Super Audi joy to drive
It’s sensual and lithe in a five-minute test run, writes Mark Hinchliffe
IT’S back to the future for Audi, judging by its ‘‘quattro concept’’ car. The stripped-down and shortened RS5 is a tribute to the legendary 1980s Quattro Sport rally car that dominated the World Rally Championship until it was banned in 1986 for being too fast.
But don’t visit your bank manager just yet. Audi Australia corporate communications manager Nadine Giusti says no decision has been made about production of a road-going version of the car unveiled at this year’s Paris Motor Show.
‘‘ The show car does, however, provide many technological impulses for the development of future Audi production vehicles, and not just for the sports car segment,’’ she says.
Audi group communications, product and technology manager Josef Schlossmacher says the car will need ‘‘a business case’’ before the board decides to go into production.
‘‘We will also see what the press has to say,’’ he says.
Schlossmacher chose the hills behind Malibu in California this month to give the world motoring press a tantalising taste of the car— a strong hint about how serious the company is about its future.
Carsguide was the only Australian media invited to drive the concept car.
AUDI strategic designer Claus Potthoff says the concept reflects elements of the original Quattro Sport — horizontal black grille louvres, thick trapezoidal C pillar and recessed rear hatch and integrated spoiler — but with a modern interpretation.
For all its motorsport pretensions, with its minimalist floating dash, 18kg Sparco seats and huge LCD instrument pod, the interior abounds in soft leather, aluminium and carbonfibre.
THE concept is based on a shortened and lowered version of the magnificent RS5, but with the chassis made of aluminium instead of steel.
It has five cylinders like the original Quattro, but a 2.5-litre engine from the TTRS — not 2.2 like the original. It even weighs the same — 1300kg.
But expect more mass if it goes into production because the concept car doesn’t have electric wing mirrors, airconditioning or an audio system.
IT TOOK less than four months and ‘‘millions’’ to develop, says project engineer Peter Seizinger.
He says numbers should be limited to fewer than 1000.
‘‘It makes no sense to make more than that,’’ he says.
He expects it to become a collector’s car with many stored and never driven.
IT FEELS raw. Despite being surrounded by soft leather and quality trim, the minimalism of the dash serves to diminish any distractions to the aim of the game — driving fast.
You are also aurally assaulted by the disharmonious five-potter because most of the sound-deadening material has been stripped out to save weight.
But despite the purposeful motorsport character of the cockpit, we are restricted to slow speeds on the test drive. After all, says Schlossmacher, ‘‘there is only one of these in existence and we have to bring it back alive’’.
Yet it feels special even at the relatively low speeds we are allowed on the test drive on the snaky Decker Canyon Rd. The lithe handling feels exciting and the steering is sensual— no numb hands here like in so many Audis.
It feels connected to the road. Unfortunately, there is no scope for testing its performance potential in the five minutes we spend driving.
It gets the slick S5 six-speed manual gearbox, which is an absolute joy to use, as well as the firm but fair suspension from the RS5.
The roads here are billiard-tablesmooth, so it glides along with a stress-free ride.
A BOARD decision on the car’s future will be made in the next three months. Bring it on.
Stress-free ride: the Audi concept goes through its paces in California.