Currently reading: Audi Prologue concept previews new A6, A7 and A8
Audi unveils a new generation of styling, interior treatment and technology with its new Prologue concept, which could also provide clues to the super-luxury A9

The Audi Prologue concept car closely previews the look of the next-generation Audi A8, Audi A7 and Audi A6 models, senior officials have confirmed.

The concept is also said to closely resemble the upcoming Audi A9 – a plush new flagship coupé planned to be launched in 2016 as a rival to the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S-class coupé.

Read Autocar's first drive of the Audi Prologue concept car

It shows the exterior styling, advanced interior features, powertrain technology and various chassis developments set to be adopted by Audi's future generation of production models, and is powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine developing 597bhp.

Speaking at the LA motor show, Audi tech chief Ulrich Hackenberg said the next-generation A8, due in late 2016, would kick-off the firm’s new era. The design for the new luxury saloon has already been signed off, and it was designed alongside the next-gen A7 and A6, both of which have already been signed off. Both Hackenberg and new design chief Marc Lichte are promising greater visual differentiation between future Audis.

The Prologue concept car was designed after the A8/A7/A6 designs were finalised. As such, Lichte said every element on the Prologue will be able to be seen in the future production cars.

"I gave Marc his first job of designing the new A8, and the Prologue concept is a trailer for that," Hackenberg revealed. "This concept is the next step of Audi design. The new A8 will launch by the end of 2016.

"The next A6 and A7 will also have this look. In the A8, there will be a lot of features from the Prologue. The face and the interior in particular; I'm not a fan of concept cars that are too spectacular, so that's why you'll see so much of this design in the new cars."

Hackenberg said that Audi was ready for a new design language. "I promised to take care of the design when I came to Audi," said Hackenberg. "We will be making the cars more different, yes. You'll see lots of differences in the new cars.

"Marc is tasked with doing something new, and you need courage and ability to do that. It's a very hard job to do, to regenerate design and take the next step and evolve. Lichte is ambitious and has the ability to do that."

Hackenberg said he and Lichte had arrived too late at Audi to greatly influence the look of more imminent models such as the Q7 and A4, both of which are on sale next year. As such, it'll be the end of 2016 before the new Audi look hits the road.

The A8 will soon be followed by all-new versions of the A7 and A6, both of which are due around 2017. The A7 is said by Lichte to be even more extreme than the Prologue concept. 


Read our review

Car review

The Audi A8 is a highly capable and desirable luxury saloon that's very easy to live with, despite its flaws

Back to top

The Prologue gets a heavily reworked single-frame grille that is significantly wider than that used on existing Audi models. Also included are slimline matrix laser beam headlights housing five individual lenses that provide adaptive functions, including automatic high-beam dipping when oncoming traffic is detected.

With an aluminium and high-strength steel body, the concept is 40mm shorter and 70mm lower than the current A8, with official figures of 5100mm and 1390mm respectively, and is the same width at 1950mm. It also sits on a wheelbase that is 50mm shorter than the A8's, at 2940mm, and gets 22-inch wheels.

Power comes from Audi’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine – as used in the existing Audi A6, Audi A7 and A8 as well as various Bentley models.

The 90-degree unit has been tuned to deliver 597bhp and 516lb ft of torque – or 553lb ft in overboost mode during short bursts of full-throttle action.

With drive channelled through an eight-speed automatic gearbox and Torsen four-wheel drive system, this provides the Prologue with a theoretical 0-62mph time of just 3.7sec, according to Audi’s own computer simulations.

As well as using a cylinder-on-demand arrangement that shuts off four of the eight cylinders on light throttle loads for added fuel efficiency, the engine also uses a 48-volt electrical system that should be adopted on the next A8 as part of a new raft of fuel-saving initiatives. The Prologue is claimed to return 32.8mpg, giving it a CO2 emissions figure of 199g/km. 

The new Audi concept also provides clues to the advanced chassis ready to be adopted by the new A8 and its more sporting A9 sibling; it uses a new five-link suspension with adaptive air springs capable of varying the ride height.

Inside, the dash incorporates a full-width instrument panel featuring an OLED display that enables digital interaction between the driver and front seat passenger.

Hackenberg added that it would be “no trouble” to create a big coupé for production along similar lines to the concept.

Back to top

Q&A, Marc Lichte, Audi design chief

How close to production is this concept car?

Usually when you design a concept car, everyone is happy with it, but less so when they actually see it in production and it looks very different. This is a different approach. We design the new A8, A7 and A6 models first, then put the essence of all three of them into the Prologue. Every element can be traced into the production cars; some things might be a bit louder in the A7, and a bit quieter in the A8, but it’s all in there.

Have recent Audis been too similar in design?

It has been the right thing to do to evolve the design in small steps. When Walter de Silva introduced the single frame grille on the 2004 A6, people thought it was too radical. But it was the right thing to do, as it gave Audi a face. It was something new so had to be given time. Now after 10 years, people know the face of Audi and it’s time to do something new, but keeping the single frame grille as it would be a mistake to change our face.

Will there be greater differentiation between future Audis?

We need to differentiate more and I promise they will be different. We designed the A8, A7 and A6 together so made sure they were all different. The design of all three was signed off within only eight months of me arriving here. We’ll differentiate a lot and you’ll be able to tell which model is which. They’ll all be linked though through the single frame grille, but we can do something really radical still We’re doing this with the next generation A1 for instance. And the Q8, it will have the single frame grille but clearly something radical and very different.

How will the interiors of future Audis evolve?

Audi has always led in interiors, but rivals are catching up. So we need to do something radical, and the Prologue shows that. Tesla did a good job of integrating technology inside, but it is not aesthetic. That’s what we’ve done, by integrating the technology into the architecture. Materials also are all natural and authentic – not perfect, but natural is premium. 

Read more LA motor show news

Get the latest car news, reviews and galleries from Autocar direct to your inbox every week. Enter your email address below:

Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Pierre 20 November 2014

A Welcome Return

I'm so pleased to see a design that doesn't seek to "move the game forward" for the sake of it, or to out-bling the competition, but to win admirers and eventually, I hope, customers, simply by being a good, coherent, adult design. Particularly impressive to my mind is the interior which takes an extremely bold step away from the teenage-boy's-bedroom style of overwhelming aesthetic-free geekery that infects most expensive cars.
Knobs for knobs, as I think it's called.
This is fresh, calm, mature. In fact, I think it is wonderful and groundbreaking in a non-sensational way, and all the more welcome for it.
JIMBOB 20 November 2014

Nice, back to progression?

I've not been a massive fan of Audi's styling philosophy in recent years - way too many curves and needless softened edges (it all went a bit wonky with the facelifted Mk2 A4). The latest TT is also a bit 'unresolved', but this is balanced, forward looking and crisp in a way synonomous with the best cars Audi has produced. I am a fan of the rear window treatment and chrome detailing, I was hoping a similar arrangment would have made its way to the new Jaguar saloons, harking back to the XJ-S.
dipdaddy 20 November 2014

Very neat looking concept.

Very neat looking concept. the interior has a very Audi signature feel to it. front is typical Audi too but i do wish this goatie grill is done with completely, the novelty is all too common and is wearing thin. rear end reminds me of the saab 95 but all in all its rather striking in a minimalist way but it doesn't look like they pushed the boat out in any major way, they never did in the past 10 years and unlikely they ever will.