0 - 497.1 mi) on a single charge.

Even charging has been reduced to a minimum. Thanks to a high-voltage system with 800 volts, the Aicon’s battery unit can be charged to 80 percent of capacity in less than 30 minutes. The car is also equipped with a unit of inductive, i.e. wireless, charging. The Aicon manages both without a driver. In an AI Zone, it can pull up to a charging station on its own and charge its battery without any human assistance.

As a true quattro, the Audi Aicon offers ample performance and even autonomously always reaches its destination safely regardless of the weather or road surface. The suspension is designed for maximum comfort. Pneumatic spring and damper units smooth out any road surface irregularities. And electric actuators at all four wheels actively counteract any body lean, whether when cornering, accelerating or braking. As a fully active suspension system, it also optimizes the qualities of the adaptive air suspension. The Audi Aicon literally glides over even large potholes.

The Aicon brakes primarily by way of recuperation and in so doing recharges the batteries.

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The development engineers have relocated the disk brakes from the wheels to a position close to the drivetrain. This improves the aerodynamics at the wheels as there is no longer any need for air cooling at the wheels, which is always associated with turbulence. Another secondary effect is the reduction of the unsprung masses, which the Aicon’s passengers perceive as a particularly sensitive damping response to road surface irregularities.

The axle and drive units in the Audi Aicon are symmetrical, i.e. identical at the front and rear. Mechanical components, such as the steering shaft or steering hydraulics, have been eliminated. The car is therefore equipped with a complete all-wheel steering system without compromising the available space and thus the passenger compartment. A positive effect for the practical qualities of the Audi Aicon: Despite its long wheelbase of nearly 3.47 meters (11.4 ft), the car is extremely agile due to its two steerable axles – the turning radius of only 8.50 meters (27.9 ft) is below that of a small car thus making the Audi Aicon suitable for city center driving.

The Audi Aicon is an all-arounder well prepared for its primary task: to offer a maximum of comfort, communications technology and freedom for its occupants during a long journey. It combines the scopes for autonomous driving in an urban environment and on the highway with an unprecedented range for an electric drive. The Aicon will be followed by further multitalented Audi models, each with their own specialized discipline, ensuring that the vehicle range of the brand with the four rings remains as diverse as it is fascinating.

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