Audi has officially revealed its modern recreation of the iconic Quattro with a new concept car at the Frankfurt motor show today.

The Audi Sport Quattro concept is understood to be more than a flight of fancy, and is intended to preview a production model that will sit above the R8 at the very top of Audi’s range as a technical and performance flagship.

The plug-in hybrid concept celebrates 30 years since the original Sport Quattro appeared at the 1983 Frankfurt motor show. Audi openly refers to the new concept of the same name as the “legitimate successor” to the 1980s icon.

The new Sport Quattro is a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid with a combined 690bhp, which makes it the most powerful Audi ever. It is understood to be based on the Volkswagen Group’s next-generation MLB platform, which will go on to underpin a whole range of big new Audis as well as new models from Porsche, Bentley and Volkswagen.

The concept is 4602mm long, 1964mm wide and 1386mm high, with a wheelbase of 2784mm. This makes the two-door coupé concept slightly shorter, a fair bit wider and a touch taller than the RS5 coupé, with a marginally longer wheelbase. The fact that it is shorter than the RS5 despite the wheelbase being longer is due to the reduced overhangs, which give the concept a low-slung look and an elongated profile.

Audi first flirted with a Quattro rebirth in 2010. That earlier concept was a shorter (by 150mm) and, at 1300kg, significantly lighter version of the RS5, and was powered by a turbocharged five-cylinder engine.

The switch to a significantly more powerful model for the latest Quattro rebirth is a sign that Audi believes there is a greater demand for a modern successor to the more powerful Sport Quattro than the ‘standard’ Ur-Quattro the 2010 concept paid tribute to.

Audi is also keen to have a halo model to popularise its roll-out of plug-in hybrid technology, something it sees as the most viable short to mid-term way of reducing CO2 emissions and improving fuel economy while maintaining current range expectations and driving performance.

The powertrain for the new concept mixes the co-developed Audi/Bentley twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 engine with a powerful electric motor and a liquid-cooled lithium ion battery pack. 

The front-mounted engine produces 552bhp and 516lb ft, while the electric motor that’s mounted between the V8 engine and eight-speed automatic gearbox produces 148bhp and 295lb ft. The peak combined outputs are 690bhp and 590lb ft. Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system also features, with a sport differential used on the rear axle. A rear-mounted 14.1kWh battery pack powers the electric motor. 

Despite the headline power and torque figures, Audi is also making impressive claims for the Quattro’s economy and CO2 emissions: 113mpg and 59g/km respectively on the EU combined cycle. The concept’s efficiency is aided by features such as cylinder deactivation technology, which shuts down four of the V8 engine’s cylinders on partial loads, a stop-start system and the ability to travel up to 31 miles on electric power alone.

The concept also features an ‘intelligent management system’ to regulate the on-demand power from the hybrid system, but the driver is able to select from one of three driving modes: EV, Hybrid and Sport.

In EV mode, the concept runs solely on electric power. In Hybrid mode, it optimises the two power sources for economy and includes features such as the ability to save electric range for later in a journey. In Sport mode, the hybrid system is tuned purely for performance, with the electric motor providing extra boost to the engine.

The concept has a claimed 0-62mph time of 3.7sec and a top speed rated at 190mph. Only the more potent R8s in Audi’s line-up have figures that can beat this.

The added hybrid components make the Sport Quattro a significantly heavier proposition than the 1300kg Quattro concept of 2010, with Audi quoting a figure of 1850kg for the new car. High-strength steel and aluminium are used in the construction to minimise the weight, along with carbonfibre-reinforced polymer for some components and body panels, including the bonnet and bootlid.

Audi is talking up the handling characteristics of the Sport Quattro to match the performance potential, with the firm claiming the car is “as dynamic as it is stable”.

“Tautly tuned” spring and damper settings are used for the suspension, which features five control arms per wheel at the front and a track-controlled trapezoidal link at the rear. Steering weight and feel are variable depending on speed, with stopping power coming from carbon-ceramic discs. Wheels are 21-inch centre-locking alloys shod in 285/30 R21 tyres.

There are clear nods to the original Quattro in the design, with rectangular double headlights, angular C-pillars and blisters above the front wings. More modern features include the latest interpretation of Audi’s low-set hexagonal single-frame grille that previews the new front-end design for upcoming sporty Audis.

Other exterior features include a prominent front splitter fashioned from carbonfibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP), vertical, blade-shaped air intakes at the front, big front wheel arch vents, muscular shoulders, a narrow greenhouse, flared side sills, a rear spoiler and a CFRP diffuser. The spoiler deploys from the tailgate at higher speeds.