Embodiment of a legend
Bearing the name of a racing legend and a design that was ahead of its time.
Named for one of racing’s greats, the Nuvolari quattro concept showcased many design and technology elements that would become part of later series production models at Audi.
21 October, 2021
Under the bonnet was a 5.0-litre V10 twin-turbo engine that produced a massive 441kW – still a monstrous output nearly 20 years later
The Nuvolari quattro concept was an instant hit when it was first revealed to the public at the 2003 Geneva Motor Show. Named after the legendary racing driver, Tazio Nuvolari, the car was unmistakably Audi in every respect, and yet a completely new design. The big two-plus-two coupe was powered by the most potent engine Audi had developed for a road-going vehicle at the time, another nod to the fantastic machines from Auto Union that Nuvolari had driven with such mastery in his heyday.
Under the bonnet was a 5.0-litre V10 twin-turbo engine that produced a massive 441kW – still a monstrous output nearly 20 years later – and 750Nm of torque. This sent the Nuvolari from standstill to 100km/h in just 4.1 seconds on the way to a top speed that was electronically governed to 250km/h. The engine, an obvious precursor to many of today’s RS models, was tremendously flexible, delivering peak torque from as low as 2000rpm, delivering power to all four wheels through quattro all-wheel drive of course, and using a six-speed shift-by-wire transmission.
Air suspension was a standard feature, and inside the then enormous 20.5-inch, nine-spoke rims were equally impressive drilled disc brakes developed by quattro GmbH (the precursor to Audi Sport). Even the tyre technology was state-of-the-art, with special ‘run flat’ tyres that allowed the driver to continue for up to 200km on a flat at speeds of up to 80km/h.
New technology featured in almost every aspect of the design of the Nuvolari, with LED headlights that were practically unheard of at the time. These new lights not only provided next level illumination, but provided the striking Nuvolari with a very distinctive ‘face’ – one that would become very familiar in future Audi models.
Measuring 4800mm in length, 1920mm wide and 1410mm high, the Nuvolari was a large car in the grand tourer tradition, although its long bonnet treatment and compact rear obviously drew inspiration from the award-winning Audi TT which had captured world imagination just a few years before.
Inside the Nuvolari was likewise clean and functional in its design and layout – but not at the expense of comfort and characteristic Audi finish. Paddles were employed behind the steering wheel for manual gear shifts and even the glove box boasted cutting-edge tech, requiring fingerprint recognition to open. Using a sensor the size of a postage stamp (remember those!), 65,000 electrodes scanned the fingertip and opened the lock after verification was confirmed against memorised data.
The big centre console was designed with the classic GT philosophy of making the driver and passenger feel as though they were part of the vehicle, the console itself featuring compartments for the driver, front seat passenger and even continued toward the rear of the car to create a compartment for the rear-seat occupant as well.
Measuring 4800mm in length, 1920mm wide and 1410mm high, the Nuvolari was a large car in the grand tourer tradition
Revolutionary at the time, the Nuvolari quattro concept showcased numerous new design and technology directions – many of which of which found their way into Audi series production
Safety was paramount in the Nuvolari, the plush sport seats featuring integrated seats belts with pretensioners, and as a further safety measure, two discreetly installed cameras monitored the seating position of the driver and the front-seat passenger and were able to adjust the inflation of the airbag depending on the distance from the dash to avoid injury on inflation.
Another first at the time was the radar-assisted cruise control which would automatically adjust the car’s speed in relation to pre-selected distances from the vehicle in front. Technology that is now commonplace in so many Audi models as standard equipment, but had people shaking their heads in wonderment in 2003.
Revolutionary at the time, the Nuvolari quattro concept showcased numerous new design and technology directions – many of which of which found their way into Audi series production – but at the time were the source of pure marvel.
Head of Audi design at the time, the great Walter de Silva, said of the car:
“The Nuvolari quattro outlines the direction that Audi’s exterior and interior design will take. We are aware of our brand’s heritage and will continue this success story in evolutionary steps.”
After its initial reveal, the Nuvolari quattro concept made a track appearance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans that same year, the car driver by rally ace Michele Mouton with Walter de Silva in the co-driver’s seat. Having lapped the famous Circuit de la Sarthe, it then took part in the annual drivers’ trade through the town before the race began the following day. A fitting place to showcase a car named after one of motorsport’s greats.
Of course many of the attributes of this famously-named car continue to this day, such was the forward thinking design, engineering and technology of those who created it. But at the time…
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