Shakespeare’s famous line from “The Tempest”—“What is past is prologue”—in essence means what has come before has bearing on what is to come. If Audi’s recent past is any indication, its Audi Prologue concept is setting the stage for the future of a brand dedicated to advancement through technology.
But I’m very much dwelling in the present as I pull out of the parking lot of SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills in the multimillion-dollar, one-off Audi Prologue concept, a police escort in tow, lights flashing. The long, sleek silver coupe looks the part of a dashing Hollywood celebrity, but it’s running a little rough as we hit the streets. I do my best to keep its grumpy, growling 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 (packing some 605 horsepower) from stalling out.
The convoy is holding up traffic, and I’m feeling like a doofus, dressed from the waist down in a dime-store hazmat suit in an effort to keep the hand-built concept clean. We roll past gawkers, a couple of them whipping out their smartphones to get a shot of the star car that wowed the media at the recent L.A. Auto Show.
While the Prologue can reportedly hit 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and comes equipped with Audi’s new all-wheel steering setup that can turn the rear wheels up to 5 degrees (coming to the next A8), the only thing I learned about the Prologue during my drive was how to keep it running under 30 mph—per the orders of my handlers and escort, with an assist from L.A. street traffic.
Back at the hotel, I had a chance to get an in-depth breakdown about what this concept represents from the people directly responsible for its development. Audi has become known for cutting-edge lighting solutions, bold grilles integrated into restrained exterior designs, and advancements in human-machine interface—future visions of which are represented on the Audi Prologue concept.
“This is a car that shows where we want to go with Audi,” Prologue’s exterior design specialist Parys Cybulski says. Where they’re going is toward a monster, single-frame, massively wide trapezoidal grille that dominates the front of the car. “To make it more sporty looking, we made it lower and wider. That way it has more presence on the street,” Cybulski says of the Prologue’s gleaming, slatted mug. The Prologue’s other signature design cue is its pronounced front and rear fender areas developed to emphasize the brand’s Quattro heritage.
Flanking the grille and wrapping around the rear are the Prologue’s laser-based lighting elements. Lighting specialist Viktor Hahn calls the use of lasers “a new era in light design. … Everything is very sharp, clear, defined.” Lasers can project more light punch than LEDs and do it over a smaller surface area, allowing greater freedom to develop compact, elegant designs with three-dimensional effects. Using lasers also allows the team to make it feel as though the light is emanating from the lens itself instead of the traditional effect of the lens being illuminated by a light behind it.
Lights of another type are also a key element of the Prologue’s technological advances inside the car, specifically OLEDs (organic light emitting diodes), which power the slickest feature of cabin: an iPad-like display that rises up from the center console just in front of the gear lever, in close proximity to hand’s reach. Audi is moving toward a day where nothing more than touches and swipes (and a smartphone-integrated “virtual butler”) control all vehicle functions. As a result, the Prologue is decidedly lacking in the button department. What it doesn’t lack is an elegance befitting Audi’s premium reputation, with upscale materials and a cohesive design concept that wraps around the entirety of the coupe’s interior.
We’ll start seeing what the Audi Prologue concept will bring to the brand’s lineup with the next A8, and later on the A6 and A7 and the upcoming, all-new A9. The next generation of Audi will trace many innovations to this moment. The future looks sleek, speedy, and laser-lit, when Prologue is your past.