What is it?
It’s a celebration of 30 years of Quattros by Audi, but it’s much more than that too. It’s also, and far more significantly, a nod to Audi’s future.
At the moment the Quattro Concept is just that, a concept. But Audi is very positive about its chances of making production, which it could do, at its claimed weight of just 1300kg – less than a Porsche 911 GT3 RS. And it’s not alone – Audi genuinely believes that lighter cars represent its future.
When the Quattro Concept made its debut at the Paris motor show in September, it was a show car that could only drive under its own steam from the rear of a transporter, to a show stand, and back again, all at a speed barely into double figures. Now, though, it has been transformed - and it has taken a lot of work, as you might imagine – from a 10mph show pony into a concept car that’s capable of being driven at up to 100mph.
The Quattro Concept is ostensibly an RS5 underneath. Audi has, though, taken a full 150mm out of the wheelbase, and constructed the body from part aluminium (mostly the immovable bits), and partly from carbonfibre (mostly the opening bits).
Of course, you and I already know that light weight is the gift that keeps on giving. The Quattro Concept can have less power than the RS5 which spawned it, so by losing the 4.2-litre V8 motor and getting, in its place, a 2.5-litre five-pot (how very Quattro) from the TT RS, it gets lighter and, therefore, faster, again.
The ’5’s wick has been turned up to 402bhp, which is enough for Audi’s calculators to reckon the Quattro could hit 62mph from rest in 3.9sec (believable enough), driven through a six-speed manual gearbox. The rest of the drivetrain is borrowed from an RS5 – it doesn’t have the sport limited-slip rear differential or torque vectoring at the moment, but if the production go-ahead is given, it’ll get ’em.
What’s it like?
Inside, there’s a rather wonderful simplicity to the Quattro Concept (although any production version would more likely adopt RS5 interior architecture). It’s beautifully finished in exotic leather and carbonfibre, there are just two lightweight seats and the driving position is superb.
There’s not too much hint of potency when you push the starter; the five pot starts quickly and settles quietly. With windows down, in a garage, there’s just a slight burble, and the odd rattle you’d expect from a concept car’s body, while the all-digital dash wobbles a bit. A couple of quick blips reveals a motor that has a slightly laggy low end response, but a classy bass rumble.
The clutch pedal is as light as any Audi’s – lighter than an R8’s from memory. The gearshift ditto – positive enough that you won’t mis-shift.
And, flipping heck, the steering is light, too. It’s not nervy, not edgy, but retains its lightness as speeds rise. It’s direct, accurate, and you can feel the relative lack of inertia in the chassis. When those 30 profile tyres change direction, this short, light car is pretty eager to follow. The ride isn’t too clever at very low speeds, but it settles once you add a few mph; by 30mph you’d almost call it comfortable; though it should be noted our few miles of carefully chosen road weren’t exactly taxing the pliancy.
First impression? Well, it feels like a concept. Most driveway ramps would wipe the splitter clean off, I’m approaching hairpins in the outside lane because there’s insufficient lock to use the inside one, and the tyres will attack the chassis if I apply too much lock. But there is something about this car, even at 25mph.
Encouraged by Audi to press on a bit faster, I give it a bootful, at which point it feels rather less like a concept car. The Quattro really flies. Once you’ve a few revs wound on – anything over 2500 is fine – most of the lag disappears and the distinctive five-pot warble kicks in, followed by some whistling and chattering of the wastegate when you lift and start the process in the next gear. It feels R8 V10 kind of fast, but that acceleration is easier to get at. The shift is sweet too. The brakes perhaps a tad over-servoed, but manageable enough. Engine response is fine for heel and toe downshifts.
That said, I’m not about to start pushing the chassis. One, it isn’t finished (far from it). Two, it’s a priceless one-off. But you can tell this is a light car. It steers directly, changes direction wonderfully quickly.
Should I buy one?
Well, obviously there’s the slight caveat that officially, you can’t just yet, but Audi is making the right noises, and it would seem strange to be so positive, if they were going to pull the plug now.
Should it get the green light, it could be on the market in as little as two years from sign-off. Executives at Quattro GmbH (Audi’s performance subsidiary) are determined that they would build the car, that it must be exclusive, built in limited numbers (think hundreds rather than thousands), and match the weight of the concept. So, expect some exotic materials in the body.
The Quattro heritage is an interesting element of the Quattro Concept’s arrival, but what it says about Audi’s future is the real clincher. A short, fast car with a 60 per cent power bias to the rear, that’s 300kg lighter than an R8? That’s why I’d love Audi to build this car. And if it does, I can’t help thinking it’d be a belter.