Audi’s latest e-tron concept is the strongest hint yet at the firm’s intentions to build a smaller, lighter sports car known as R4.
The new two-seater has the same name as the bigger, more powerful concept car revealed at last year’s Frankfurt motor show and driven by Autocar last month.
However, this car is significantly smaller and, uncharacteristically for an Audi concept car with clear sporting intentions, it’s rear-wheel drive.
The latest e-tron, revealed at the Detroit motor show, is also more than just a one-off showcase for Audi’s zero-emissions plans; it confirms that Audi chairman Rupert Stadler has already given the go-ahead for a new, small, mid-engined sports car.
According to Audi sources, this new e-tron concept provides strong clues to a new production car that will be sold as the R4. It will share key components with the showroom version of Volkswagen’s BlueSport concept, and possibly a new entry-level Porsche roadster, when it arrives in showrooms sometime between now and the end of 2013.
Picking up on the styling theme from the first e-tron, the low-slung concept has a traditional sports car silhouette, with a long bonnet, a heavily curved roofline and a stubby rear end. However, the body is a lot edgier, with hard crease lines, taut surfacing and a heavily sculpted rear end providing it with a highly contemporary look that sets the tone for the upcoming R4.
Elements such as a large single-frame grille housing carbonfibre fins to direct air into the front end, and distinctive LED-enhanced headlamp graphics, clearly set the new car out as an Audi from the front. However, certain features at the rear end are highly reminiscent of recent Aston Martin models — in particular the rear light graphic.