(QQ, Fall 2003) — IAA Frankfurt, this past September 09, 2003, Audi has unveiled the shape of things to come.
A high-performance sports car, a road-going vehicle that could be said to have inherited the genes of the Audi R8, three-times winner of the Le Mans 24-Hours race: Audi reveals its 'Le Mans quattro' concept study. The long rumoured Audi GT collaboration with Lamborghini and Cosworth is on the world stage for all of us to behold.
Combining the competence of Audi racing success as well as drawing on many of the great technical capabilities inside of the various Audi related divisions, all of these resources have coalesced into a world class concept car that evokes the Audi mission statement of Advancement through Technology (Vorsprung durch Technik) on the racetrack and the road alike.
Even the first glimpse of the car gives the observer a clear picture of its calibre. The Audi Le Mans quattro, with its Jet Blue paint finish, has a wide stance and a bullish appearance on the road. Its powerful rear end seems to be bracing its muscles in order to jump, like a sprinter on the starting line. The car's front end and the broad curve of the roof seem to have been drafted with a single stroke of the pen.
Familiar contours at the sides too: both the dynamic, waisted line above the sill and the shoulder line link the car's front, sides and tail end together; the doors and the transition to the side air inlet are particularly well sculpted and emphasise the typical round Audi wheel arches with large 20-inch wheels in an even more intensive way.
1.90 metres wide but only 4.37 metres long and 1.25 metres high: this clearly reflects the proportions of a pure sports car. A wheelbase of 2.65 metres accommodates a surprisingly spacious cockpit and the longitudinally installed V10 'biturbo' engine with FSI direct fuel injection behind it. To the rear of the doors, between the sill and the roof, there is a large outward-curving intake that supplies the V10 engine, the brakes, the oil cooler and the charge-air intercooler with sufficient air.
The trapezoidal shape of the Audi single-frame grille is a distinctive feature of the front end, flanked on the right and left by additional large air inlets. Their upper ends are flush with the flat-strip LED headlights, which have clear-glass covers. The center of the bonnet curves up above the line of the front wings, which spread out at the sides over the large round wheel arches typical of an Audi.
The cockpit architecture, which is oriented consistently to the driver's needs, dominates the car's interior. The driving position is integrated into the space between the instrument panel with its digital MMI driven changeover display graphics and the center console housing the MMI controls. However, the Audi Le Mans quattro car offers generous interior space for both occupants-a quality feature that clearly distinguishes it from other high-performance sports cars. The impression of perfect functionality and ergonomics is combined with materials of visible high quality and craftsmanship.
This concept car is based on aluminium Audi Space Frame (ASF) structure-the perfect blend of minimum weight and maximum rigidity as a foundation for the highest standards of road dynamics.
The outer skin of the body and various add-on parts are of mixed weight-saving construction, using aluminium and carbon-fibre reinforced plastics. This is a precondition for the car's low gross weight of only 1,530 kilograms and therefore for its outstandingly good power-to-weight ratio of only 2.5 kg/bhp.
This mid-engined two-seater is powered by a five-litre V10 'biturbo' engine with FSI direct fuel injection, developing 449 kW (610 bhp) at 6,800 rpm. Outstandingly free revving and considerable 'bite' are typical features of this engine, with its seemingly inexhaustible power reserves even at very low engine speeds.
The maximum torque of 750 Nm is available at an engine speed as low as 1,750 rpm and remains constant over a broad engine speed range up to 5,800 rpm. A sequential-shift six-speed sports gearbox enables the driver to use this powerful torque in the appropriate doses.
As a matter of course, any Audi as powerful as this will have quattro permanent four-wheel drive, which distributes the power variably-based on a 40:60 ratio-to the front and rear axles and thus gives this mid-engined sports car its optimum road dynamics. The Audi Le Mans quattro accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in just 3.7 seconds and to 200 km/h in 10.8 seconds.
Yet another high-tech feature adopted from motor sport: the brake discs are made from a ceramic material. With diameters of 380 mm at the front and 356 mm at the rear, they slow and stop the car in a manner that matches its immense performance. Braking pressure is transmitted to these discs by eight-piston fixed calipers at the front and fist-type calipers at the rear, including an electronic parking brake.
Double wishbone suspension is used at the front and rear. Firm basic suspension settings have been chosen to ensure the most effective road dynamics. Nevertheless, the innovative Audi 'magnetic ride' shock absorbers ensure a remarkably high level of ride comfort. Instead of the conventional hydraulic fluid in the shock absorber, it contains a 'magneto-rheological' fluid, the viscosity of which can be varied by applying a magnetic field. The electronic control system energises an electromagnet which can be used at any time to influence the shock absorber's operating characteristic. This makes the computer controlled suspension tuning infinitely variable, and software driven.
At the Audi stand in Frankfurt, the Nuvolari as well as the Pikes Peak concept cars were shown side by side with the Le Mans quattro. A great statement to the incredible styling prowess of Audi studios led by Walter Maria D'Silva.
Will we see this car in our Audi showrooms soon? Based on the overwhelmingly positive response from the crowds of consumers at IAA, as well as the world media, the new Audi GT will embody many of the design ideas shown in the stunning Audi Le Mans quattro.