Audi AI Trail takes Quattro way off the beaten track | CAR Magazine

Audi AI Trail takes Quattro way off the beaten track

Published: 10 September 2019 Updated: 11 September 2019

► All-electric off-roader revealed
► Tech-lite approach surrounds the driver with glass, not touchscreens
► Comes with FIVE drones, hammock seats, and a torch

Audi’s not best-known for its off-road vehicles, with even its Quattro four-wheel drive system aimed at improving traction on the tarmac rather than off it. That’s all change with the new AI Trail Quattro, though – a concept aimed at rather more extreme terrain.

It’s made its debut at the 2019 Frankfurt motor show and is the latest in Audi’s four-strong AI series of concepts – sitting alongside the Aicon, AI Race and AI Me.

Looks like a serious piece of equipment…

2019 Audi AI Trail, front three quarter

One could argue that this is the most focussed of all the AI concepts so far. Just looking it at, the Trail’s clear off-road nature is obvious – most clearly through its vast, 22-inch wheels shod in 33-inch tyres. They’re positioned right at the corners of the car, leaving virtually no overhang and giving the whole thing a sort of ‘beach buggy on steroids’ look to it.

Furthering those off-road credentials is an impressive 34cm of ground clearance, keeping the floor-mounted battery clear of rough terrain. An electric motor at each corner gives permanent four-wheel drive. The total system output is 429bhp and 738lb ft of torque, while on tarmac Audi reckons a WLTP range of 248-310 miles.

Suspension is taken care of via transverse links and McPherson struts, totally visible from the cockpit. A clever tyre design, with supporting struts that are integrated into the treads, provides a further 60mm of travel on top of the suspension.

2019 Audi AI Trail, hammock chair

Those tyres can also be remotely pressurised, working together with optical sensors and the car’s ESC to adjust the tyre pressures according to the road surface.

It’s 4.15m long and 2.15m wide, so certainly not a small machine. It’s no lightweight, either, coming in at 1,750kg – though that’s pretty light for a long-distance EV.

Look at all that glass!

Good, isn’t it? It’s rare that a new concept car isn’t absolutely slathered in screens all round the interior, but Audi’s recognised instead that for off-roading, very little beats a good view out.

To that end, it’s extensively glazed all-round, with a panel below the windscreen, large front quarterlights and a windowline that dips down below the driver’s shoulders. Audi calls it ‘helicopter-style all-round visibility’.

2019 Audi AI Trail, interior

It’s a minimalist aesthetic that’s carried over to the driver’s environment, with only a yoke-style steering wheel and a few buttons on show. Drivers dock their smartphones to provide infotainment and gauges, and that’s it as far as displays go – rather a departure from Audi’s current models, which can feature up to three screens for driver information, infotainment and car functions.

There’s stowage space between the seats and forward of the driver, fitted with tensioning straps to secure items on rough terrain. And in a curious nod to the Citroen 2CV, of all things, the rear seats are styled after hammocks – fabric stretched across a frame that can be removed to use as picnic chairs.

Does it come with a drone?

2019 Audi AI Trail, accessories

No, it comes with FIVE drones. They’re named Audi Light Pathfinders and they replace… the headlights? Though the AI Trail does have light sources in the A-pillars, they play second fiddle to the five, rotorless (like a Dyson fan), autonomous drones, which are equipped with LED spotlights and illuminate the path ahead. They’ve also got cameras, transmitting images of the terrain ahead to the driver.

When docked on the roof rack, they act as stationary spotlights, or if preferred they can act as interior lighting, shining through the panoramic roof.

Finally, and slightly less impressively, there’s a glorified torch named the Audi Light Companion which docks just below the driver’s seat.

The AI Trail may be a spectacular concept but it’s very unlikely to reach production. Don’t get your hopes up when it comes to tech like the drones, either. But some of the AI Trail’s ideas could make their way to future Audis – such as the vast glass area influencing future visibility. Keep your eyes peeled.

By Tom Wiltshire

Bauer Automotive staff writer; enjoys Peugeots, naturally-aspirated diesels, column shifts and steel wheels