Audi's Le Mans Concept Hints at new Über-car
Audi Le Mans quattro concept
It's a part Ferrari 360, and part Audi TT
Twin-turbo 5.0-litre V10 donk lives in the rear
20-inch wheels, 449kW, 750Nm, 4WD
The Le Mans quattro concept: Audi gets serious
Not wanting to be left behind by German juggernauts BMW,
Mercedes and Volkswagen, it was imperative that Audi offered
up something special, something unique, at the 2003 Frankfurt
Thankfully, Germany's oft-forgotten marque unveiled a jaw-dropping
concept on which a production model quasi-supercar is almost
guaranteed to be produced.
Mercedes has already officially launched its stunningly powerful
SLR McLaren and
BMW is well on its way to unveiling its V10-powered M5 and
M6 models, both of
which have been built to celebrate their respective marque's
achievements in Formula One racing.
While Audi can't lay claim to an F1-inspired supercar, it
does have a very viable alternative: Le Mans racing.
Audi's new "Le Mans quattro" concept study pays
homage to the German automaker's recent successes in the Le
Mans 24-Hours race, which is a supreme test of both driver
determination and engine endurance.
And like Mercedes' SLR and BMW's M6, this sexy new two-door
concept car derives its locomotion from a V10 powerplant.
The very attractive Le Mans quattro concept looks more like
an Italian than something styled in Ingolstadt, but of most
import is the powertrain.
A 5.0-litre V10 engine with twin-turbochargers sits behind
the driver in a mid-mount position, with a vee angle of 90°.
The 10-cylinder mill has 40 valves [2 intake, 2 exhaust per
cylinder], which are actuated by quad overhead camshafts and
both intake and exhaust valves have continuously variable
opening periods to ensure optimum fuel flow at all engine-speed
While BMW is sticking with its nat-atmo V10 engine, Audi
has decided to follow Mercedes to achieve a higher power output
via forced induction.
Two turbochargers driven from the exhaust and located behind
the mid-mounted engine help boost the pressure of the combustion
air to a maximum of 2.0 bar [29 psi] before it is forced into
the engine. That's a lot of pressure.
Charge-air intercoolers cool down the ultra-dense pressurised
air, which are mounted above the engine.
They are fed with air through an inlet on the body side and
have an additional low-temperature cooling water circuit.
All this engineering goodness adds up to a very promising
449kW (610bhp) @ 6800rpm, which is very high in the rev range
for such a large engine, and particularly one with forced
Such high power levels are made possible thanks to a combination
of cylinders, capacity, turbocharging and variable valve timing,
but an oft-forgotten contributor is Audi's patented direct
petrol injection (FSI) system.
It set new standards in the cars that won such historic victories
in the 2001 and 2002 Le Mans races and in the American Le
Mans Series, combining outstandingly efficient power output
with highly efficient combustion of the fuel.
Despite a high-rev peak power output, the 5.5-litre V10 engine
delivers maximum torque from a staggering 1750rpm.
A whopping 750Nm of torque kicks in @ 1750rpm and remains
constant until 5800rpm, gifting the Audi Le Mans quattro concept
with one of the flattest and longest torque curves ever seen.
It has a potential powerband stretching more than 5000 revolutions
per minute, which should translate into plenty of go.
Audi spinmeisters at the Frankfurt Motor Show had plenty
of numbers to back up their big power figures, claiming the
Le Mans quattro can hit 100km/h from standstill in 3.7 seconds,
which would make it faster than Lamborghini's biggest bull,
This blindingly quick time is possible thanks to the car's
fairly light 1530kg kerb weight. It makes use of an aluminium
Audi Space Frame (ASF) that forms the central structure and
the outer skin and add-on parts use a weight-saving aluminium
and carbon-fibre mix.
Audi's eye-catching new prototype will hit 200km/h in 10.8
seconds and, despite the concept study being electronically
limited to a 250km/h top speed, Audi engineers reckon the
sleek AWD supercar is capable of speeds nearing 350km/h.
While there is no clutch pedal on offer for would-be drivers
of the Le Mans quattro concept, there is also no torque converter,
meaning the 4-wheel drive transmission makes use of a sequentially
shifting 6-speed semi-auto gearbox, complete with twin clutches
for millisecond-quick gear changes.
The 'box will first see light of day on Audi's 2004-model
3.2-litre V6-powered TT, where two clutches are mated to two
input shafts. The inner shaft drives first, third, and fifth
gears and the outer shaft works with second, fourth, and sixth
The gearbox's quick shifts occur because even when you have
one gear engaged, the unused clutch/input shaft is prepped
and waiting on another ratio, ready to snap in, equating to
an extremely short-lived gear change delay.
In addition to the DSG gearbox, as Audi calls it, the head-turning
Audi makes use of a very sophisticated quattro system, that
allows a wide array of torque distribution between the front
and rear wheels.
Le Mans quattro's power delivery has been engineered to suit
its mid-engined layout and the associated axle-load distribution.
For optimal traction and dynamic road behaviour, the power
from this mid-engined supercar's 10-cylinder motor is normally
distributed in a ratio of 40:60, front:rear axles.
This achieves maximum agility together with optimal traction
- essentials for supreme road dynamics in all conditions and
on corners of varying radii.
The version of the quattro driveline [with Torsen C inter-axle
differential] used in the Le Mans quattro is of course capable
of diverting engine torque to the axle at which there is more
tyre grip available, which is used in order to suppress wheelspin
(let's hope it's switchable though). Depending on the amount
of grip detected, torque distribution between the front and
rear axles can be varied continuously from 20:80 to 70:30
The Audi Le Mans quattro, with its Jet Blue paint finish,
is not only a brilliant exercise in performance engineering,
it's also a very impressive car to look at.
With a wide stance and a bullish appearance on the road,
the Audi has a powerful rear end that is reminiscent of the
TT in a slightly absurd way. It measures 1.90 metres wide,
is fairly short at 4.37 metres long and is very low 1.25 metres
high. A wheelbase of 2.65 metres accommodates a surprisingly
spacious cockpit and the longitudinally-installed V10 "biturbo"
engine behind it.
To the rear of the doors, between the sill and the roof,
there is a large outward-curving intake that supplies the
V10 engine, the brakes, the oil cooler and the charge-air
intercooler with sufficient air.
The Le Mans quattro concept sits on large-diameter 20-inch
wheels with seven double-arm styling and the front tyres are
sized 255/30 with the rears rated at 295/30. The brake discs
are made from a ceramic material, with diameters of 380mm
at the front and 356mm at the rear. These are clamped with
killer eight-piston fixed calipers at the front and fist-type
calipers at the rear.
Audi made a big statement with the Le Mans quattro concept
at the 2003 Frankfurt International Motor Show, and it's safe
to say that the marque will be using the twin-turbo V10 engine
in its upcoming supercar that will undoubtedly go head-to-head
with Mercedes, BMW, Lamborghini, Aston Martin and Ferrari.
Whether the Le Mans Quattro will be the vehicle to deliver
the marque's first V10 engine is still up in the air, with
insiders saying a stretched and restyled Audi TT is a more
likely candidate. Either way, this exciting new concept indicates
that Audi is still very much a power player not only in Germany,
but on a global scale.