Audi's latest concept combines automated driving with off-road capability.
It's become a tradition at auto shows for Audi to unveil a futuristic concept car. Back in 2017, the Audi Aicon concept debuted at Frankfurt showing Audi's vision of a fully autonomous sports sedan. This was followed by the debut of the Audi PB18 e-tron (now known as the AI:Race) at the 2018 Pebble Beach and the AI:ME introduced at the 2019 Auto Shanghai show as an autonomous city car concept. All three concepts have gathered at the 2019 Frankfurt Auto Show alongside Audi's latest wacky visionary car: the electric AI:Trail quattro off-roader.
The four concepts showcase Audi's vision of the future where cars will be designed for more specific uses, allowing customers to order Audi's specialist vehicles on demand to suit their requirements and lease them for a limited period.
Combining automated driving with off-road capabilities, the AI:Trail has room for four occupants and glass surrounding the cabin that extends all the way to ground level, providing helicopter-style all-round visibility. Unlike other autonomous concepts, there are no distracting screens inside the cabin for streaming TV series or videoconferencing as Audi says the "Trail" part of the concept's name evokes the idea of exploring nature. On the road, the AI:Trail supports up to level 4 autonomous but still includes driving steering wheel and pedals for off-road driving.
"With the AI:Trail, we are showing an off-road concept with an emissions-free electric drive for an innovative driving experience away from paved roads," said Marc Lichte, Audi's Head of Design. "Consistent with this, we designed a monolithic basic vehicle body with maximum glazing to create an intense connection to the surroundings. A concept for sustainable mobility on demand."
According to Audi, the AI:Trail concept measures 13.5 feet long, 7.05 feet wide, and has a roof height of 5.5 feet, while large 22-inch wheels with chunky 33.5 inch tires hint at the concept's off-road capabilities. With a ground clearance of 13.4 inches, it can ford through water more than 1.6 feet deep and navigate rough terrain without the battery unit integrated in the floor contacting the ground. Despite its high-capacity battery, the concept only weighs 3,858 pounds thanks to the body being made up of high-tech steel, aluminum and carbon fiber materials.
Powering the futuristic off-roader are four electric motors with one powering each wheel for all-wheel drive, producing a combined output of 429 horsepower and 737 lb-ft of torque. This setup also means there's no need for differentials and locks. Since the Ai:Trail is designed for areas without charging infrastructures, the lithium-ion battery delivers an WLTP-rated range of 248.5 to 310.7 miles on roads or less demanding off-road terrain. The range decreases to 155.3 miles on rough terrain.
Instead of featuring conventional low beams and high beam headlights, the Audi AI:Trail is equipped with five rotorless, electrically operated drones with integrated matrix LED elements that can land on a roof rack or on the roof and fly ahead to illuminate the patch ahead.
You can take a look at Audi's futuristic off-road concept in our live shots taken directly from the show floor, where fashion designer and car collector Magnus Walker gave the interior a work out.