Event Report: Monterey Car Week 2018

by: George Achorn

The term bucket listis oft over-used, meant to call out the ultimate and often less-than-ultimate experience of just about anything. Even still, when speaking of Monterey Car Week, it is a fair descriptor. Bucket list is also an apt analogy, because with the simply impossible number of events going on over just a few days, seeing everything is about as attainable as one of those million dollar Bugattis and the like that you’ll spy over-and-over in Monterey traffic. It would seem then, that any attendee’s daily bucket runneth over.


The idea of too much to see hasn’t always applied for those specifically dialed-in to the Audi marque. Legends of the Autobahn supported by Audi Club is a stalwart attraction, and Audi’s own presence at The Quail and the Rolex Monterey Motorsport Reunion at Laguna Seca have come to round out the must-see events in recent years. This year though… the growth in Audi presence was both easy to see and impossible to see it all.


The Audi PB18 e-tron concept

Central to the brand presence was Audi itself. Seemingly shifting its focus away from auto shows as a traditional launching pad for concept cars, Audi chose to pull the wraps off of a new electric sports car concept dubbed PB18 e-tron (PB18 standing for Pebble Beach 2018).

This concept is a fascinating show of force for both Audi and also Audi of America. You see, the car was conceptualized and designed by the design team being formed at the new Audi Design loft in Malibu, CA.

The underlying mission behind the PB18 e-tron concept was to envision an electric car of the future that is still relevant to just the type of purists and car enthusiasts who make the pilgrimage to Monterey… and are likely the last to give up their car for an autonomous transportation appliance. “We have the Aicon concept with Level 5 autonomy on one end.” says Audi’s Malibu design chief Gael Buzyn, “and this car with ‘Level 0’ on the other.”


In doing so, Buzyn and his team present a look at what the R8 may have to become in an electrified future, and amplifying the benefits to driving enthusiasts that come along with that. Here, the PB18 goes from the R8’s mid-engine configuration to what Buzyn describes as “mid-battery” for better balance. At the same time, ‘Level 0’ means no automation with the human being the one doing the driving.

Other freedoms then apply thanks to less packaging limitations. Utilizing the trademark Audi singleframe grille as the lead into what would normally be a hood but is now an aerodynamic element, the driver is given a view of the tarmac right up to his feet. That all is augmented by a unique monoposto element so synonymous with the R8’s own cockpit, but here with an inner hinged element covered in tailored leather that completely surrounds the driver much as Audi’s Formula E racer. The single-seater effect of monoposto becomes even more pronounced when the seat slides by design to the center of the car for more track-style driving.

Another key element of Audi brand design is practicality for an active owner. Much like the Audi-driving surfers making mid-workday runs with surfboards atop their cars that Buzyn sees around Malibu, owners still have needs beyond the track. At Audi, cars like the RS 4 and RS 6 have fulfilled that need, and a shooting brake style roofline also helps bring that level of practicality… even to a future supercar proposal.

Audi fittingly chose to reveal the PB18 e-tron at Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca amidst the Rolex Motorsport Reunion, though the car also made other showings at The Quail and also on the Pebble Beach Concours concept lawn.


For those counting, that’s no less than three events for the Audi concept car alone. Add in the Audi Club presence sat Legends of the Autobahn, and the pleasurable surprise of stepped up enthusiast-run Audi heritage models at Laguna Seca, and you begin to understand where taking in all that Monterey has to offer quickly becomes more than a challenge.


Headlining the on-track presence of the Audi contingent at Laguna Seca was United Autosports and their recently restored 1989 200 Trans-Am quattro. Here, the car was driven against period rivals by team-owner and McLaren CEO Zak Brown. Elsewhere in the paddock, Per Eliasen of Larkspur, Colorado was representing the four rings with his vintage NSU TT racer. The gap between the two, McLaren CEO to vintage enthusiast, speaks to the vast range of cars any given Rolex Reunion can boast.


That’s not all. Shifting to Saturday night on the schedule is Exotics on Cannery Row. This event attracts a different and supercar-focused crowd. We counted no less than five R8s in the mix, including Autobahn Club Los Angeles’ Eric Dietz and his Nardo R8. Two Audi-powered Spyker C8s were also there, one as it was delivered and another with a controversial level of visual “upgrades”.


Yet another element of Monterey, in case the shows themselves aren’t enough, is the mix of auctions where enthusiasts can bid on the most exclusive mix of cars. Perusing auction catalogues ahead of time can inform you on what’s not to miss, and for Audi enthusiasts that included an elegant pre-war 1934 Horch 780B set to go across the block as part of the Bonhams auction held at The Quail.

To be clear in terms of Monterey Car Week, use of the term bucket listis far from a trivial matter. If you have passion for Audi and cars in general, you really should make the trip. Even if you’re not local to Monterey or even the west coast, joining up with friends and shipping your car in with plans to spend time at a rental house recounting your all-too packed days late into the night will make for an unforgettable experience.