Many with a passion for cars, driving or motorsport are understandably concerned about what the future holds. From EVs, to intrusive driver aids, to full-on autonomous technology, the days of a driver, three pedals, and a screaming combustion engine seem to be fast disappearing in the rear view mirror. With its latest concept creation, though, Audi is looking to assuage those fears.
Yes, the PB18 e-tron is electric - in a few of decades everything will be - but driving experience and dynamic ability are supposedly at the centre of its ethos. Presenting "a radical vision for the high-performance sports car of tomorrow", its design (and name) is said to have been inspired by Audi's Le Mans winning R18, with the styling though to hint at the next generation of R8.
The working title of the PB18 was "Level Zero" which - aside from being much cooler than PB18 - references the car's complete lack of autonomous tech, with "dynamics and emotion" instead topping its priorities. In this respect it represents the opposite end of Audi's future range to the fully-autonomous Aicon concept revealed last year. That car was described as "a business jet for the road"; in those terms the PB18 will be a Eurofighter.
A mixture of aluminum, carbon and multi-material composites, as well as a comparatively light 95kWh solid-state battery (for a range of around 310 miles), make for a total weight of less than 1,550kg. Not exactly an Elise, then, but not the heaviest supercar out there either.
Power comes from three electric motors delivering 200hp to the front axle and 600hp to the rear, with a maximum output of 612lb ft and 670hp in regular use and a temporary top end of 765hp under boost. Thanks to all that power and, of course, a quattro drivetrain, the 0 to 62mph sprint is taken care of in "scarcely more than" two seconds.
Despite its futuristic appearance, real-world mechanical performance remains relevant to the PB18. Based on the R18's architecture, it features a motorsport-inspired suspension setup with adaptive magnetic ride shock absorbers. These carry 22-inch wheels with 19-inch carbon brake discs, kept cool - along with the front electric motor - by air from those enormous intakes. The rear diffuser, meanwhile, can be lowered and the spoiler extended to increase aerodynamic downforce.
Inside, the driver's seat and cockpit are integrated into a laterally adjustable inner monocoque shell. Thanks to the drive-by-wire design, this monocoque can be positioned in the center of the car when it is driven solo, or slid to the side to make room for a passenger when used in everyday conditions. A transparent OLED panel takes the place of a traditional head-up display, showing the ideal line on track, or plain old sat nav directions on the road.
Gael Buzyn, Head of the Audi Design Loft in Malibu, explains: "We want to offer the driver an experience that is otherwise available only in a racing car like the Audi R18. That's why we developed the interior around the ideal driver's position in the center. Nevertheless, our aim was to also give the PB18 e-tron a high degree of everyday usability, not just for the driver, but also for a potential passenger."
The show car will make its debut at this weekend's Pebble Beach concours, along with a host of other concept designs. As with most of them, don't expect anything like it to see production, but rest assured that there are still designers, engineers and manufacturers out there who seem intent on creating cars for petrolheads. Even once the petrol is gone.