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Audi Sport Quattro Concept debuts as a 700-hp plug-in hybrid


The original Audi Sport Quattro, developed for Group B rally homologation in 1984 and sold as a limited production vehicle, signifies Audi at its very best. As it powered across gravel roads in the hands of the world's best rally drivers, or slithered up Pikes Peak in 1985 — setting a new course record — it inspired car enthusiasts (like myself) in a more real and relevant way than a Testarossa or Countach ever could, much like the equally rousing Lancia Delta Integrale.

And after a brief tease of its revival back in 2010, when Audi revealed a Sport Quattro Concept at the Paris Auto Show, we've been musing about the possibility of a Sport Quattro return being imminent.

While this latest concept, set to debut next week at the Frankfurt auto show, remains merely an updated version of the 2010 tease, it does offer further evidence that a production version could be close. In fact, Audi told me that while nothing is officially decided, if the response is positive, it's safe to say one may well arrive.

While there are similarities between the look of the original Sport Quattro and this latest version (notably the rear roofline), this edition appears more grown up than the 2010 concept, ditching the loud front hood vent and bulging rear wing, in favor of a more refined, more production ready car. But while the similarities are visually evident, under the surface, things have changed markedly.

For starters, it's a plug-in hybrid, meshing Audi's 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 from the RS 7, boasting 560 hp and 516 lb.-ft. of torque, with an electric motor that bumps total output to 700 hp. A liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery provides up to 31 miles of range in EV mode, while engaging Sport mode helps the car sprint to 62 mph in 3.7 seconds, maxing out at 190 mph. The 2010 concept, too, was light, weighing just a shade over 2,000 lbs. - almost matching the original car's weight - and boasting a traditional manual gearbox. Now, morphed into a hybrid, the latest Sport Quattro Concept balloons to over 4,000 lbs., and shifts via the automaker's eight-speed automatic transmission, while featuring cylinder deactivation to improve fuel economy further.

While I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say we'd love a production Sport Quattro to be stripped down, lightweight, nimble and able to row your own gears, reality dictates something akin to the concept we see here. And let's not forget the original car was highly technological, too, showcasing the new and revolutionary — at the time — Quattro all-wheel-drive system. We'll have more images when the car debuts on the show floor next week, but for now, let's just hope this latest tease births the arrival of a new generation of inspiring Quattros.