Audi Drive Select; photo courtesy Audi. Click image to enlarge
By Jim Kerr
Every fall, a panel of journalists from the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) votes on the Best New Automotive Technology of the Year. There are actually two awards: Best New Technology and Best New Green Technology. This year, there were six entries in the former contest and five in the latter.
Last week, I began by looking at the first entry in the Best New Technology contest, Mercedes-Benz’ Attention Assist system; this week, I’ll discuss the Audi Drive Select system, and in the coming weeks, I’ll examine the remaining contenders. AJAC will announce the winner at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto in February.
Audi Drive Select was introduced on the 2009 Audi A4 and is available on several models, including the S4, A5 and S5 coupe and cabriolet and the Q5. This option integrates six vehicle systems that can be controlled with the push of a single button to vary the vehicle’s driving characteristics.
For the driver, the choices are easy: a button on the console allows him/her to select Auto, Comfort or Dynamic. In Auto mode, the computers will automatically adjust the six systems between Comfort and Dynamic mode, and this is the mode most drivers will use. Comfort mode adjusts the systems for a relaxed, comfortable driving style. Dynamic mode is more aggressive and performance oriented. While many vehicles offer similar modes of operation, Audi differs in that it integrates six separate systems into one control feature. As an added bonus, Audi allows the driver to set up “Individual” characteristics too.
The six integrated systems are engine, automatic transmission, Servotronic steering, dynamic steering, adaptive suspension damping, and Audi Quattro sport differential (on the S models).
Engine control is adjusted through throttle mapping: when Dynamic mode is selected, the throttle mapping changes to a quicker response for a sportier feel. The automatic transmission controls change in the same manner, with higher shift points.
The Drive Select system changes the vehicle steering in two ways. The Audi Servotronic system varies the steering effort in relationship to vehicle speed. In Comfort mode, the steering feels more relaxed and light, while in Dynamic mode it changes to a firmer feel. The Dynamic steering changes the amount of steering angle needed to turn the wheels, and just like the Servotronic system, it varies with vehicle speed but now it varies the amount you need to turn the steering wheel.
In Comfort mode, the steering has a higher ratio, so you need to turn the steering wheel more to go around a corner. In Dynamic mode, the steering wheel needs to be turned less to accomplish the same turn, while in Auto mode, the steering has a balanced direct ratio.
The Dynamic steering does more than adjust the angle when the steering wheel is turned. It also works in conjunction with the stability control and ABS braking. Using the stability sensors, the system will automatically steer the front wheels slightly to bring the vehicle under control. The system can correct for slight understeer or oversteer by steering the wheels, before the driver could react and turn the steering wheel. A computer-driven electric motor does the steering through a gearset. Any problem with the system causes the steering shafts to automatically lock together so the steering wheel is directly connected to the steering mechanism.
The adaptive shock damping system can be changed from soft to firm depending on driver selection of the Drive Select mode. Several inputs are used to provide real time damping, including steering movements, braking and acceleration, road surface, vehicle speed, outside air temperature and engine torque. Regardless of mode selection, the adaptive damping will make the car safer by maintaining tire contact with the road.
The final part is the Audi quattro all-wheel drive system with sport differential. Many Audi models have the quattro system, but the sport differential adds the capability to vary the power from side to side on the rear wheels. This can aid in stability, ease of steering and allows higher cornering speed. Push the Dynamic mode button and the sport differential operation changes to enable a quicker sportier response.
While the driver can go into the vehicle menus and make individual changes to the system’s response rates, the Drive Select control enables the driver to change all the systems at once with the simple push of a button. Six systems and one three-position control: that’s the Audi Drive Select system.