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Audi Prologue Concept First Drive

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 1/15/2015 Rory Jurnecka, Robin Trajano

Audi's Prologue concept -- essentially a two-door coupe take on the yet-unseen A8 sedan -- was a stunner at the L.A. Auto Show. Even there, under the bright lights and surrounded by plenty of other shiny sheetmetal, it was a sight to behold. It's even more outrageous when it's seen standing here at the SLS Hotel in downtown Beverly Hills. And we're about to take it for a lap around the real streets of one of the United States' wealthiest zip codes.

Audi Prologue Concept First Drive

This car is one of two built, and Audi reps are rightly a little nervous about sending it out on the road with an auto hack. Before climbing into the concept, I'm presented with a set of disposable white coveralls to wear in an attempt to preserve the car's delicate cream-colored leather interior. After all, this car cost more than $1 million to produce, and Audi would like to keep it looking as-new for the remainder of its public appearances. My Audi engineer co-pilot and I carefully climb aboard, both looking like extras from a '70s science-fiction flick.

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Audi Prologue Concept© Provided by MotorTrend Audi Prologue Concept The experience is quickly escalated as I find that we have an official police escort — fore and aft of the Audi — with sirens wailing and lights flashing at every intersection, stopping traffic and guiding us through red lights. Then there's the raucous bellow from the nearly straight exhaust system fitted to the Prologue's 597-hp, 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 (essentially a modified engine from the S8 sedan). Today, there's some sort of software glitch that's causing a miscommunication between the accelerator pedal and the engine, which basically means that moving off from a stop is a bit of a crapshoot. Maybe the Prologue will move forward in a controlled manner, maybe it will roar off at nearly full throttle, maybe it will do nothing and threaten to stall -- all part of the excitement.

Of course, we're attracting a significant amount of attention by now with a car that looks a movie prop and sounds like it's ready to run at Circuit de la Sarthe in June. Old money, middle-aged Beverly Hills residents stare angrily, wondering who dares to disturb their relative peace. The younger set has its phones out, recording the proceedings to upload to YouTube later. A car full of twenty-something females pulls alongside, windows down, shouting things that aren't really discernible above the thunderous grumbleblatblatpopbanggrowl coming from the Prologue's exhaust. Nearly everyone at least turns a head to see what all the commotion is.

Despite the madness surrounding our little circus, inside the Prologue it's quite pleasant. The seats are comfortable, the ride shockingly so, the steering is light and precise, and the brakes work well. Visibility out the front is excellent with the large windscreen and thin A-pillars, and the car generally has a light feeling to it that belies its actual size and weight.

Audi Prologue Concept© Provided by MotorTrend Audi Prologue Concept The interior is uncluttered and ultra-modern, with OLED screens that cover nearly every function — and every surface. There's a large screen in the center stack, coupled with a strip of touchscreen that spans the passenger's width of dashboard. This unconventional screen shape and placement is something that Audi says will become commonplace in the future, replacing most hard buttons, knobs, and switches. Indeed, the only physical button that's immediately obvious is the one used to start the car. The approach is a progression of the new TT's Virtual Cockpit design but leaves me somewhat skeptical, so I asked Prologue's chief designer, Marc Lichte, about the feasibility of such design. His response: "Do you think your next-gen iPhone will have switches or buttons? Why should your next car be any different?"

Underneath the Prologue's skin is a combination of current- and next-gen Audi A8 pieces. Some within Audi say the chassis is nearly production-ready; it just requires final tweaking. That doesn't mean all the components are production pieces — many are custom built just for this car -- but the basic evolution of the chassis is strong enough that no major changes should be necessary.

What of this car will we see in future Audi products? Well, the design language is a certainty. Expect the revised Audi grille and front end to make its way to the A6/7/8 lines. Those wheels, which look like they're being twisted with the car's torque, are also production-viable. But will we actually see a two-door A8 to rival Mercedes' S-Class coupe? It's a possibility at the very least. Keep your fingers crossed. Audi Prologue Concept© Provided by MotorTrend Audi Prologue Concept

Audi Prologue Concept© Provided by MotorTrend Audi Prologue Concept
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