Audi is now a bona fide supercar maker. Its current R8 V10 Plus is a worthy contender for everyday exotica honours along with the best of McLaren, Ferrari, and Porsche. But the long and winding road to Audi’s mid-engined flagship actually began with a toe-in-the-water concept car: the Avus quattro.
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TG’s guide to concepts: the stunning Audi Avus quattro W12
The Audi R8's grand-daddy had a wooden engine. Yep, wood. Wait, what?
Having not looked at the Avus Quattro for a while, we couldn’t find any pictures of it on Audi’s concept archive. It then became clear this was because we were looking in a section for cars after the year 2000, and the Avus quattro debuted at the Tokyo motor show in, um, 1991. That’s how modern this thing looks. It could’ve rocked up in the Noughties and no-one would’ve thought it dated. In 1991 it must’ve been a total spaceship.
The burnished bodywork was fashioned from aluminum, which has become an obsession for Audi, used in the A8 limo and the latest TT to keep kerbweights respectable. The concept car featured scissors doors, two bucket seats and a roof-mounted NACA cooling duct. All the supercar hallmarks, then. Oh, and the engine was made from wood.
We’re not making this up. The Avus quattro was designed not just as a statement of Audi’s sporting ambitions, but also a sexy way to introduce W12 engines to the brand. The forthcoming A8 was due to receive a W12 as a flagship engine, so Audi pitched the Avus quattro as a 6.0-litre, 509bhp showcase capable of 0-62mph in 3.0 seconds and 211mph flat out.
However, because the W12s weren’t ready in time for the Tokyo show, Audi made a dummy engine from plastic and wood, then painted it to look like the real thing and put it on display in the back of the glass-covered Avus quattro. Genius! Just don’t ask for a test drive. It’s a bit, umm, splintery.