Thirty years ago Audi turned the rally world on its ear with the Sport quattro, a musclebound, short-wheelbase coupé purpose-built for rallying, and to mark three decades of quattro all-wheel drive cars Audi has created its conceptual successor for the 2013 Frankfurt motor show, with a classic short-coupled coupé silhouette - and a state of the art plug-in hybrid drive delivering a total of 515kW.
In true quattro tradition, it's only 4602mm long on an 2784mm wheelbase, and just 1386mm high, but it's almost two metres wide, sitting low to the ground on 21” alloy rims, each with five double spokes.
Like the original, this concept as created in the spirit of motorsport. Each design solution is driven by a technical function, including the angular, flat C pillars and the rectangular double headlights that use Audi's new Matrix LED technology, which will be available by the end of this year in the new-generation Audi A8.
A spoiler at the lower edge of the rear window underscores the car's width, while a second 'wing' extends from the rear hatch at high speeds. The cargo bay under the rear hatch is dominated by a solid crossbeam beneath the rear shelf, reducing its capacity to 300 litres - but then nobody promised you a shopping trolley, did they?
The 'office' is focused on the driver, with the steering wheel, digital instrument cluster and head-up display all in the direct field of view. The slim dashboard, door panels and centre stack are all carbon fibre, as are the racing-inspired bucket seats with folding backs, sculpted side bolsters and integrated head restraints.
The multifunction sports steering wheel provides a glimpse into future Audi production models, while driving information is displayed in a fully digital instrument cluster - a switch on the steering wheel lets the driver choose between a number of virtual 3D displays.
Race mode features a central speedometer, track information and a stopwatch, and Setup mode gives detailed information about numerous race circuits - and more can be added using the touch-wheel of the multimedia interface system.
The combustion engine is a four-litre biturbo V8, which runs on four cylinders under light loads and stops altogether when the car is stationary. It drives via a modified eight-speed tiptronic transmission and Torsen centre differential and a limited-slip sports differential on the rear axle.
Between the TFSI V8 and the transmission there's a powerful disc-shaped electric motor that allows total system outputs of 515kW and 800Nm. The electric motor is powered by a 14.1kWh liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery - enough for about 50km of gentle pure-electric driving - which in turn gets its amps from a dedicated wall box that uses intelligent charge management to charge the battery as quickly as possible without cooking it.
The driver can choose between three driving modes - EV for electric driving, Hybrid for maximum efficiency and Sport for maximum performance.
In EV mode, an active accelerator warns the driver when he or she is asking more than the battery can deliver, before starting the V8 and switching seamlessly to Hybrid mode, which uses environmental and route data to calculate the most efficient mix of petrol and battery power - and, if you're using satnav, it'll calculate the route that'll use the least fuel (not the shortest route, the most efficient).
In Sport mode the system uses everything it's got from both sources for maximum power and performance - which includes a 0-100km/h sprint in 3.7 seconds and 302km/h flat out.
THE LIGHT STUFF
The concept is built around a cell made of ultra-high strength steel panels and cast-aluminium structural elements, with aluminium doors and wings, and carbon-fibre roof, bonnet and rear hatch, which helps to keep the kerb weight - including the battery pack - down to 1850kg.
The front suspension has five control arms per wheel, while the rear uses track-controlled trapezoidal links. Opposed-piston callipers grip large, carbon fibre-ceramic brake discs, inside 285/30 R 21 radials.
A BIT OF HISTORY
The original quattro made its debut at the 1983 Frankfurt Motor Show. Designed as a homologation model for the World Rally Championship, its 225kW turbocharged engine and short wheelbase gave it exceptional performance.
In 1987 Audi rally ace Walter Röhrl took a modified quattro to a convincing victory in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado.