Back in July, Audi released a teaser previewing a concept called the PB18 that it planned to reveal during this month's Monterey Car Week. The shadowy image didn't show much more than the car's headlights, making it difficult to figure out what we were looking at. But now that the car's been officially revealed, we have to say, it looks completely different than we could ever have guessed.
The front of the PB18 is incredibly aggressive, with sharp, angular bodywork, slim headlights, and a hollowed-out grille that takes the Jaguar I-Pace's aero-optimizing front end to the extreme. Yet somehow, it's also the most predictable part of the PB18's design. If Audi announced that's what the next-generation R8 will look like up front, it wouldn't be all that shocking. Once you get past the A-pillars, though, the PB18's design gets a lot more controversial.
The proportions appear to be inspired by other mid-engine supercars, but the car itself is more of a shooting brake. Audi claims the PB18's long-roof design gives it 16.6 cubic feet of cargo space, something you don't usually get in conventional supercars. And while it's hard to judge size based on these renderings, at 178 inches long, 79 inches wide, and 45 inches tall, the PB18 is several inches longer, wider, and lower than the current R8. It also rides on 22-inch wheels, and Audi claims the adjustable diffuser and rear spoiler work together to give the car active aero.
In theory, an electric shooting brake based on a future R8 should be incredibly cool. But for some reason, the PB18 looks more like a movie prop from a reboot of Minority Report than we would have hoped. It may look better in person, of course, but until we see it, we can't say for sure. That also doesn't mean Audi didn't come up with some cool (although possibly theoretical) features for the PB18.
With three electric motors driving all four wheels, the PB18 makes 670 hp and 612 lb-ft of torque. An overboost mode temporarily increases that to 764 hp, giving the PB18 a claimed 0-60 time of about two seconds and making it about as quick as a modern LMP1 prototype. Power for the motors comes from a 95-kWh solid-state battery that promises a maximum range of more than 300 miles on Europe's WLTP cycle. And thanks to its 800-volt charging capability, Audi says the PB18 can be fully charged in about 15 minutes. For maximum on-track performance, the suspension is also derived from Audi's R18 Le Mans car.
The futuristic cabin offers more than a great view of the road and video game-inspired displays. The driver's seat and controls are part of their own shell that can be moved into different positions. During daily use, the driver sits to the side like they would in a conventional car, with room on the right for a passenger. On the track, however, the entire shell slides to the middle, turning the now-single-seat PB18 into a center-drive car.
"We want to offer the driver an experience that is otherwise available only in a racing car like the Audi R18," said Gael Buzyn, head of Audi's Malibu design center, in a statement. "That's why we developed the interior around the ideal driver's position in the center. Nevertheless, our aim was to also give the PB18 e-tron a high degree of everyday usability, not just for the driver, but also for a potential passenger."
SHOW FLOOR UPDATE: So, to the question you're all asking: Will Audi build this thing? Is it the successor to the R8? Maybe.
"The more people coming in, the more reasonable (the business case) becomes," Audi Sport boss Michael Renz said in an interview at the concept debut. "Some of these ideas you see here will be in cars to come quite soon."
That said, Renz noted that the R8 is undergoing some product improvements that should carry it for the next five years. That doesn't necessarily disqualify Audi from selling the two cars alongside each other—one signifying internal-combustion performance, the other electric.
Added Audi of America President Scott Keogh: "We will see what the market tells us. It could be our sports car of the future. Everyone seems to think future electric cars are boring people movers, of a monotonous-drone future. That's not how we see it. "
If so, how long before it could reach the market? Well, consider that the concept went from pencil hitting paper to its unveiling at Monterey Car Week in less than a year—which shows that Audi can move quite quickly when it wishes.
Of course, turning a concept into a production model is a considerably more laborious process, so stay tuned for updates. And call your Audi dealer if you are interested in seeing this sleek electric beast in your driveway. If you come, they will build it. -Mark Rechtin