Audi Quattro Concept

We're first behind the wheel of Audi's Paris Motor Show star.

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

It’s not often that a one-off concept car can deliver on the road as well as the show stand, but the quattro concept does just that. With its shortened chassis and suspension borrowed from the RS5, and a pumped up version of the TT-RS’s five cylinder engine, it’s easy to drive and seriously fast on public roads. Reinventing old classics is something that’s handled with varying degrees of success, but Audi’s designers have taken inspiration from the past, rather than simply copying it - which is why this car will push all the right buttons for Audi fans and a whole new generation of car buyers alike. This is a model more than worthy of the quattro name, and one that Audi must put into production.

Audi is heading back to the future! Thirty years after the original quattro rewrote the rulebook, Audi has re-imagined its most iconic model for the modern age. But can the quattro concept, first shown at the Paris show last month, do justice to its illustrious ancestors? Auto Express was first to put this year’s most exciting new model to the test.

Gone is the boxy styling and long overhangs of the original quattro, replaced by a more elegant look that’s brutal and handsome at the same time. Taking its lead from the 302bhp 1984 Sport quattro (red car picture right), cues like the distinctive trapezoidal C-pillar, the horizontal slot in the bonnet and the restrained spoiler are all nods to the past.

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In terms of its engineering though, the quattro concept has its sights fixed firmly on the future. Based on the RS5’s platform, shortened by 150mm and with a 40mm lower roofline, it uses an aluminium chassis and body panels, while the bonnet and rear hatch are made from carbon-fibre to minimise weight.

On the inside, the rear seats have been removed while Sparco racing seats up front weigh only 18kg each. In total, weight is kept down to just 1,300kg – identical to the original Sport quattro.

Drop into the driver’s seat and you sit low in a sporty position, while the beautifully machined manual gearstick falls easily to hand. With its minimalist floating dash and huge display behind the steering wheel, the interior is a step into the future of Audi design, and as with all Audis the soft leather and bespoke aluminium and carbon-fibre trim is superbly put together.

Push the red starter button and the engine splutters into life, sending vibrations and a booming noise reverberating through the cabin. Without the usual sound deadening on production models the cars feels raw and alive even before setting off. On our test drive we were limited to relatively low speeds, but the rasping exhaust note and chatter from the turbo’s wastegate when you lift off is dramatic even on part throttle.

Besides a few squeaks and rattles – understandable on a one-off priceless concept car - it actually feels remarkably ready for the road. The RS5 suspension is firm but not harsh, while the steering is light and accurate and the slick gearbox, borrowed from the S5, is a pleasure to use.

So it feels just a few steps away from the showroom, but the question on everyone’s lips is will it make it into production? Audi is staying tight-lipped, claiming the decision is yet to be made, but after talking to designers and engineers about the frenzy of excitement that this car has generated – it’s all but a certainty.

For the full story pick up your copy of Auto Express next Wednesday, December 1.

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