Think of an Audio Quattro and the chances are — if you’re old enough to remember — you’ll think of the succession of boxy yet powerful all-wheel drive cars which dominated the World Rally Championship during the 1980s. We do.
But at next week’s 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the Audi Quattro name will live again on a vehicle which Audi wants us very much to associate with its thirty-three year old legend. But this time, the car wearing that name — the Audi Sport Quattro Laserlight concept — comes with a plug… and a honking four-litre V-8 engine.
In keeping with the theme of CES 2014, Audi’s latest concept car is heavy on the technology, packing a high-resolution TFT centre console and dashboard capable of displaying 3D graphics courtesy of the latest Tegra 30 processor from Nvidia. Its on-screen menu system is designed to operate like a smartphone rather than a traditional in-car entertainment system, and it accepts both multitouch gestures on its large touchpad interface as well s voice command functionality.
It also has a quad-headlight system, consisting of two LED lights providing low-beam illumination while high-beams are handled by a pair of lasers.
No, we’re not kidding.
Of course, the Audi Sport Quattro Laserlight Concept is just that — a concept — but its drivetrain rather than its on-board gadgets is what intrigues us the most. That’s because Audi has taken a monster four-litre V-8 engine with biturbo charging capable of producing 690BHP and married it to an eight-speed tiptronic gearbox. Sandwiched between the two is a disc-shaped electric motor which Audi says will produce 110 kilowatts of power and 400 newton meters (295 pound feet) of torque.
Audi says combined fuel economy is somewhere around 113 mpg U.S., a figure that you might struggle to associate with a V-8 of any sort. But the trick, Audi says, is cylinder deactivation which can switch off up to four of the V-8’s cylinders for more efficient driving, only switching them back on under full load.
Despite its position in the drivetrain however — which we presume is either side of a dual or triple-clutch arrangement — Audi says the electric motor, paired with an onboard 14.1 kilowatt-hours of lithium-ion battery capacity, can propel the concept car for around 31 miles in all-electric mode. Given the fact it’s a concept, there’s no way to tell if that figure is really achievable in the real world,but we’d guess real-world range would be nearer 25 miles or so, even though the concept is built using lightweight materials like Aluminum and Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic.
The car can also operate in blended hybrid power mode, with the car deciding which drivetrain is best suited at any given time, charge sustaining or hold mode, and sport mode, where both power sources work in concert to accelerate the car from 0-62 mph (0-100kph) in 3.7 seconds. That’s only slightly slower than the 3.1-second time of the Porsche 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid. And since Porsche and Audi are essentially all linked together under the Volkswagen Group, we’d suspect there’s more than just a passing similarity between the two vehicles’ drivetrains.
We very much doubt this particular concept car will ever make it beyond the concept stage, but we’ve got to admit that its good looks and heritage, as well as its usable plug-in range, would win it a lot of fans in the marketplace.
But would you want one? Or is a V-8 engine just too gas-guzzling for any self-respecting plug-in hybrid owner?
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