Over the last few years, Audi hasn’t delivered a design that’s completely changed our perception of the brand with the four-ring logo. Under the leadership of Peter Schreyer, who’s since left for Kia and Hyundai, the Ingolstadt premium automaker enjoyed wild success as a then-new design language brought the brand up to and above the levels of BMW and Mercedes.
Now it’s time for Marc Lichte to have his turn. A graduate of Volkswagen – having worked on the Golf, Passat, Touareg, and Phaeton – he now finds himself the head of Audi design. The Prologue concept is the first product of that new marriage.
While you may write off a car that’s more or less a pure concept, this is the direction Audi is going in for the foreseeable future. The single-frame grille, an Ingolstadt signature, remains the centrepiece of this new concept’s front fascia. But everything else is considerably different and not what we’ve come to expect from Audi.
The new TT, which sat beside the Prologue concept, lightly hinted at the next design revolution at Audi. Narrower wedge-like headlights give the large sedan a more serious persona – very German – and point toward the top corners of the single-frame grille. Housed inside those lenses are Audi’s matrix laser headlights that will hopefully be legal on our side of the Atlantic by the time we see vehicles sporting this new sheet metal here in Canada. The front of the Prologue concept also looks distinctly trimmer than the current Audi crop, underscoring its ‘lightweight’ traits.
Intricate and sharp 22-inch wheels fill the flared shoulders harkening back to the Ur-Quattro from the 1980s. Those flares are also meant to show Audi’s historical dedication to Quattro all-wheel drive.
But, the rear is where one might see the most striking differences, as Audi looks to leverage the rounder bodywork of multiple previous generations melded with slimmer lighting and a straight light bar across the top of the license plate section. The rear window also features concave glass.
Under the hood, the Prologue concept is supposedly powered by a 4.0L bi-turbo TFSI V8. But, instead of relying on exhaust gases to spin the turbines, electrically driven turbochargers are powered by Audi’s recently announced 48V electrical system. Since electricity is used to assist in forward motivation, the Prologue concept is technically a mild hybrid, albeit one with 605 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. Overboosting brings that torque number up to 553 lb-ft for as long as 15 seconds during times when a little extra oomph is needed.
All this power, traction at all four corners and a curb weight of 1,985 kg (4,365 lb) means the Prologue concept is capable of a 100 km/h sprint in 3.7 seconds.
Audi Prologue Concept. Click image to enlarge
While technology can surely make a vehicle more efficient and powerful, Audi debuted some new future infotainment ideas to keep drivers more focused on the road. By organizing information in multiple levels, the Audi digital cockpit is the next step in fully digital information and entertainment integration, connecting the driver to the car and also to the front passenger.
When driver and passengers enter the vehicle, the “butler” – as Audi calls it – identifies the occupants based on their smartphones. The car then adjusts HVAC and other settings to suit those particular occupants.
But it’s the displays and their arrangement that are the biggest change. Instead of displays only being focused on the driver or between the two front occupants, the Audi Prologue concept puts another wide display in the passenger side dash, allowing the front passenger to look up information – such as navigation instructions – and send them over to the driver with a swipe of a finger.
Another touchscreen, made of flexible OLED film, sits directly behind the transmission shifter. By using bendable film, a constant distance is ensured between the screen and the rested hand.
Most of this interior technology is a long way off. Yet, considering all of it is based on components that already exist in the marketplace, the solutions showcased aren’t that far off. And if any automaker is set to reinvent the interior space of the automobile, it’s Audi, the benchmark in automotive interior design.
In all, the Prologue concept is an exercise in what’s next, whether it’s in two years or ten, and there’s nothing to stop Audi from leveraging the design for next-generation models in the near future. Expect to see bits and pieces of the Audi Prologue concept in the next A6, A7 and A8.