Audi AI:TRAIL quattro Concept Turns Heads in Frankfurt

FRANKFURT, Germany—Audi today hosted the world premiere of a weird-looking concept at the 2019 Frankfurt Auto Show. In fact, it might be closer to a Mars rover than an automobile.

As the fourth member of the AI concept family, the new Audi AI:TRAIL quattro is a fully electric off-roader with level-4 autonomy.

Styling is, in a word, spectacular. The glass surrounding the cabin extends all the way to ground level, providing unrivaled all-around visibility and making for an immersive experience for the driver and passengers. Similarly, almost the entire roof—from the top of the windshield to the rear spoiler—allows a clear view of the sky and the landscape.

Both the windshield and the tailgate open wide, providing easy access to large storage compartments with straps to keep cargo secure in transit.

The AI:TRAIL quattro rides on 22-inch wheels wrapped in 33.5-inch tires, resulting in a massive ground clearance of 13.4 inches and a water fording capacity of 1.6 feet. Optical sensors and electronic stability control work together to detect the condition of the road surface and adjust the air pressure in the tires accordingly (less pressure is preferable on sand to increase the contact patch, while more pressure on asphalt increases stability).

Four Electric Motors

From a technical standpoint, the body of this concept is made of a mixture of high-tech steel, aluminum and carbon fibre, which explains its light weight of 1,750 kilograms.

There are four electric motors, or one for each wheel, and torque distribution is governed electronically by the quattro system. Output is rated at 429 horsepower and 737.6 pound-feet.

The AI:TRAIL quattro has a range of 400-500 kilometres on the road based on the WLTP standard. On rough ground, where the almost constantly elevated wheel slip alone means that energy consumption is higher, that target drops to about 250 kilometres.

Meet the Audi Light Pathfinders

Lighting on this concept is pretty cool. Instead of conventional low beams and high beams, the Audi AI:TRAIL is equipped with five rotorless, triangular, electrically operated drones with integrated matrix LEDs called Audi Light Pathfinders. They are capable of landing on a roof rack or directly on the roof of the vehicle, and docking onto the inductive charging elements.

If desired, the on-board cameras generate a video image that can be transmitted to the display in front of the driver via Wi-Fi, turning the drones into eyes in the sky.

What’s more, self-contained light sources sit below the front and rear pillars and can shine both outward and inward. These LED elements are dimmable and adjustable and can be used as interior lighting as well as for lighting the vehicle’s path.

Minimalist Cockpit

The AI:TRAIL quattro is devoid of screens and boasts a very minimalist cockpit. Pedals, a yoke for a steering wheel, a few buttons and a smartphone attached to the steering column as a display and control centre for vehicle functions and navigation are all that’s needed.

There are two comfortable-looking, almost delicate seat shells in the front row, both equipped with four-point seat belts. In the rear, the two seats are designed like hammocks. They can even be taken out of the vehicle and used as mobile outdoor chairs.

In Frankfurt, the AI:TRAIL quattro is shown alongside the three other concepts developed by Audi over the past two years including the Aicon from 2017, the AI:RACE (formerly known as PB18) from 2018 and the AI:ME introduced in Shanghai earlier this year.

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