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.
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 A6, 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.
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.