Conceptual thinking

With another exciting concept preview just days away, Audi Magazine looks at some of the brand's standout concept vehicles – some that made it to production and some that didn't.

Fanciful visions of a distant future, or exciting previews of tomorrow – for Audi, concept cars tend more to the latter, with many design concepts swiftly finding their way into series production.

30 August, 2021

Just how close the Audi Skysphere will prove to be to a series production model in the next few years remains to be seen

They are the highlights of motor shows and internet sensations that inspire the imagination and offering up a tantalising vision of tomorrow. Often wild and fanciful, concept cars are often a design teams’ imagination gone into overdrive, taking ideas and themes to extremes, with little or no chance of ever being seen in series production, even seriously watered down and tamed.

But while Audi has produced countless concept vehicles, or design studies over the years that remain just that, the brand has also developed a reputation for producing genuine visions of the brand’s direction, with concept creations that have turned out to be astonishingly close to actual series production models further down the line.

The recent unveiling of the Audi Skysphere, the first of three groundbreaking new design studies, offers not just captivating design but an incredible engineering concept with its variable wheelbase. Indeed far from being just a very pretty ‘face’, technology, both new and emerging, is fundamental to the Skysphere with its all-electric drive and new interior concept made possibly largely thanks to the space created by the car’s autonomous drive capabilities.

Just how close the Audi Skysphere will prove to be to a series production model in the next few years remains to be seen, but the possibilities it presents are exciting to anyone with an interest in cars and future mobility. And given the brand’s reputation for producing concept vehicles that become reality, many hope that the Skysphere is a close representation of what is to come.

In recent memory, perhaps the most famous Audi concept to ultimately become reality is the Audi TT. Hailed as a modern day classic, it has been refined and reimagined numerous times since it first appeared, with S and RS models produced, roadster variants and even further concept models using it as a base.

But back in 1995, the Audi TT concept was the star of the Frankfurt International Motor Show, garnering overwhelming popular and critical acclaim with its unique, compelling design. Quite unlike anything the brand had produced in the past, few believed the curvaceous TT would amount to much more than a one-off show stopper, but three years after the Frankfurt show, the Audi TT was launched as a series production model and an icon was born.

But back in 1995, the Audi TT concept was the star of the Frankfurt International Motor Show

The TT concept was a true game changer.
Audi TT Mark I – not so different from the concept.
More than 20 years later, the TT remains true to the concept.

Before there was the Audi R8 there was a concept study called the Le Mans quattro 

In 2003 Audi again captured world attention with another concept vehicle, this time a futuristic supercar designated the Audi Le Mans quattro concept. The mid-engined coupe aimed squarely at the rarified atmosphere occupied by super cars, with its 5.0-litre twin-turbo V10 engine, petrol direct injection and the then-new Audi magnetic ride suspension concept.

Once again, just three years later, the stunning Le Mans quattro became a reality, its series production name – the Audi R8.

The Le Mans quattro concept easily morphed into the R8.
The Le Mans concept is still evident in the current Audi R8.

Moving into an area that brand had not ventured before, the Pikes Peak quattro, shown at the Detroit Motor Show in 2003 was a large, luxurious SUV, although the term SUV hadn’t yet found its way into common usage. Named after the legendary mountain climb event in Colorado that the brand had dominated in the past with its quattro rally cars, the Pikes Peak quattro was a large luxury vehicle with seating for up to seven people and had more in common visually with a four-wheel drive vehicle than the brand’s sportscars, coupes or Avants. Nevertheless it promised to take Audi customers to new places if only it were to become a reality.

In late 2005 it did indeed become a series production model when Audi presented the Q7 to world – introducing not just a new model but starting what would become a completely new and highly successful model family of Audi vehicles.

The Pikes Peak quattro was a large luxury vehicle that had more in common visually with a four-wheel drive vehicle than previous Audis

From the Pikes Peak concept to the Q7 was not a quantum leap.

The Audi e-tron quattro concept of 2015 pointed to the brand’s new electric direction

The Audi e-tron quattro concept of 2015 pointed to the brand’s new electric direction, a large, luxury SUV using an electric drivetrain and featuring a raft of new technology seemingly lifted straight from science fiction. But in just two years, Audi presented its first all-electric model, the Audi e-tron and starting a completely new chapter in the history of the Audi brand. The Audi e-tron SUV differed little from the concept study and the technology that seemed so far fetched is now a part of everyday for the growing number of Audi e-tron And Audi e-tron Sportback owners all over the world.

Aside from some details, the Audi e-tron concept changed little to become a series production reality.
The Audi e-tron was not a radical departure from the concept that preceded it.

Kicking off a whole new era in high-performance mobility, the international premiere of the Audi e-tron GT and Audi RS e-tron GT at the start of the year once again saw stunning design and cutting-edge technology beautifully combined. This eagerly awaited model differs little from the Audi e-tron GT concept first seen in Los Angeles in 2018. In fact, while introducing the car to the world for the first time, Audi Design Head, Marc Lichte said that the journey from concept to reality for this model had been perhaps the shortest he had ever seen. Nevertheless, the proud designer of this important model said the proportions and balance of the concept car had just worked so well, all that was required for series production was some fine tuning.

The Audi e-tron GT released earlier this year remained very true to the concept study from 2018

Audi e-tron GT concept – 2018.
Series production Audi e-tron GT – 2021.

Of course not all Audi concept designs have made it into series production – at least not in their entirety. Elements of some may be seen in the cars of today, while others may yet materialise on the roads of tomorrow. Here are just some such vehicles.