Crazy Concept: Audi Nanuk Quattro

By Michael Lockhart

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When it comes to the decision to move a proposed vehicle from concept to development, Audi has some of the best foresight for which vehicle is going to make it big (see: the R8). That's why we were so excited to see the German giant’s latest foray at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, where the Nanuk Quattro blew our minds.

Bold, masculine and ridiculously aggressive, the Nanuk crossover concept, a collaboration with design firm Italdesign Guigiaro, blends the dynamics of a mid-engine sports cruiser with the capabilities of a sports-styled recreation vehicle. Considering the maneuverability and versatility we’ve seen from Audi’s Quattro (AWD) expertise in the past, we’d bet that Audi is gunning to compete for the sport-luxury off-road market. As we saw with the Vail concept last year, Audi has the design and innovation chops to dominate in this arena, though the American market is starting to heat up as well (watch for our review of the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT next week for a prime example).

The two-seater Nanuk is powered by a recently developed V10 TDI, installed longitudinally just in front of the rear axle. This wickedly powerful engine (diesel, not gas) pumps out approximately 544 horses and a very impressive 737 pound-feet of torque, all controlled from the seven-speed S tronic system for an easy glide between gears.

In terms of performance specs, the Nanuk is on the heftier side at over 4,000 pounds—reasonable for its size—but still manages to go from zero to 62 in just 3.8 seconds. If that doesn’t impress you, the top speed of 190 mph will definitely leave you panting. But how much fuel does a vehicle like this pump through? Surprisingly, not that much: 30.16 mpg on average.

The Nanuk is loaded with tech innovations such as the integral steering that alleviates any conflicts between handling and stability by virtually shortening or extending the wheelbase. At low speeds, the rear wheels are turned at an opposite angle to the front, reducing the wheelbase by almost 40 inches and increasing the agility of the vehicle with a smaller turning circle. At higher speeds, the rear wheels turn 2.5 degrees in the same direction as the front wheels to extend the wheel base by 55 inches, increasing stability through fast corners.

Overall, the design is a piece of art. Building off solid sports development such as the recent RS 7, the Nanuk is uncompromising and unabashedly angular, starting with the flat single-frame hexagonal grille. The exaggerated multi headlights remind us of the 2015 NSX Concept (itself a reimagining of our 1990 Car of the Year) but are a nice topper to the front air intakes. The body lines follow over the muscular wheel arches to the tapered side panel feeding directly into the side air intakes that build upon those featured in the R8. The back of the beast displays the distinct crossover elements with a refined hatch that shows off the TDI engine through the rear window; the shape is a touch of Panamera from corporate cousin Porsche.

Whether or not you think Audi needs to diversify its top-tier supercar lineup comes down to personal preference. But from our perspective, we’d love to see one of these fiery demons take to the trails (or track) in the near future.

For more info, check out www.audiusa.com.


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