Think of it as an EV Quattro successor.
Audi is an automaker steeped in racing heritage, specifically rallying. The Sport Quattro dominated Group B rallying in the 1980s and put Audi on the map, but surprisingly, the company has never produced a dedicated successor. Until know. Though it's quite different from the original Quattro, the new Audi RS Q e-tron is the closest thing we've seen to a spiritual successor. Unlike other EVs like the 2022 Audi e-tron, the RS Q e-tron wasn't built to look nice in a showroom; it was designed to conquer the Dakar Rally.
While Audi isn't the first company to attempt the Dakar with an EV, it is the first to use an EV with an efficient energy converter. In this case, the car packs a TFSI engine from an Audi DTM car. This 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is extremely reliable and efficient, tuned to achieve excellent fuel economy, running between 4,500 and 6,000 rpm while producing 580 horsepower. The RS Q e-tron uses the engine to keep the 50-kWh battery pack charged, but the electric motors move it forward.
The car features two electric motors from the e-tron FE07 Formula E car on each axle, not mechanically connected by a physical propshaft or differential. Instead, Audi uses software to create a freely configurable center differential that can distribute the torque across the axles. In addition to the generator, energy is added to the battery via braking. The total system output is 670 horsepower, but Audi isn't sure if it will need that much power in the Dakar race.
As for the car itself, Audi clearly hasn't bothered to make the RS Q e-tron look like a production vehicle that might appear in a showroom soon. "The vehicle looks futuristic and has many design elements that are typical of Audi," says Juan Manuel Diaz, Team Leader of Motorsport Design at Audi. "Our aim was to symbolize Vorsprung durch Technik and the future of our brand."
Though we can't see anything like this making it to production, we'd love to see Audi release some kind of Dakar-inspired electric rally car that customers can buy.
Audi has already tested a prototype in Neuburg at the beginning of July, with more cross-country rallies scheduled for this year as part of an intensive test program. This all leads to the ultimate goal, winning the infamous Dakar rally in January 2022. The Dakar is a grueling two-week event, with stages up to around 500 miles in length, making the RS Q e-tron perfect for the job with its DTM-sourced generator.
"This project's schedule is extremely packed and challenging," said Andreas Roos, Dakar project manager at Audi Sport. "Less than twelve months have passed since the project officially started. We had to begin the development while the regulations for alternatively-powered vehicles had not even been finalized yet. And all of the development took place during the Corona pandemic. You mustn't underestimate that either. What the team has achieved so far is unique. The roll-out was a very special moment for everyone."