Created in a development program that began back in April – shortly after Lichte’s arrival in Ingolstadt – the sleek two-door coupé provides clues to the mechanical layout set to be adopted by the German car maker’s upmarket offerings some two years from now.
But there's even more to it than that. The Prologue also presages the long-mooted A9. Conceived to share its mechanical package with the upcoming fourth-generation A8, alongside which it will be built at Audi’s Neckarsulm factory in Germany, the production version of the big aluminium-bodied flagship is set to rival the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S-class coupé at the very top of the Audi line-up when it goes on sale in 2017.
Seconded from the Audi stand at the Los Angeles motor show, where it made its world premiere, the new Audi concept looks magnificent in the midday sun as it sits in the driveway of a Beverly Hills hotel – ready for us to climb aboard and take the wheel.
Distinguished by its wide single-frame grille, angular headlamps, taut surfacing, low and prominent shoulder line, subtle crease lines, traditional wheel arch flares and finely honed tail-lamp detailing, it is truly eye-catching, with a greater hint of athleticism to its lines that current Audi models. Yet despite the fresh design lineage, it is also unmistakably an Audi at first glance.
At 5100mm in length, 1950mm in width and 1390mm in height, the Prologue is 40mm shorter, the same width and 70mm lower than the current A8. Audi's research and development director, Ulrich Hackenberg, suggests that those dimensions will be retained for the production version of the A9.
The custom cast 22-inch wheels, which fill the sizeable wheelhouses with precious little room to spare, are supported by suitably wide tracks, giving the Prologue a terrifically confident stance.
Before I’m able to drive the Prologue, though, I’m asked to pull on a disposable polyethylene overall. Too new, too expensive and frankly too rare, the car’s minders are taking no chances, suggesting the blue dye in my jeans might discolour the leather upholstery.
The long driver’s door automatically opens at the wave of my hand over a sensor within the upper trailing edge, and inside you find a highly innovative cabin that provides seating for four on individual seats. The cabin makes extensive use of contemporary touch-and-swipe functions on a series of high-resolution display units that replace the fascia to give it a wonderfully clean and orderly look.
The cabin is beautifully finished in a liberal covering of leather, brushed aluminium and fine wood veneer. After a short cockpit drill, I slide into a broad but supportive driver’s seat that includes every-which-way electric adjustment behind a neatly proportioned four-spoke, multi-function steering wheel that also adjusts electrically for rake and reach. The driving position is spot on.
The immaculate dashboard incorporates an instrument panel featuring a full-width OLED panel with three separate displays – something that not only provides it with high-tech appeal but also serves to accentuate its width. Audi’s idea is to enable simple digital interaction between the driver and front-seat passenger via swipe commands.