Over the past decade and a half, Audi has made the leap from the middle to the head of the luxury-car pack, and a big part of that success is the brand’s distinctive styling.
The shield grille and LED eyelashes are the envy of the car industry, but where does Audi go from there?
The answer to that question debuts this week at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show. As the name implies, the Audi Prologue concept opens the book on a new styling theme.
The Prologue still looks very much like an evolution of those popular current Audi designs, but there have been some important changes.
The grille is wider and lower than ever before, and it’s flanked by headlights that feature a new lighting graphic and Audi’s Matrix Beam LED tech. Fender flares inspired by the classic Ur-Quattro add a bit of muscle.
The Prologue is essentially an A8 coupe, large but still shorter than Audi’s flagship sedan. Extensive use of aluminum and high-strength steel in the chassis help keep weight down, although the car still weighs 4,365 pounds.
The interior is also meant to preview a new design direction for Audi.
It features a version of the “Virtual Cockpit” layout that debuted in the 2016 TT, with a display screen taking the place of both traditional gauges and the centrally-mounted infotainment screens of other cars.
For the front passenger, Audi turned the entire dashboard into a touchscreen. Among other things, that allows the passenger to program directions, then send them over to the driver’s screen with a swipe.
Other features include a center-console display made of thin, bendable OLED film that blends into the surface when not in use, and a software “butler” that identifies a driver by his or her smartphone, and pre-sets things like the seats and climate control to their preferences.
To haul around all of this tech, Audi equipped the Prologue with a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 that produces 605 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque (with overboost), channeled through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
This being an Audi, that power is sent to all four wheels. However, the Prologue also features four-wheel steering and a new five-link suspension setup with air ride for a cushier feel.
Audi says the Prologue will do 0 to 62 mph in 3.7 seconds. Not bad for such a big car.
There’s also a 48-volt subsystem that powers most of the in-car gadgetry, using energy recovered drink braking to take some stress off the engine.
The Prologue itself may not make it to production, but it’s been rumored that Audi is considering building an “A9” coupe to rival the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe.
Even if that doesn’t happen, expect the styling and some of the tech form this concept to migrate to production Audis in the near future.