With its Gran Turismo concept study unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show, Audi pays tribute to one of the greatest racing drivers of his day. 61 Grand Prix victories and other international successes confirmed Tazio Nuvolari as one of the greatest racing drivers in the period before the Second World War. He raced actively for almost thirty years, and it is to his artistry at the wheel that Auto Union owed many of its Grand Prix triumphs.
With the Nuvolari quattro, Audi’s designers have created a two-door 2 + 2-seater coupe with classic GT proportions. Its lines are an evolutionary interpretation of the current repertoire of outlines typical of Audi’s styling philosophy.
After the debut of the Pikes Peak quattro crossover study at the Detroit Motor Show, the Nuvolari is the second car in 2003 with which Audi shows off the future of the brand: a future notable for systematic emphasis on sporting character, highly advanced technology, unique design and emphasis on exclusiveness.
The front and rear overhangs are very short, which, together with the large 9-arm wheels in the circular wheel arches, emphasises the potent, compact body. This effect is added to by the high tail end with its remarkable stylistic uniformity; the two big, oval exhaust tailpipes provide a visual clue to the power this car’s engine can provide.
The combination of systematic lightweight design and a highly rigid body is doubly important in high-powered GTs such as the Audi Nuvolari quattro – for the car’s performance and also for resistance to vibration, which is a vital precondition for dynamic, comfortable driving.
The decision on how to build the body-in-white was therefore easy: the latest-generation Audi Space Frame proved to be the best concept currently available in both the weight-saving design and rigidity departments.
Like the current A8’s frame architecture, the Nuvolari quattros Audi Space Frame (ASF) consists of a combination of extruded aluminium profiles and cast parts connected tightly together, for a combination of minimum mass and maximum strength.
Leather and aluminium: the atmosphere in the Nuvolari quattro’s interior consists of a dialogue between organic and highly technical materials. The contrasting Stromboli black and Carrara white leather elements and the cool metal surfaces add structure to the layout of the dash panel, doors, and centre console.
The tiptronic gearshift lever has one shift gate. If the driver prefers to select gears manually, he or she can do so at shift paddles behind the three-spoke sports steering wheel – as in the Le Mans-winning Audi R8. The shift lever is then only used to select the P, R, and D modes.
The dash panel, which is covered by a semi-circular hood, combines classic GT architecture and advanced ergonomics. Two large round instrument dials – a speedometer and a rev counter – dominate the central viewing area. The centre console with the MMI display is clearly angled toward the driver.
High power output, maximum torque, refinement and a fascinating sound these are the basic characteristics of a perfect GT engine, with a fascination that lies both in its potent performance and its everyday usability. The 5.0-litre, biturbo V10 has these features plus the bite that comes from ample torque in all engine speed ranges and a willingness to run up to high speeds that is second to none.
This engine is a new design, capable of mobilising an impressive 441 kilowatts of power (600 bhp). FSI petrol direct injection, the advanced technology that is setting new standards and has already paved the way for historic victories in the 2001 and 2002 Le Mans 24-hour races and the American Le Mans Series, makes a decisive contribution to the engine’s performance.
Among the most impressive features of the Audi Nuvolari quattro’s ten-cylinder biturbo FSI engine’s are its willingness to rev freely and the vigorous power flow available at all engine speeds. It accelerates the Gran Turismo from 0 to 100 km/h in just 4.1 seconds and on to a maximum speed that has been governed to 250 km/h. The maximum torque of 750 Nm is available at an engine speed as low as 2,000 rpm and remains constant over a broad engine-speed range. All this results in powerful, not to say supreme, forward thrust, the ideal precondition for driving long distances in a sporting style and also when storming up winding mountain passes.
The Nuvolari quattro transmits the power from its engine to the road via the quattro permanent four-wheel drive layout, which is still unrivalled and provides excellent traction and lateral stability while minimising the effects of the driveline on the self-steering properties. This is a precondition for the car’s enormous cornering speeds and high dynamic stability. In other words: it offers maximum levels of both driving pleasure and active safety.
Driving pleasure was of course one of the main requirements that the Nuvolaris chassis designers were asked to satisfy, because apart from having a powerful engine, GTs are expected to be extremely easy to handle and responsive.
To meet these requirements, the Nuvolari quattro has an aluminium chassis with four-link front and controlled-toe trapezoidal link rear suspension, and both of these concepts lead to enthusiastic cornering ability and high steering precision. A racing-car brake system with large cross-drilled discs is appropriate to a car of this kind, and can be glimpsed through the 9-arm alloy wheels.
The adaptive air suspension – 4-corner air springs with continuous damping control – is the first system of its kind in a GT that resolves the traditionally conflicting goals of excellent handling and comfortable shock absorption on long journeys.
The lowered ride height at high speeds improves the Nuvolari quattro’s aerodynamics. Three pre-defined ground clearance levels are available: normal, with a ground clearance of 100 mm; the autobahn level (from 160 km/h upwards) with a ground clearance of 90 mm and the raised level with a ground clearance of 110 mm, which is ideal for driving on bumpy roads up to a maximum speed of 40 km/h.
Electronic control of the adaptive air suspension allows drivers to adjust the chassis characteristics and thus the driving dynamics to suit their own preferences in three modes – Automatic, Dynamic and Lift. Depending on the selected mode and the actual speed, the system automatically adjusts the damping characteristics and the car’s ride height.