My, how times have changed. In 2010, Audi teased us with the quattro concept, a tribute to the original quattro that debuted 33 years ago. It was a lightweight, elemental car with a honest-to-god 6-speed manual gearbox and a turbocharged 2.5L 5-cylinder engine making 408 horsepower while weighing just under 2,900 lbs. Three years later, the Sport Quattro concept picks up the mantle, and things have changed for the worse.
Like everything else these days, the Sport Quattro is a hybrid car. Yes, it has a twin turbocharged 4.0L V8, but there’s also an electric motor and an 8-speed automatic gearbox. Sure, it makes 690 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque but it also weighes 4000 lbs. Fuel economy is 94 mpg according to European cycle standards and there is 31 miles of electric driving available – all in all a remarkable technological achievement.
Like most great cars, the original quattro was a bit of an accident. cobbled together from leftover bits of VAG parts and the sweat equity of a few engineers. 33 years later, Audi is not a maker of quirky all-wheel drive cars, but a global luxury brand churning out commodity vehicles in a marketplace where regulatory concerns drive vehicle design more than ever, and the tastes of countries considered third world backwaters in 1983 are now of the utmost importance. Things change. I get it.
But it’s not as if anyone buying a German high-performance car gives a rats ass about fuel consumption or green issues anyways. It is a two-fold move designed to appease European regulatory concerns and bolster Audi’s green credentials to people who would probably rather ride bicycles anyways. The greenwashing of high-end performance automobiles strikes me as incredibly cynical if not unnecessary.