Concepts that time forgot: the Audi Quattro Spyder 1991 | Top Gear
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Best of 2022

Concepts that time forgot: the Audi Quattro Spyder 1991

Published: 03 Jan 2023

Most concept cars you can take one short look at and easily understand why the hulking monstrosity never managed the leap into production. Others – like the Audi Quattro Spyder for instance – will leave you scratching your head as to why there aren’t millions on the road.

It was unveiled at the 1991 Frankfurt Motor Show – right in the middle of Audi’s push to move into the posher but more mainstream territory occupied by Merc and BMW, but before the mid-Nineties renaissance that saw the company’s modern period begin with the TT concept by Freeman Thomas in 1995.

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It would’ve been a delightful early Nineties sports car curio, taking the best of Ingolstadt’s design cues of the time (look at those rear lights, a delightful progression of the company’s lozenge-like lamps from the 80/100 families) to make something timeless and desirable.

Some people took exception to the Spyder moniker as it wasn’t a convertible. Except those sneaky scamps at Audi had engineered a removable glass roof that could be squirrelled away over the rear deck.

The car’s 2.8-litre V6 produced 172bhp and 180lb ft – hardly enough to set your pyjamas on fire, but its 1,100kg at least meant a 0–62mph time of 6.0secs and a (limited) top speed of 155mph. Adequate for day-to-day use, no?

A five-speed manual and four-wheel drive added usability to the Quattro Spyder’s repertoire – the 4x4 system had a Torsen centre-mounted diff to split torque front and rear, and a manual rear diff lock borrowed from the Eighties Golf Syncro 4x4. Would that detail have survived through to production?

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The tech under the skin would have been worth bragging about too – a tubular steel spaceframe chassis with aluminium body panels lent the QS a faintly exotic air, there was a new double wishbone suspension up front, coil sprung links at the back with extra transverse links and disc brakes all round with Audi’s latest ABS tech.

The aim was to build a sports car for around £30,000, about £55k in today’s money, just at the top end of the TT price range. An accessible tech tour de force – Vorsprung durch Technik and all that. People were throwing their money at Audi, putting deposits down on a car that was never officially announced.

The early Nineties recession put paid to the car going into production – sad times. The aluminium construction turned out to be too pricey, appearing on the next-gen A8 instead. Then we got the TT a few years later, which wore recession-proof VW Golf underpants to save money. So began the era of Vorsprung durch platform sharing.

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