Audi e-Tron Spyder Concept introduced at the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours race

Article by Christian Andrei, on June 13, 2011

Audi attracted a lot of attention at the Le Mans 24 Hours, not only with its three Audi R18 TDI cars but also with its e-tron Spyder concept car and the Q5 hybrid quattro road car. Audi’s racing expertise as well as its prowess off the track truly makes the brand impressive.

It also helps that Audi had several famous guests and had numerous activities that involved the factory drivers. The e-tron Spyder was put on display for a larger audience too.

On the track, Audi showed off the prototype with an electric powertrain as well as the Audi Q5 hybrid Quattro. These became part of the "Le Mans vers le futur" presentation.

With two electric motors and a TDI engine, the Audi e-tron Spyder can deliver a system power output of 388 hp. The production SUV Q5 hybrid quattro is expected to start selling before the year ends. Making its world debut at Le Mans is the Audi R8 GT Spyder.

The new road-going sports car, which is built using Audi’s ultra lightweight technology, was driven by Marco Werner, the former Le Mans winner.

Audi, which was the winner last year, returned the Le Mans trophy, a challenge cup, to the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) before the race started. The Horch 853A sport cabriolet was driven by no other than Rupert Stadler, the Chairman of the Board of Management.

The e-tron Spyder Concept released by Audi is not only the most advanced version of the brand’s design language, it is also the most consistent of its evolution of it. It even provides subtle clues on what design language Audi’s sports cars will have in the future. While the e-tron concept that was previously launched had its own design elements that made it unique, the new e-tron Spyder Concept puts its own spin to it. As a result, the e-tron Spyder Concept is able to differentiate itself from the e-tron that is solely powered by electricity and first revealed during the 2010 Detroit Motor Show.

One distinct feature of the new model is that because its wheelbase is only at 2.43 meters (7.97 feet), it gives the impression of being stocky. When compared to the wheelbase of the R8, this is shorter by 22 centimeters (8.66 inches). Even so, it does have the standard dimensions one would expect from a high-performance sports car. It has a length of 4.06 meters (13.32 feet), with width at 1.81 meters (5.94 feet), and height at 1.11 meters (3.64 feet). When compared to the coupe concept, the one presented in Detroit, the new version is longer by 13 centimeters (5.12 inches) and wider by3 centimeters (1.18 inches).

This highlights the design’s athletic ambitions. It even improves further the compact and strong overall look that highlights the qualities of both vehicles. It also connects the two to the R8, the sportiest production vehicle form Audi. In terms of appearance, the surfaces of its frameless side glass narrow down to the back which acts as a tribute to motor sports. They then form into a single unit when combined with the windshield which is inclined and curved like that of a helmet’s visor.

Mounted evenly in the front windows, as well as on the side windows, is a carbon application that covers the glass and proves the proficiency in the design and the manufacturing that was applied to this model. The hood also shows that the new model is clearly inspired by race cars. On the hood is the central air inlet that is wide enough and that has a curve that emphasizes the dynamics of its front portion and delivers both a functional and graphical association to the R8 LMS.

Helping confirm that this two-seater is indeed part of Audi’s line-up is the sweeping and sharp line on the front silhouette. Since the front end is sharply narrow, it gives a wedge-like shape to the e-tron Spyder Concept. Dominating the wedge-shaped front end is the grille that comes in a single frame and shaped like a trapezoid. On both sides of this grille are air intakes that have been made larger. These function as the electric drive system’s cooling intakes and even help cool the TDI engine that is at the rear of this vehicle.

Just above it, the grille is joined by the flat strips of the adaptive matrix beam headlight modules and through the three-dimensional clear glass covers, is able to follow the shape of its functional components. All of the light units being utilized by the e-tron Spyder Concept are made up of the extremely efficient LED technology. The e-tron Spyder Concept, and the model before it, places the brand’s signature four rings on top of its single frame. This is the same treatment done on the R8. Just under the four rings is where the charging station of its batteries is housed.

The rings are able to fade from sight on the lower part of the front hatch. Once this is done, it shows not just the plug needed for charging but also the current charge state and a graphic that shows the present electric range. The sides have that recognizable outline albeit in a new form. Its smooth side surfaces are bordered by the well-defined edges which at the same time also divides the horizontal areas from the vertical ones.

The shoulder line is able to enclose tightly the lines that are in the contoured wheels wells. It also manages to combine these to the vehicle body’s upper edge. When looked at from the rear, the e-tron Spyder Concept become more horizontally pronounced and is oriented more to the road.

The distinct sills come with a new cut, a feature that is singled out by the diffuser and spoiler at the front and at the rear. Even here, the carbon elements that have been inspired from motor sports also manage to put extra highlights. Even the engine cover that is in the back is composed of carbon, which is also what the lighting frame and the license plate are made up of. The air outlets underneath the lateral light are made of carbon as well.

The 20-inch wheels are also another unique feature in the e-tron Spyder Concept. It makes use of the blade design that was on the first e-tron car and improves on this to have a three-dimensional turbine design. The wheels are made of a combination of carbon and aluminum and they’ve been designed to improve the aerodynamics while being pleasing to look at. Each wheel is complex and is composed of 66 different components.

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