Mercedes was not alone when it decided to build a high tech city car in the early 1990s. The Volkswagen Group commissioned a 3litre car and handed responsibility to Audi. A ‘3 liter car is one capable of traveling 100 km on just 3 liter of fuel, 94 mpg in imperial measurements. It was just inspired by an environmental scare as the 1990s dawned a time when the phrase ‘global warming’ was first widely used. Audi decided to make use of its expertise in aerodynamics and lightweight aluminium construction. The main reason for the car’s odd looks was aerodynamics efficiency. Seen from above it has a pronounced teardrop shape. From the side, it has heavily sloping roof and flat sides. The interior was built to the same high standard as Audi’s larger cars, but the interior layout was not as versatile as the Mercedes A-class. It was very light, coming in at as little as 875 kg. Buyers had a choice of a 1.4 three cylinder engine or a 1.4 and 1.6 liter petrol engine. A special version powered by a 1.2 liter which did achieve 94 mpg.
The A2 supermini was first shown as the AL2 concept at the Frankfurt show in 1997, two years ahead of its launch as a production car. By then, however, VW had decided to transfer its efforts on the ‘3 liter’ project to the smaller VW Lupo supermini. Huge strides in diesel engines meant an expensive, super light chassis was not needed. This left the A2 high and dry. It ended up as a beautiful engineered oddball in a market that had forgotten about the idea of global warming.