Back in 2008 Audi began work on project Anniversario, a supercoupe that was meant to highlight the firm's centenary in 2009 with a debut at the Pebble Beach Concours weekend. But then the stock markets collapsed, overt celebrations were no longer en vogue, and at the rather subdued 100 years of Audi party we witnessed the debut of the socially and environmentally more compatible zero-emissions R8 e-tron. A mere twelve months later, however, the global economy has recovered (somewhat), Audi is almost three quarters through yet another record year, and the brand motto Vorsprung durch Technik (Advantage through Engineering) can again be advertised by much harder-core products. As it happens, 2010 marks the 30th birthday of the Quattro 4WD system pioneered by the ingenious Ferdinand Piech, who fathered the iconic Ur-Quattro, which was unveiled at the 1980 Geneva auto show. The most extreme variant of the chunky four-seat coupe was the limited edition, short-wheelbase, plastic-bodied Sport Quattro that triggered all those famous world championship-winning rally cars. What could be a better source of inspiration for the new Quattro?
Although the concept car unwrapped at the Paris Show is now simply labeled Quattro, what you see on the stand is actually a clever and careful evolution of last year's stillborn birthday present.
"The differences are not dramatic," acknowledges the chief designer Wolfgang Egger, who heads Audi's Advanced Design studio based in Munich's hip Schwabing district. "But we did make quite a few detail modifications to clean up the shape and to achieve an even more pure stance. This started with a color change from Suzuka grey to Col de Turrini white, extended to more graphic wheels finished in machined titanium silver, and led to even crisper lines, especially along the flanks and the C-pillar area. The result is a very sporty coupe that shouts, "Quattro revisited!" from almost all angles. The most obvious links to the original Sport Quattro are the relatively upright A-pillars, the characteristic greenhouse, the flared wheel arches, and of course the overall proportions. Although we consciously avoided going retro, not a single significant styling element was signed off without looking at how they did it way back when. The outcome is, I believe, an amazingly modern car that is light, powerful, and very desirable. This car proves that Quattro is very much alive-not only as state-of-the-art four-wheel drive system, but also as a brand within the brand."