Proving the Consumer Electronics Show isn’t entirely about 4K television sets or iPhone accessories, Audi announced today it will display an updated version of the Audi Sport Quattro Concept next week at the Las Vegas-based trade show. The amended concept car isn’t any more powerful or any more performance-oriented, but it does boast laser headlamps – hence its new Sport Quattro Laserlight name.
Laser headlamps aren’t the stuff of science fiction, but rather the next evolution of LED headlamps. Instead of putting a series of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) behind a lens, laser headlamps simply replace the LEDs with laser diodes. The laser diodes function much like LEDs in that they’re light-emitting semiconductors, but laser diodes are physically smaller and capable of emitting much more intense beams of light. Audi claims when employed as a high-beam headlamp, laser diodes are three times brighter than LED high beams, providing up to 500 feet of illumination.
The technology may be relatively new, but it isn’t foreign to Audi. The R18 etron hybrid racecar, for instance, debuted last year with laser-lighted headlamp assemblies. That said, this is Audi’s first public attempt at using the technology in something approaching a street-legal, consumer-oriented vehicle. The outermost lamps on the Sport Quattro Laserlight retain the Matrix LED of the last Audi Sport Quattro Concept for low-beam headlamps, while the inner pair of headlamps serve as laser-powered high-beams. A similar blend of LED low-beam and laser-driven high-beam lamps is presently an option on the new 2015 BMW i8.
Apart from the renovated headlamps and a new shade of paint Audi calls “Plasma red,” the Sport Quattro Laserlight concept is virtually identical to the Audi Sport Quattro Concept we saw in September at the 2013 Frankfurt auto show. Measuring 181.2 inches long and 77 inches wide, the Sport Quattro Laserlight rides atop a modified form of the RS7’s modular MLB architecture. Although this iteration lacks Audi’s typical “etron” suffix, the Sport Quattro Laserlight concept remains a plug-in hybrid vehicle, pairing the RS7’s twin-turbocharged, 560-horsepower 4.0-liter V-8 with an electric motor, neatly integrated into the car’s eight-speed automatic transmission. Audi’s still claiming the entire hybrid system provides a net output of 700 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque and is capable of rocketing the husky 4000-pound Sport Quattro to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds.
Although Audi has hinted something similar to the Sport Quattro will likely be added to its product portfolio in the years to come, the laser headlamps used on the Sport Quattro Laserlight may be another matter. Audi’s press release bills the concept as “showing the future of Audi,” but Audi’s chief of lighting development told Automotive News in September that laser lamps still require further development, and are decades away from becoming mass-market items. Seeing as it’s still working to get the language used in U.S. headlamp standards changed to allow its Matrix LED system, we wouldn’t be surprised if this technology is still some ways away from an Audi showroom near you.