Elegend EL1: Next Level Automotive Retro Fusion with Audi Sport quattro Flare

Over the last few decades, there have been so many takes on the boutique exotic car theme that you can literally point to segments. Beyond the mass-produced exotic like a Lamborghini or the hyper car such as a Koenigsegg, there’s also been the restocustom like the Porsche 911 reimagined by Singer, or super-niche manufacturers such as Spyker. Given the breadth of the boutique automotive space, resetting the paradigm becomes more and more of a challenge. Having seen the car in person and heard the pitch though, we’d wager Elegend and their EL1 inspired by the legendary Audi Sport quattro may just be onto something.

For fans of Audi tech who play in the rare air of boutique car ownership, there have historically been a fair number of exotic choices. Beyond the obvious like an R8 or anything from Audi-owned Lamborghini, there was also Spyker with its Audi V8 power, Donkervoort with its Lotus 7 evolved super lightweights first powered by an Audi 1.8T and then later by a 2.5 TFSI 5-cylinder. Still more offerings with names like X-bow, Artega, Gumpert and Melkus could be named, and even that wouldn’t cover the spread… and that’s before you even mention Sport quattro replica builders such as Dialynx or LCE Engineering. All had Audi DNA, usually at least in the form of drivetrain.

In an EV world though, perhaps this requires a rethink. Enter the Elegend EL1. Mechanically it’s not an Audi at all, though its lines pay tribute to the Audi Sport quattro in a very satisfying way. Originally, that’s all it was ever meant to be – a tribute design by Marcus Holzinger to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his family’s HOTE Design studio.

Like the lines of the EL1 itself, the Holziner tie to Audi is significant. Marcus’ father Wolfgang and founder of HOTE began work at Audi Design (then Audi Styling) for Hartmut Warkuss in the 70s. He’d eventually move out and open his own firm that manufactures full scale models for Audi and other car manufacturers. Early jobs even included the original Sport quattro. In the meantime, Marcus remembers his parents driving everything from ur quattros to 200s. Today, his own current daily driver is an RS e-tron GT.

As the pandemic settled in, Marcus had been toying with the idea of designing something Sport quattro inspired. Work was slow at the studio given the pandemic shutdowns, and so he devoted studio hours to crafting a model of his vision.

Conversations over beers on slow pandemic summer nights hatched the idea even further. Marcus’ friend and Elegend co-founder Günther Riedl had been building his own career developing lightweight carbon roadcars. His Roding Roadster powered by a BMW I-6 had debuted at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show, and his interest had evolved toward development of a flexible carbon monocoque chassis for boutique production EVs.

Conversations between Holzinger and Riedl soon centered on not only building this Sport quattro-inspired design but doing so as an EV. By shifting to electric and specifically one on the Roding architecture, there were a lot of advantages. For starters, EV performance is obvious. Add in low-mounted batteries makes for incredible handling, while all-wheel drive with electric motors at each wheel assures the car will have grip in keeping with the its spiritual inspiration. Weight, the most typical Achilles heel of EVs, is kept fairly in check through use of the carbon monocoque chassis. The EL1 will weigh 3,700 lbs., about 900 lbs. heavier than the 1984 Sport quattro and a full 1,300 lbs. lighter than an RS e-tron GT. That’s about the same as an R8 Mk1 with the lighter 4.2 V8 engine for those watching the scales. Of course, the R8 4.2 only had 420 hp, while the Elegend EL1 will boast 805.

At the heart of the drivetrain will be a 90 kilowatt-hour battery, giving the car an estimated range of 248 miles per charge. Estimated 0-62 mph runs are 2.8 seconds.

From a design standpoint, it’s hard for any fan of 80s performance cars not to love the EL1’s lines. While it’s got retro cues, it’s not unnecessarily stuck in a bygone era and is thoroughly modern. While cues like the NACA duct on the roof draw a clear line to Sport quattro heritage (and the 1987 Pike’s Peak S1 specifically), it’s blended in an elegant way that even sees the plexiglass of the clamshell rear hatch tapered to continue the airflow across the rear. On the hood is a vented panel that appears similar to the vents on the original Sport quattro, yet here it’s a door panel revealing the charging port.

At the front, the modern interpretation of the simple horizontal grille designs found on ‘80s-era Audis is both modern and effective. We think it works especially well given Elegend’s independent positioning because it’d probably be a bridge too far for a modern Audi design given the brand’s singleframe grille is such a defining element to all modern designs coming out of the company’s design department. Even still, the way Elegend carries the horizontal theme around and below the front bumper seems cohesive, a harkening of the past in a modern way that could even be considered as a radical interpretation of the singleframe that is likely too radical to ever make it into a design approved by the factory. And while that may be so, it not only works, but works quite well on the EL1.

Inside, the interior is thoroughly modern. Elegend hasn’t revealed its final design just yet, but they were kind enough to hand us a set of VR goggles and let us walk up on a virtual EL1 (looking amazing in red) and open it up to peer inside. It’s an incredible cockpit, highly sporting and fitting with concept-like exotic design.

Audi built about 214 Sport quattros. Elegend has shared that they’ll be building just 30 EL1s, which assures the cars will be highly exclusive. Pricing is projected to be €890,000, not cheap… but also not especially rare in the further reaches of the boutique exotic space.

Once production of those 30 cars is complete, Elegend has coyly hinted that they’ve already started design work on their next offering. The continuing mission will be to build modern interpretations of other iconic racecars. Group B is a favorite, and we noticed books on Ford RS200s and Lancia rally cars on the conference room table at HOTE. Marcus admits those are some of his favorites, but the nice thing about the carbon monocoque EV chassis is the flexibility to reinterpret a wide range of iconic cars. With a modern design studio at his fingertips, that sounds like a pretty great mission.

At the moment, the EL1 you see here is a model. There’s also a running drivetrain mule without bodywork undergoing testing. By early next year the Elegend team hopes to have a cool ice racer rally concept version ready for display at the GP Ice Race, then another display at the nearby Münich IAA. They’re even hoping to have a running preproduction prototype ready for Monterey Car Week.

In the past, retro-inspired modern designs such as this have been termed “retrofuturism”. Former Audi designer J. Mays coined the term with designs like the Volkswagen Concept 1 (New Beetle). Elegend seems to have taken their own spin though, using the term “Retrofusion” in their marketing materials. Fusing icon-inspired modern design with the latest tech such as a carbon monocoque and EV drivetrains certainly fits, and fusion of course will be the next phase of mass electricity generation that will take nuclear power generation to a whole new level. So, are cars like the Elegend EL1 the next paradigm in boutique manufacturing? We’d argue that they are, and we couldn’t be more ecstatic that Elegend’s first entry is Audi inspired.

Editor’s Note: This story originally ran in quattro Magazine as part of the Q1_2023 issue. quattro Magazine is just one of many benefits Audi Club North America members enjoy. If you would like to become a member and get a subscription to quattro Magazine, you can do so HERE.

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