Audi has previewed plans for a new range-topping electric supercar, which will serve as an eventual replacement for the second-generation R8, by taking the wraps off its new PB18 e-tron concept.
The sleek coupé, revealed at the 2018 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance (hence the PB18 name) was created in a joint design and engineering program between the newly established Audi Design Loft in Malibu, California, and Audi Sport in Neckarsulm, Germany. The concept is billed as a vision for the “high-performance supercar of tomorrow”.
It provides a pointer to how Audi envisages its future supercars will look and hints at the brand’s plans to adopt the latest in solid-state battery technology so that they can radically reduce the weight and improve the packaging of its upcoming e-tron models. Despite a four-wheel-drive system, the PB18’s body uses aluminium, carbonfibre and plastic composite materials to bring the kerb weight under 1,550kg.
The PB18 e-tron’s styling seems to be inspired by design cues first seen on the Audi Aicon concept that was showcased at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show, albeit with a more dramatic cab-forward silhouette. An extended cockpit incorporates raked rear-side windows and a large rear window that hint at the look of a modern-day shooting brake.
Key elements within the design include a heavily structured front end featuring a bold hexagon shape grille and large air ducts, as well as thin ‘laser’ headlamps and a prominent splitter designed to direct air evenly across a flat undertray.
The PB18 e-tron has large front wheel arches, wide sills and cooling ducts within the leading edge of the rear wheels. The wide track is further emphasised by large, 22-inch wheels, each featuring eight asymmetric spokes that are meant to resemble turbine inlets, and are shod with 275/35 front and 35/30 rear tyres.
The rear is dominated by an adjustable rear spoiler, a full-width light bar and a high-mounted diffuser, which can be adjusted downward to increase downforce.
The all-electric concept was developed under the working title Level Zero. Surprisingly, the model does not feature any of the autonomous driving functions that recent Audi concept cars get for a more purist approach.
The adoption of fully electric steering, throttle and brake functions has allowed Audi to provide it with a variable cockpit design that allows the driver’s seat and dashboard to be positioned in two ways – either to the left of the interior, like a typical road car, or in the centre, as in a traditional race car.
With a length of 4,530mm, width of 2,000mm and a height of 1,150mm, the PB18 e-tron is around 100mm longer, 60mm wider and 90mm lower than the current R8. It also has a wheelbase that is 50mm longer.
The adoption of the shooting brake design and lack of complex drivetrain hardware at the rear underscores Audi’s desire for everyday usability, resulting in a 470-litre boot.
The PB18 e-tron is powered by three electric motors – one mounted within the front axle delivering 204hp and two mounted within the rear axle producing 237hp each. Combined system output is 680hp, although a boost function allows for 775hp for brief periods, giving the car a power-to-weight ratio of 516hp per tonne. Torque peaks at 830Nm. The most powerful R8 variant is powered by a naturally aspirated 5.2-litre petrol V10 motor that makes 610hp and 660Nm.
Audi claims a theoretical 0-100kph time of “scarcely more than two seconds”. While a top speed has yet to be revealed, Audi has confirmed that the car is good for speeds of more than 300kph, depending on range.
The brand claims significant efficiency gains with its newest electric driveline due to the adoption of a new regenerative braking system. It also says the cab-forward design of the PB18 e-tron serves to provide it with a centre of gravity located behind the seats, similar to the current R8.
A liquid-cooled solid-state battery with a capacity of 95kWh provides energy to the three motors. Mounted underneath the boot, it is claimed to provide a maximum range of up to 500km on the latest WLTP cycle.
With 800V compatibility, the PB18 e-tron’s battery can be fully charged in around 15 minutes, Audi claims. Alternatively, it can be charged wirelessly via induction.
Drawing a link to Audi's motorsport activities, the PB18 e-tron uses a suspension system inspired by the R18 e-tron quattro LMP1 racer, with independent lower and upper transverse control arms, a pushrod system up front and a pullrod arrangement at the rear, while each end is fitted with variable magnetic ride dampers.