Concept Cars

Audi PB18 E-Tron concept doesn't give a hoot about autonomy

It's refreshing to see a concept car in 2018 that's all about the driver.

Audi

These days, just about every concept car from a major automaker is, at the least, autonomous and electric. While Audi's latest concept is fully electric, it wants absolutely nothing to do with autonomy. Talk about a breath of fresh air.

Audi has unveiled its latest concept, the PB18 E-Tron concept, during this week's Monterey Car Week festivities. It's a supercar, but an electric one -- three electric motors (two rear, one front) provide a net output of 671 horsepower and 612 pound-feet of torque, with occasional overboosting that bumps the power up to 764 hp. Audi says it'll hit 62 mph in little over 2.0 seconds, which is bumping up against race-car territory.

If this gives us any indication what a future R8 will look like, color me even more excited than I already was.

Audi

Despite those lofty performance figures, there's still some focus on efficiency. The car can be programmed to not exceed a set speed in order to boost its range on the road. Its regenerative braking system doesn't even require help from the usual friction brakes until heavy braking is required. Its 95-kWh battery has a range of over 310 miles by European measurements (WLTP cycle), and it can handle the same 800-volt charging that Porsche's upcoming Taycan will utilize. It can also be wirelessly charged, albeit likely at a slower pace.

While the PB in the car's name is pretty straightforward -- it debuted at Pebble Beach -- the 18 doesn't actually signify the year it came out. Instead, it's a throwback to Audi's R18 Le Mans race car, and it points to the numerous racing-inspired parts on the concept. The PB18 E-Tron has carbon brakes and a suspension system modeled after the R18's.

The interior also borrows a bit from racing. The driver sits front and center in a special monocoque that includes both the seat as well as the car's controls. But, in the event a passenger needs a ride, that entire monocoque can slide laterally to provide a more traditional driver-side seating position with room for a second person. A transparent OLED surface in the driver's line of sight can show driving lines or navigation directions.

I've saved the best part for last -- exterior styling. This thing rules. It looks like the R8 supercar was thrust into a new generation through a very futuristic lens, retaining its low, wide stance while gaining more aggressive character lines. And then there's the back, which has a flat roof and tall rear windshield reminiscent of a shooting brake. That's right -- this thing is halfway to a darn station wagon. Sign me up.

Audi prides itself on this vehicle's complete lack of autonomy. It's a pure driver's car, and it's clear that Audi believes there will be a desire for these vehicles in the future. Besides, it's already rolled out a number of concepts that focus on autonomy and that kind of human-assistance tech, so it'd be a bit boring if every one of its cars was capable of full autonomy.