Audi’s Convertible SUV Patent Shows The Extent of How Far Automakers are Willing to Go to Exploit the SUV Craze
It could be the first drop-top with sizable trunkby Ciprian Florea, on
The SUV market has expanded at an incredible rate in recent years. From mini crossovers like the Nissan Juke to behemoths like the Cadillac Escalade ESV, you can get them in just about any size. With no room for other niches, some automakers began experimenting with new body styles, including convertible versions. Nissan launched the Murano CrossCabriolet in 2010, and although it didn’t last beyond 2015, the body style returned in 2017 with the Range Rover Evoque Convertible. Recent rumors suggest that BMW is working on a drop-top version of the X2, and if these patent images are any indication, Audi is also planning to join this small niche.
New Roof Design and Folding Mechanism
But the German automaker is taking things up a notch with an entirely different concept. Although the patent images show a very simple drawing devoid of any stylish details, the big news lies in the body configuration and the convertible folding mechanism. Unlike other drop-top crossovers that use a coupe-like design, this one turns the vehicle into a proper station wagon when the roof is in place. It also has solid C- and D-pillars, a concept that’s brand-new. To turn the SUV into a convertible, the roof splits into three section, two of which fold behind the second row seat.
How Does It Work?
The roof is designed to be as compact and light as possible
From the images we can see that the roof is designed to be as compact and light as possible. The packaging is also very clever. When folding into the trunk, the rear section (including the window) lifts almost entirely, making room for the middle section to slide like a lid over the cargo area. As the D-pillar descends into the rear section of the trunk, the remaining section of the rear roof cover the area completely.
This design also suggests that the compact roof will leave plenty of storage room underneath. It’s not yet clear how drivers will have access to the trunk when the top if folded, but the vehicle could feature some type of tailgate. Another advantage is that by acting as both roof and trunk lid, the mechanism should be lighter than conventional folding tops.
The front seats remain covered when the roof is folded flat
Another interesting design feature is that the front seats remain covered when the roof is folded flat. As we can see from the drawings, the A-pillar stretches over the entire front passenger area, and it’s likely that this non-removable roof section will be made from glass in order to allow as much natural light inside the cabin as possible. Of course, the fact that the front passenger area remains covered may have something to do with the mechanism. A longer center section would have required a more complicated system and would have decreased available space inside the trunk.
Is it That Useful?
I’d say yet, and I’d mention the fact that the solid C- and D-pillars provide a stiffer roof. This translates into enhanced rollover protection. As previously mentioned, it should also provide more luggage room than conventional convertibles.
“Due to the presence of the side pillars and the rear pillars in the closed state of the roof [up], a motor vehicle is provided which has a far greater transport capacity than known convertible vehicles,” Audi claims in the patent application.
Will it Go into Production?
It’s obviously too early to say, but given the current market trends, I’d say it’s very like to happen, although not for at least a couple of years. The big question is, what existing vehicle will get this layout? Well, my bet is on either the Q7 or the upcoming Q8, both large SUVs that would benefit from a convertible version with lots of useful trunk space. On the other, it could be a brand-new vehicle, although this sounds really expensive even when building on an existing, modular platform. Unfortunately, the drawing is too vague, so we will have to wait for new information to surface.
The idea is cool though.
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