Unlike most luxury automakers, Audi has a history that’s steeped in dirt, gravel, and mud. The German automaker splashed onto the global stage in the early 1980s by dominating the World Rally Championship with its revolutionary quattro all-wheel drive system—a signature element that remains part of its lineup to this day. But what does an autonomous future hold for Audi’s off-road expertise? That question should be (at least partly) answered at this September’s Frankfurt motor show.
On Friday, Audi released a teaser image of a Frankfurt-bound concept car known as the AI:Trail quattro. Audi’s description of the concept was short on specifics, but the company bills the show car as a “study for an electrically driven off-roader of the future.”
Details of the AI:Trail quattro’s styling are concealed by darkness in Audi’s teaser image, but its overall look can best be described as autonomous pod meets SUV. The front and rear ends are blunt, which should provide excellent approach and departure angles—a must have for any serious off-road vehicle. It also appears as though the concept is fitted with knobby all-terrain tires.
The middle of the AI:Trail quattro is more pod-like with four-doors and a massive greenhouse. The body line dips down in the middle to create large windows for lots of outward visibility. No interior images were provided, but there appears to be a steering wheel, indicating the AI:Trail quattro won’t be 100-percent autonomous. Perhaps Audi is planning an autonomous vehicle that can drive itself to the trailhead and then give controls back to the driver for some off-road leisure time. The AI in the name seems to suggest artificial intelligence, which would mean the car would have some kind of self driving technology.
Audi is keeping powertrain specs a secret until the start of the Frankfurt show, but the AI:Trail quattro will obviously have all-wheel drive, possibly through the use of in-wheel electric motors. Be sure to check back for full details following the AI:Trail quattro’s official debut on Sept. 10.
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