The Audi Prologue, the dream child of chief designer Marc Lichte, has recently been unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
Rumoured to be the upcoming A9 model, it was caught in numerous spy photos and teased several times by the mother company, as anticipation mounted. For the time being, it will remain in the stage of a concept, but it will serve as inspiration for the next generation of Audi road going automobiles, specifically the A6, A7 and A8. The A9, however, is to be ready for production in 2017 and will rival Mercedes’ S-Class Coupe.
German publication Auto Bild has been given the privilege of driving this marvellous aluminium creation, a very rare case as concepts are either non-functional (engineless) display items or are closely guarded by the producing company. Audi felt generous this time and let the car loose on the streets of LA. Follow us to see how the Prologue behaved and what were the driver’s impressions!
Despite being a 2 door coupe, the 5100mm length is still impressive; moreover, it shares the same dimensions with the current generation A8, whilst sitting 70mm closer to the ground. The power plant that sits under the bonnet is a brand new V8 engine, with a displacement of 4.0 litres and twin turbochargers. Sitting at a 90 degree angle, the petrol unit develops 597 horsepower and 516 lb ft of torque, but an overboost mode allows it to reach, for limited periods of time –say overtakes – over 553 lb ft. An automatic 8 speed transmission with torque converter, coupled to the already famous Quattro system delivers the powers to all four wheels.
The standard electrical system has also been upgraded and it uses a 48volt mode that is said to improve fuel consumption. Alongside allowing for a mild hybrid drive, the system recycles the kinetic brake energy and uses it to charge the electrical batteries that augment the petrol engine. Active cylinder deactivation shuts down four of the eight cylinders when the engine is not under heavy strain; the strategy allows it to reach a mixed cycle mileage of 33mpg, while the carbon dioxide emissions sit below the 200g/km threshold.
Insofar as handling, the car feels extremely stable, due to its low centre of gravity. In theory – or on a race track – this is perfect, but less so on a real road that has speed bumps or potholes. Manoeuvring the Prologue necessitates attention – at least at first until you get used to the proportions and dimensions of it. A second concern is its concept car status, which makes you drive slower than usual, as the cost of repairing it in case of an unwanted accident will likely be sky high.
Sitting on a highly modified platform of the A8, the Prologue feels like a completely different car. One of the causes may be the reduced wheelbase, which as been reduced by 50 mm to 2940mm. The pneumatic suspension is capable of varying the ride height, in order to manage any unexpected obstacles, as the multi-link independent springs adjust according to need. The wide track Pirelli P Zero tyres (285/30) embrace the lightweight, Y-spoke design 22 inch wheels, contributing to a smooth driving experience. Moreover, the rear wheels are able to turn 5 degrees independently of the rear axle, enabling more control and greater on-road agility.
Below 3000rpm, the car feels extraordinarily docile, with no noticeable noise entering the cabin. Plant your foot on the gas pedal and the monster awakes! Once the turbos start spooling, the performance car character of the Prologue really stand out. The exhausts flaps open and a demonic noise fills the streets and the cabin; the V8 sound more like an American muscle car than a German designed propulsion unit, which will undoubtedly excite the enthusiasts.
So there you have it! The supposed base vehicle for the 2017 Audi A9, the Prologue already feels desirable, starting from the more edgy design to the muscle-car like sound of the engine. However, expect some changes, including the possible addition of two extra doors. We’ll just have to wait a few years to find out, though.