It would have been the perfect birthday bash: Audi celebrates its July 16, 2009, centenary with the rebirth of an icon - the original 1980 Coupe Quattro. But it wasn't to be. Although the concept car was almost complete, the board pulled the handbrake at the eleventh hour. What happened? All of a sudden, the brand chiefs decided that Audi should present itself in a less aggressive and more eco-friendly manner.
Thankfully, good ideas don't automatically go away when bigwigs order a shift of emphasis. That's why project Anniversario remains alive and kicking in a sealed-off studio. The exciting concept car is a modern interpretation of the revered Ur-quattro, which was built between 1980 and 1991. The Anniversario's design is inspired by the European-market Sport Quattro - a nastier, short-wheelbase Ur-quattro with a 306-hp, 2.1-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine.
The all-new car is based on the S5 coupe. Chopping the wheelbase would have burst the budget, but Audi did craft new front and rear ends onto a largely unchanged passenger cell. The Anniversario also boasts a tall rear spoiler, wider C-pillars, a lowered ride height, and wild wheel-arch flares, as well as a lighter hood, trunk lid, and doors.
Details that hark back to the original coupe include large four-ring decals, Quattro badges engraved in the polycarbonate rear windows, S1-style front air intakes, and painted aluminum wheels. More modern touches include LED running lights and adaptive underbody aerodynamics. Add to this bigger brakes, twenty-inch wheels, and an all-wheel-drive system with an even more rear-biased torque split, and you'll see why this beast marks a very special evolution of the Quattro theme. The ambitious target weight is 3100 pounds, which insiders suggest will be propelled by a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 rated at about 400 hp. Recently, though, the purists in Audi's R&D department have instead proposed a 340-hp, 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder variant of the Audi TT RS engine. That unit would be lighter and less thirsty than the six, not to mention a better fit historically. Theoretically, the Anniversario could be readied as soon as late next year. In reality, however, the project has stalled for economic reasons. Still, the car is expected to appear in concept form to honor the Coupe Quattro's thirtieth anniversary, which is due to be celebrated late next year. If the response is positive, the production version would be launched in 2012 - by which point this economic crisis hopefully will be history.