First Drive: Audi Urban Concept

Snakeman Kacher needs an extra coordination effort to spiral his 6'7" self behind the two-spoke sports wheel which pulls out (by a generous 5.5 inches) to make room for long legs and the stomach. The two thinly upholstered seats are firmly attached to the floor and the rear firewall. The occasional pillion would need to crouch behind the driver in an oddly off-set and slightly claustrophobic niche. Since both the steering-wheel and the pedals are fully adjustable by a clever lever & linkage system, finding a comfortable driving position is the easiest trick in the book. The cockpit of the yellow specimen is an object lesson in functional minimalism. All it contains are a push-button P/R/N/D gear-selector panel, two TT-derived air vents, a hazard button and a small digital instrument display panel depicting speed, distance traveled, range, battery charge status and recuperation activity. There is not a lot happening in the latter department since any serious deceleration effort on part of the rear wheels is almost automatically neutralized by ESP interference.

Let's go. I hit D, put the hoof down, and we're off. Not like greased lightning, but briskly enough to brake hard for the next armco, the next 90deg kink, the next climb or descent to the next level of this vast parking complex. By the end of the day, we clocked 9.6 clicks, which ain't bad for roaming such a strangely slippery and articulated habitat. It takes about ten seconds to get used to driving the Waspa. The accelerator response is linear and prompt, the four disc brakes strike a perfect balance between input and effect, the skinny 125/80 R16 all-season tires don't offer enough grip to deter the slightly tail-happy handling, and the surprisingly well tuned suspension is neither overly firm nor discouragingly wayward. The only item which requires extra attention is the unassisted rack-and-pinion steering which is super quick at 1.5 turns from lock to lock. Through the fast sections of the empty and unobstructed upper deck, this instant-turn-in calibration is so much fun that I am secretly timing each run, trying to gain a tenth here and there. But through tight corners and in the wake of rapid changes of direction, the box hardens and loads up in a way that suggests the need for some more fine tuning. Visibility is good except to the rear where one big panoramic blind spot threatens. How come? Because the Urban Concept has a small lidded cargo compartment where other vehicles have a rear window.

The Frankfurt Show car is equipped with a remarkably unambitious 20-hp electric motor so that it can be operated without a full driving license by 16 year-olds in certain EU countries like Italy, France and the UK. Our Engineering Experience Module has a more substantial 40bhp between its hind legs where 96Nm of torque are still not quite enough to make the Contis sweat - unless it rains, when it is possible to induce a little bit of attitude. Audi claims that the 1058 pound lightweight runabout can accelerate from 0-40mph in 6.0 seconds. The top speed is in the area of 60mph and the driving range is in excess of 30 miles. These numbers are not yet final, because Audi is at this point using experimental hardware borrowed from the Q5 hybrid, Sanyo R&D and its own e-tron think tank. To recharge the lithium ion energy cells on 230V mains takes about two hours, but if you have access to a 400-volt power line, the same job can be done in less than 20 minutes.

Measuring 126.7" in length, 66" in width and 46.8" in height, the yellow prototype did whet our appetite. Especially in higher-performance form, it makes a compelling alternative to a scooter, a smart and a Mini. Audi seems to agree. To test the water, the Ingolstadt car maker intends to sign off a batch of 999 units sold at 9999 Euro apiece, sources say. The Urban Concept could either be built in-house by the Quattro division, or by an outside specialist supplier. There is no doubt about it: at long last, here comes a new Audi which does not try to impress with the size of its single frame grille or through the intensity of its LED headlights. Instead, this conceptual mold-breaker is potentially more meaningful to the e-tron movement than the plug-in R8. Young, reduced, alternative, affordable and fun to drive, the Urban Concept sends a promising message from a brand which has taken itself too serious for much too long.ward. The only item which requires extra attention is the unassisted rack-and-pinion steering which is super quick at 1.5 turns from lock to lock. Through the fast sections of the empty and unobstructed upper deck, this instant-turn-in calibration is so much fun that I am secretly timing each run, trying to gain a tenth here and there. But through tight corners and in the wake of rapid changes of direction, the box hardens and loads up in a way that suggests the need for some more fine tuning. Visibility is good except to the rear where one big panoramic blind spot threatens. How come? Because the Urban Concept has a small lidded cargo compartment where other vehicles have a rear window.

The Frankfurt Show car is equipped with a remarkably unambitious 20-hp electric motor so that it can be operated without a full driving license by 16 year-olds in certain EU countries like Italy, France and the UK. Our Engineering Experience Module has a more substantial 40bhp between its hind legs where 96Nm of torque are still not quite enough to make the Contis sweat - unless it rains, when it is possible to induce a little bit of attitude. Audi claims that the 1058 pound lightweight runabout can accelerate from 0-40mph in 6.0 seconds. The top speed is in the area of 60mph and the driving range is in excess of 30 miles. These numbers are not yet final, because Audi is at this point using experimental hardware borrowed from the Q5 hybrid, Sanyo R&D and its own e-tron think tank. To recharge the lithium ion energy cells on 230V mains takes about two hours, but if you have access to a 400-volt power line, the same job can be done in less than 20 minutes.

Measuring 126.7" in length, 66" in width and 46.8" in height, the yellow prototype did whet our appetite. Especially in higher-performance form, it makes a compelling alternative to a scooter, a smart and a Mini. Audi seems to agree. To test the water, the Ingolstadt car maker intends to sign off a batch of 999 units sold at 9999 Euro apiece, sources say. The Urban Concept could either be built in-house by the Quattro division, or by an outside specialist supplier. There is no doubt about it: at long last, here comes a new Audi which does not try to impress with the size of its single frame grille or through the intensity of its LED headlights. Instead, this conceptual mold-breaker is potentially more meaningful to the e-tron movement than the plug-in R8. Young, reduced, alternative, affordable and fun to drive, the Urban Concept sends a promising message from a brand which has taken itself too serious for much too long.

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chaetophile
I don't know if you noticed, but this article has a bit of echolalia going on.Perhaps you should take the advice of the King in Alice in Wonderland: 'Begin at the beginning,' the King said gravely, 'and go on till you come to the end: then stop.'

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