Electrified in Monterey: Audi's PB 18 E-tron Concept Is Phenomenal
Concept vehicles have been a bit of a snoozefest for enthusiasts lately. Despite the fact that automakers are still plenty capable of bringing out gorgeous designs, the autonomous angle has become so pervasive that it’s overridden the idea of having fun.
Then, during this week’s Monterey Car Week festivities, Audi dropped the PB 18 e-tron concept at Laguna Seca and fun slapped us across the face. This is the kind of car you have on your bedroom wall as a child and work your entire life to put into a garage as an adult.
With three electric motors (one driving the front axle and two out back) providing a combined output of 671 horsepower and 612 lb-ft of torque, the PB 18 should already be a menace. However, it can also temporarily bump itself up to 764 hp using stored energy via a kinetic energy recovery system. As a result, Audi claims the car is capable of a 0-to-62 mph rush in just over 2 seconds.
Combine that with an ultra-modern design that’s within the boundaries of what’s currently possible and several scoops of driver-focused tech, and you have one of best concept vehicles we’ve seen in years. The PB 18 expertly rides the line between fanciful and plausible.
While the emphasis here is definitely on performance, the model even has an electronically adjustable cockpit that slides the driver over into a central position and stows the passenger seat. Still, Audi has not ignored practicality. While the manufacturer didn’t cite cargo capacity, the shooting brake design is a little more practical than something with a pinched tail. It would also be slipshod of us to not comment on how much we like the look of it.
Digitally detuned for cruising, the e-tron is said to be capable of 310 miles on a single charge using European metrics. Its regenerative braking system doesn’t even come into play until a hard stop is required. The rest of the time the trio of electric motors are solely responsible for slowing the car down, which dumps significant amounts energy back into the 95-kWh battery.
Those motors being separate entities have also allowed Audi to implement a torque control manager to enhance the car’s handling in extreme situations — whether environmental or driver induced. Working in tandem with the stability control computer, the management system actively distributes the power to whatever wheel is in the most need at any given moment. In higher-speed scenarios, handling is further improved by a mechanically adjustable rear diffuser and spoiler.
Getting its name from the R18 e-tron Quattro racing car, the PB 18 shares its (optional) central driving position, massive wheel arches, and some high-tech hardware — like the suspension. The rest of the design is pure Blade Runner with a dash of R8 for good measure. We’re hoping it’s a subtle hint that this styling could serve as the model’s eventual replacement.
Audi it has no plans to build the model, however. Disappointing, sure, but we understand that it may be a little too ambitious for the general market. Composed entirely of aluminum, carbon, and various multi-material composites to ensure lightness, the PB 18 e-tron is said to weigh less than 3,417 pounds. As stellar as that sounds, when you combine those high-cost materials with a large solid-state battery, cutting-edge race suspension, three electric motors, advanced 800-volt charging capabilities, and tons of electronic trickery, you’ll probably end up with an astronomical MSRP.
We’re still glad the Germans tossed this piece of magnificence together. It makes one feel excited about the future, especially as it relates to electric vehicles. Even if the PB 18 is a pipe dream, it still delivers hope. We’d be happy to see any aspect of it appearing in subsequent Audi models.
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- Flowerplough Liability - Autonomous vehicles must be programmed to make life-ending decisions, and who wants to risk that? Hit the moose or dive into the steep grassy ditch? Ram the sudden pile up that is occurring mere feet in front of the bumper or scan the oncoming lane and swing left? Ram the rogue machine that suddenly swung into my lane, head on, or hop up onto the sidewalk and maybe bump a pedestrian? With no driver involved, Ford/Volkswagen or GM or whomever will bear full responsibility and, in America, be ambulance-chaser sued into bankruptcy and extinction in well under a decade. Or maybe the yuge corporations will get special, good-faith, immunity laws, nation-wide? Yeah, that's the ticket.
- FreedMike It's not that consumers wouldn't want this tech in theory - I think they would. The idea of a self-driving vehicle has commercial appeal. But at this point, consumers aren't willing to pay to put their lives in the hands of tech that's clearly not ready for prime time.
- TitaniumZ Of course they are starting to "sour" on the idea. That's what happens when cars start to drive better than people. Humanpilots mostly suck and make bad decisions.
- Inside Looking Out Why not buy Bronco and call it Defender? Who will notice?
- Sobro My 2012 Yukon had only the passenger side ignitor recalled. Makes me wonder what penny pinching GM did for the driver's airbag.