Su­per Audi joy to drive

It’s sen­sual and lithe in a five-minute test run, writes Mark Hinch­liffe

Herald Sun - Motoring - - What’s On -

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.

De­sign

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.

Technology

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.

Value

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.

Driv­ing

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.

Ver­dict

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.

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