IOL Motoring Staff
Frankfurt Motor Show - It's not often, in this era of cyberspies and deliberate leaks, that a carmaker succeeds in surprising the world's media at a major motor show - but Audi has done it at this year's show.
Unveiled at a pre-event the night before the official opening of the show, this is the nanuk quattro crossover concept, designed in collaboration with Italdesign Giugiaro to combine serious performance dynamics with Audi's all-wheel drive expertise, on any surface.
The result is a sports car for the race track, the highway or a winding country road - as well as off-road in sand or snow.
The nanuk gets its mojo from a newly developed five-litre twin-turbo V10 diesel installed longitudinally in front of the rear axle, producing more than 400kW and 1000Nm, the latter delivered to a beefed-up seven-speed S tronic auto transmission from just 1500rpm.
The show car (it's a runner, by the way, all these numbers are for real) weighs nearly two tons but will hit 100km/h from a standing start in 3.8 seconds and tops out at 305km/h, at an average cost of only 7.8 litres per 100km.
ADAPTIVE RIDE HEIGHT
Double wishbones all round modulate 22” rims shod with 235/50 front and 295/45 rear rubber, over carbon fibre-ceramic brake discs.
The ground clearance provided by the nanuk's adaptive air suspension with electronically controlled dampers can be adjusted from the driver's seat through three settings: normal, 30mm lower or 40mm higher.
The system also automatically controls ride height based on driving speed and predictive route data from the satnav. On the highway, for example, the body remains lowered even when the concept is moving slowly - but it's automatically raised when turning onto a gravel road.
The nanuk also takes the quattro concept to a whole new level with automatic four-wheel steering, combining dynamic steering on the front axle with supplementary steering via active track rods on the rear axle.
At low to moderate speeds the rear wheels turn up to nine degrees in the opposite direction to the front wheels, in effect shortening the wheelbase, reducing the turning circle and making the car more agile.
At highway speeds, the system steers the rear wheels up to 2.5 degrees in the same direction as the front wheels, virtually extending the wheelbase for improved straight-line stability.
The Nanuk is 4541mm long on a 2710mm wheelbase, 1990mm wide and 1337mm tall, built on an aluminium space frame with Giugiaro's signature sharp-edged, almost exaggerated outer panels in colour-impregnated carbon fibre-reinforced polymer.
The doors, with delicate, wing-shaped cameras replacing the side mirrors, open upward at an angle, and a large, vertical sideblade on each side - similar to the R8 - feeds air to the engine, as does a smaller moveable blade behind the side window.
The rear bodywork lifts in one piece like a race car for access to the engine bay, while luggage is stowed at the front, in a compartment big enough for two carry-on travel bags or a set of golf clubs.
The pared-down, back-to-basics cockpit layout - trimmed in grey leather with carbon-fibre elements and dark-anodised aluminium - is focused on the virtual instrument panel, which seems to float, supported by aluminum stirrups on the centre console with soft pads that serve as leg rests.
It can display a variety of displays and information as desired, while a small monitor at the base of each A pillars replaces the side mirror and a larger one in the headlining does the same for the rear-view mirror.