Well, here’s something we weren’t expecting. Amid the usual series of well-briefed and pre-warned reveals at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, it was Audi who came up with something out of the blue at a typically bombastic VAG group party the evening before the show opened: a 544bhp sports car, wonderfully put together, and powered by a diesel engine.
Seasoned motor show watchers may recognise something in the styling, and rightly so. It was produced in collaboration with Italdesign Giugiaro, and shares a distinct likeness to the Giugiaro Parcour which we salivated over at the Geneva Motor Show back in March. Audi says the design language is destined for its next generation of SUVs.
Still, it’s good to see a surprise, especially such a good-looking one. And where the Parcour featured transplanted Lambo Gallardo running gear, this sports a mid-mounted, 5 litre V10 TDI, with 738 lb ft of torque and a 190 mph top speed. Audi claims that if this car existed, it would get 36 mpg.
One neat piece of tech is the four-wheel-drive steering, which allows the rear wheels to turn nine degrees in the opposite direction to the fronts at low speeds. Another is three stages of air suspension, which can either react to driving conditions or be manually adjusted to turn the Nanuk into an unlikely off-roader.
The fact that it's been rolled out twice in two coats leads us to think the VW Group bosses think the supercar-cum-SUV idea might eventually be a runner for production.
Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi engineering boss, told Top Gear "There is a strong demand for this sort of car from certain markets."China and the Middle East?" we hazarded and he nodded. But they are petrol-engine markets? "There are other places interested in it too, and they like diesel."
Anyway, Hackenberg wants to publicise his new diesel engine. Which, by the way, is completely unrelated to the old V10 diesel engine out of the VW Tuareg.
But given it seems perfectly OK to add big clearance, huge tyres and 4x4, and so crossover-ify any kind of car these days, surely it's not too far-fetched to crossover-ify a supercar? Add your comments below.
ItalDesign mainman Fabrizio Giugiaro told us the Parcour was indeed the inspiration for the Nanuk. "It's our job to do the provocative ideas." But then Audi people thought it would make a good car for them, because it's four-wheel-drive and mid-engined. "But it could also suit Lamborghini or Porsche too," said Giugiaro. "Only the VW Group has all the components needed to make a car like this."
Still, to make the Parcour into an Audi, a group of Ingolstadt designers went to work with Ital people. Audi's design boss Wolfgang Egger says the Nanuk has a lot of design elements from the next-generation R8, like the nose and surfaces and rear lights. "It's got Q cues and R cues," he says. "It looks clean but sexy. The lines are sharp, tense, with definition."
So will they make something like this? Everyone at Audi insists publicly there's no decision, and certainly it doesn't look like one of those concepts where they make the production car then dolly it up for a show preview. It's a concept pure and simple, a reaction getter. But the idea might well have legs.