• Audi Just Upped Its Go-Anywhere Game With the AI:TRAIL Concept

Jeeps and Land Rovers of the world, you have the right to be scared if this thing makes it to production

LISTEN 06:08

Audi has made a tradition of dropping stunning concepts whenever an auto show opened its doors. It did it earlier this year in Geneva with the Q4 e-tron and e-tron GT concepts, so we’ve been expecting a similar move for the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show. Well, it happened once again, this time with less “e-tron” and more “quattro”: meet the Audi AI:TRAIL Quattro concept in all its off-road might.

What Is The Audi AI:TRAIL Quattro Concept?

Audi Just Upped Its Go-Anywhere Game With the AI:TRAIL Concept Exterior
- image 861041

Well, it looks like the mother of all Earth-based off-roaders out there but we won’t jump for joy straight away. This is just a prototype that however enticing, might never see daylight as a production model. Then again, you never know what sort of cars the One Percent might find fashionable next, so let’s keep an open mind and focus on the essentials.

Audi says the AI:TRAIL Quattro stretches to 4.15 meters (13.5 feet) in length, 2.15 meters (7.05 feet) in width, and 1.65 meters (5.5 feet) in height.

It sits on massive 22-inch wheels that look like they’ve been taken right off NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover and rises 34 centimeters (13.4 inches) off the ground. As a result, the AI:TRAIL Quattro has no problem waltzing through waters that are 0.5 meters (1.6 feet) deep.

2019 Audi AI:TRAIL quattro exterior dimensions
Length 4.15 meters
Width 2.15 meters
Height 1.67 meters
Audi Just Upped Its Go-Anywhere Game With the AI:TRAIL Concept Exterior
- image 861056

The concept’s underpinnings use a mixture of high-strength steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber in just the rights amounts to offer proper stiffness without burdening the chassis/suspensions too much. To back those claims up, Audi says the AI:TRAIL Quattro tips the scales at 1,750 kilograms, which is roughly (3,858 pounds). Note that this value includes the all-electric drivetrain which we’ll discuss in a bit.

What Powers The Audi AI:TRAIL Quattro Concept?

Audi Just Upped Its Go-Anywhere Game With the AI:TRAIL Concept Exterior
- image 861053

Seriously, did you expect anything else other than an all-electric powertrain? Audi’s whole concept behind the the AI:TRAIL was that it would roam remote areas and we all know charging stations don’t happen to grow in trees or bushes.

That said, Audi highlights the fact that the battery pack fitted inside its concept packs enough energy when full for 400 to 500-kilometer trips (249 to 311 miles).

That’s the rating on asphalt and soft off-road conditions, though. As the terrain gets rough, the AI:TRAIL will need a greater deal of e-juice to do its thing - Audi estimates that during hardcore off-roading, the prototype’s maximum range would drop to 250 kilometers (155 miles) on a full charge.

The issue here, however, is that such wild terrain isn’t exactly found on the outskirts of your regular city, so you’d still have to travel some distance to your off-road playground, meaning you won’t start climbing rocks and whatnot on a full battery. Then there’s the trip back home to consider as well. Performance-wise, the AI:TRAIL can do 130 km/h (80 mph) on the road, which is something we won’t judge given the concept’s ethos.

Audi Just Upped Its Go-Anywhere Game With the AI:TRAIL Concept Exterior
- image 861048
Each wheel is motioned by its own, dedicated electric motor - so there are four electric motors in total, hence the generous use of the “quattro” denomination.

All in all, the e-motor quartet makes 320 kilowatts (that’s roughly 430 horsepower) and 1,000 Newton-meters (738 pound-feet) of torque and since power is sent to each wheel independently, there’s no need for heavy components such as transfer cases, locks, or differentials.

2019 Audi AI:TRAIL quattro specifications
Powertrain Four electric motors and a quattro drive
Horsepower 430 HP
Torque 738 LB-FT
Top Speed 130 km/h (80 mph)
Maximum range 250 kilometers (155 miles)

OK, What’s The AI:TRAIL Concept Like On The Inside?

Audi Just Upped Its Go-Anywhere Game With the AI:TRAIL Concept Interior
- image 861035

Well, you get a yoke (half of a steering-wheel, as the upper section is missing) that further emphasizes the concept’s rover-like nature, a set of pedals, sleek-designed seats fitted with four-point belts, hammocks instead of rear seats and an interesting window arrangement as well - which Audi compares to that of a helicopter. This new approach is best illustrated by the split windscreen (or lowered dashboard if you wish).

In other words, you still get a regular windscreen but in the lower area immediately below it, the lack of a traditional dashboard allowed Audi’s designers to install a second glass surface, narrower, which offers better view directly onto the ground ahead of the vehicle. That’s pretty useful off the road, when in traditional cars, it’s hard to see what you’re about to pass over because there’s no way of seeing through the engine compartment. But with that gone in this case, a simple and humble window does the trick, without the need of cameras pointed at the ground, like we’ve seen on some Land Rovers.

Audi Just Upped Its Go-Anywhere Game With the AI:TRAIL Concept Interior
- image 861034
Now, while driven on the road, the AI:TRAIL offers Level 4 autonomous abilities.

The driver can also summon five rotor-less, triangle-shaped drones fitted with Audi’s Matrix LED tech. These can land and dock onto the inductive charging elements present on the roof of the vehicle, pretty much like bats do in caves - except not upside down. Audi calls them Light Pathfinders and they also act as headlights and courtesy lights when the vehicle is stationary.

Final Thoughts

Audi Just Upped Its Go-Anywhere Game With the AI:TRAIL Concept Exterior
- image 861046

On one hand, we’re really bummed that the Audi AI:TRAIL is far, far away from making it into production at the time of writing. On the other hand, we’re not losing hope, because if Audi actually comes to the market with a production car derived from this prototype (even heavily distilled), the move will make a statement that the off-road trails out there are no longer reserved to torquey heavy oil burners packed with heavy all-wheel-drive systems.

Sure, range is still a major drawback at this point since today’s battery packs will deplete in no time when the strain’s heavy on them but since we expect the technology to become a lot better in the years to come, all-electric off-roaders might just be the new hit.

Think about it. We already have Formula E going strong, carmakers are looking to develop and build all-electric rally cars, so it could very well be that the next move in the field touches on electric off-roading. Now, just sit back and imagine what would an all-electric Baja 1000 or Rally Dakar race would look like.

Tudor Rus
Tudor Rus
Assistant Content Manager - Automotive Expert - tudor@topspeed.com
Tudor’s first encounter with cars took place when he was only a child. Back then, his father brought home a Trabant 601 Kombi and a few years later, a Wartburg 353. At that time, he was too young to know how they worked and way too young to drive them, but he could see one thing – each of them had a different ethos and their own unique personality. As time went on, he started seeing that in other cars as well, and his love for the automobile was born.  Read full bio
About the author

Related Articles

Every E-Tron Electric Car in Audi’s Lineup

What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: