9 May 2005

Audi bosses have given the green light to the spectacular Audi Le Mans quattro supercar, Autocar can reveal. A recent prototype of the car has been driven by Audi chairman Dr Martin Winterkorn and VW boss Bernd Pischetsrieder in the past two weeks, and both have agreed that the car should be committed to production. The Le Mans Quattro is expected to arrive in final production form in late 2006, with deliveries to customers likely in the first half of 2007.

Although the aluminium spaceframe concept car – first shown at the Frankfurt show in September 2003 – was powered by a 610bhp twin-turbo V10 engine, Audi sources say that no decision has been made over the car’s motive power – the project’s engineers have eight-, 10- 12- and 16-cylinder engines at their disposal. However, it’s rumoured that the 444bhp W12 unit is a favourite of Winterkorn’s. There’s also the new RS4’s 414bhp 4.2-litre V8 which could be suitable. Audi sources told Autocar that it was mindful of carefully positioning the Le Mans in the market, especially as Lamborghini is also part of the VW Group.

Company insiders are exceptionally confident of the Le Mans’ potential, saying it is aimed squarely at Porsche and Ferrari. Production volumes – and a price – have not yet been set, but we have told to expect an output of between 3000 and 5000 per year in both left- and right-hand drive depending on demand. Prices could start at around £60,000, making the entry-level car a direct rival for Porsche’s 911.

The styling has been finalised and is described as ‘a bit more sporty, but essentially the same shape’. Although the first version will be a fixed-head coupé, plans for a drophead are already being considered. And although Audi won’t run a factory race team, the company would ‘quite like’ to see privateers running the Le Mans.

The Le Mans was described by Dr Winterkorn as the ‘emotional flagship’ of the future Audi line-up. ‘It will be a hero at the top of the range,’ he said. Many in the company hope that the Le Mans will have the same effect on the whole brand that the original Quattro did in 1981. Winterkorn says that Audi is doing ‘what it said it would do’ by only building relevant concept cars. With the Q7 4x4 and Le Mans on the way, only the Nuvolari coupé is yet to be given the go-ahead.

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