Straight-lining dirt roads at 170 mph, fishtailing into mountain switchbacks, then rolling up to dinner in the sportiest, sexiest car in the lot - that's the type of Saturday afternoon that will be possible if the new Audi Nanuk Quattro Concept ever hits production. Then on Sunday you can blow away your buddies at the race track. The second example in a rising trend, the Nanuk is an off-road-ready supercar.
The Nanuk Quattro is best thought of as an evolution of the Parcour Concept from this year's Geneva Motor Show. Italdesign handled the styling of the Nanuk, adding some Audi cues to its sporty but beefy Parcour design. Updates include the enlarged front-end with hexagonal grille, louvered air intakes, R8-like side blades, narrow headlamps with Audi Matrix LED technology and a redesigned rear fascia. The Audi rings on front and back give us renewed hope that this wild genre will somehow fight its way into production.
The Nanuk's "extreme red" carbon fiber-reinforced polymer bodywork is draped over top a lightweight aluminum Audi Space Frame. It's not an emaciated, ultralight supercar, but at about 4,200 lbs (1,900 kg), it's comparable to a mid-size crossover ... with a lot more power and aggression behind its flirty eyes.
The Nanuk's 544 horsepower is very comparable to the Parcour's output, but its 737 lb-ft of twist is a monster upgrade that comes courtesy of the newly developed 5.0-liter V10 TDI. That plant is mounted longitudinally in front of the rear axle, and a beefed up seven-speed S tronic transmission and specially designed Quattro four-wheel drive system apply its output to the wheels. A set of carbon-ceramic brakes take over when it's time to halt.
For the niche application of combining top-end sports car performance with all-element versatility, the two-seat Nanuk Quattro boasts niche running gear. Promising precise, confident handling at all speeds, a rear-wheel steering system assists the dynamic steering up front. Similar in spirit to the system that Porsche uses on models like the 918 Spyder, the Nanuk's dynamic steering offers up to nine degrees of rear wheel movement in low speed driving situations, effectively shortening the 106.7 in (2,710 mm) wheelbase by 39 in (100 cm) and giving the car sharper turning. At higher speeds, the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the front wheels (up to 2.5 degrees), increasing the effective wheelbase and boosting stability.
The Nanuk rides on double wishbone suspension and adjusts its ground clearance via an air suspension system with electronically controlled dampers. The driver can leave the height at normal, or adjust it on the fly, lowering it by 1.18 in (30 mm) or lifting it 1.57 in (40 mm). The system also auto-adjusts, automatically raising clearance when the driver turns onto a gravel road, for instance.
All that underlying tech is sure to bring a thrill to drivers. Not only does the Nanuk Quattro boast high-end sports car numbers, such as a 3.8-second 0-62 mph (100 km/h) and a top speed just under 190 mph (306 km/h), but it brings that focused performance nearly anywhere you want to go. There's certainly something attractive about the thought of a lipstick-red sports car spitting out rock and dust as it bullets down an empty, scenic backway. Still, Audi says the concept can return about 30 miles to each gallon (US) thanks to its thermal management system and steplessly regulated oil pump.
Like many a concept car before it, the Nanuk Quattro keeps clutter to a minimum inside with a clean, driver-focused design. A floating instrument panel displays various screens and readings based upon the driver's demand. In place of rear-view mirrors, the Nanuk uses a trio of digital rear-view monitors inside. The high-tech interior is topped off with an integrated inductive phone charge, and materials include CFRP, dark aluminum and gray leather.
Audi hasn't announced any plans to build this one, but we'll keep our fingers crossed that it (or someone else) pursues the idea.