LMP1 crossed with a TT? Configurable one/two-seater, electric drive, high performance and luggage space is a tantalising glimpse of future-shocking fun from Audi
Pebble Beach, California
Concept cars are what happens when automakers daydream. They’re exciting, but it’s also not surprising if some of the more fanciful features they tout end up being nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
Given concepts like the Tang Huat Detroit Fish (yes this is a real thing) maybe that’s for the better. But every once in awhile, a concept comes along that simply screams ‘build it!’ because it makes so much sense.
The PB18 e-tron concept was unveiled at Pebble Beach – hence the ‘PB’ in the name, while ‘18’ is a link to the R18 e-tron LMP1 car, and ‘e-tron’ Audi’s signifier of electrification tech onboard.
The exterior design is spot-on, pretty much Audi R8 sports car crossed with its new, angular design language and a manta-ray, but we think its coolest feature is on the inside.
Not only does it have excellent boot space – 470-litres, or more than a VW Golf – it also has a transformable cockpit that goes from middle-mounted, single-seat to a conventional dual-seat arrangement at the push of a button.
As the McLaren F1 proved, a single, mid-mount seat is the most logical arrangement for a driver, with better viewing angles, fewer A-pillar blind spots, and no lop-sided g-forces when driving.
Even parking and normal driving is made easier, and if someone you dislike asks for a ride you can just say it only fits one. But we can imagine what a freakout it’d cause the Land Transport Authority (LTA), who famously disallowed the McLaren F1’s road-legality because they couldn’t grasp the concept of a middle-mount seat.
Powering the PB18 is a solid-state battery, which is the next-gen in battery tech over current lithium units. Besides being safer, lighter, and faster to recharge, the 95kWh liquid-cooled battery will deliver a theoretical range of up to 500km, and with 800v charging tech could be ‘refueled’ in 15 minutes.
The car has one e-motor in front, and two in the rear (for each rear wheel), delivering 201hp to the front wheels, or 470hp to the rear, and claimed total of up to 670hp with 800Nm of torque.
The smaller dimensions (4.5-metres long, 1.15-metres high and 2.0-metres wide) and lightweight construction of the car (aluminium, carbon and ‘multi-material composites’ plus solid state battery give a kerbweight of less than 1,550kg) spell for a 0-100km/h of just over 2.0-seconds, comparable to an LMP1 car, Audi says.
And in contrast to its next A8, which boasts Level 3 autonomy, the PB18 will be Level 0, which means the driver has full control, all the time, and no extra weight is devoted to advanced assist systems.
But will it be any fun to drive?
Believe it or not, CarBuyer drove Audi’s first stab at a fully-electric sports car five years ago.
The R8 e-tron was the electrified version of the previous Audi R8 sports car. Only 10 were built as tech demonstrators, and it never made it to production because of limited range and weight issues.
We drove it on a handling track at Berlin’s Templehof Airport and boy was it a kicker, it’s an experience we still remember clearly today, our report said, “it’s rare to experience such a direct connection between a driver’s right foot and the drivetrain.”
Sure Audi calls this ‘a radical vision for the high-performance sports car of tomorrow’ but it’s the sensible bits that make this concept convincing.
If you can’t wait to buy an electric vehicle with four rings on the front, well the incoming Audi e-tron crossover will be the brand’s first fully-electric vehicle, and we’ll be covering its global debut next month.