Audi is saying ‘happy 40th birthday Quattro’ with a concept seemingly plucked from our wildest dreams. Say hello to the RS6 GTO.
Yes, while a birthday gift for Quattro, the RS6 GTO quite obviously takes influence and pays homage to the fire-spitting Trans-Am and IMSA GTO racers of the late 1980s. Fitting, that the first RS6 Avant to go to America should serve as the base for a nod to the marque’s most famous American racing car.
While obviously based on the RS6 Avant road car we oh-so adore, quite a lot has changed about Audi’s supercar-slaying über wagon in its transition to GTO spec. The IMSA influence goes well beyond the white, grey and red paint scheme. Strip that away and you notice even meatier box arches, side-exit pipes and gargantuan brilliant white wheel caps. A gurning splitter, enormous diffuser, a brilliant red spoiler and snarling bonnet vents join the arsenal of aero addenda.
On the inside, an elaborate brilliant white roll cage fills the back, while hardcore Recaro seats with six-point harnesses dominate up-front. Yes, the back is pretty well stripped and in another nod to the marque’s American monsters, the front windows have been replaced with safety nets. The dashboard appears to go unchanged, however. What Hans Joachim Stuck would make of those touch controls, we’re not so sure...
As for what else is going on underneath? We’d love for there to be a hopped-up version of Audi’s snarling 2.5-litre five-cylinder under the bonnet, though that’s unlikely. Realistically, there’s probably a good deal of ‘standard’ RS6 that remains under the skin, which is no bad thing. The standard 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 doesn’t quite match the original 90 IMSA GTO’s 720PS+ output though.
As is often the case with projects as cool as this, it’s the product of a young and ambitious team of apprentices. The project is the baby of Audi’s ‘Azubi’ apprentice programme, which used its Instagram page to reveal the car.
"The RS6 GTO concept of our apprentices has turned out to be an incredibly great car. I am very proud of our Neckarsulm apprentices and the results of their work," says Helmut Stettner, Neckarsulm plant manager and project sponsor. "The passion and energy of the young colleagues is impressive - as the vehicle itself. Our location can look forward to young, committed people who contribute their ideas, talents and potential and actively support our team," Stettner sums up.
Why not a modern Quattro? Quite simply, Audi has done it before. In fact, it did it as a 30th birthday celebration in 2010 that looking back, quite heavily informed the design of the second-generation R8 supercar.
That car did use a 400PS version of the contemporary five-cylinder engine and borrowed the underpinnings of the RS5. So the RS6 GTO is realistically Audi not repeating itself but that vastly understates its coolness. Arguably, it’s cooler than the Quattro Concept.
Why? The 90 IMSA GTO of course. One season, seven wins and two race entries away from one-and-done glory. Dominant as the 90 was even in its first (and only) season, it didn’t actually secure the championship because of Audi’s decision to not enter Daytona and Sebring over reliability concerns. Even without the overall win, though, everyone remembers the 90 for its potential and what could have been. Never mind the unforgettable looks, it has one of the all-time great racing powertrains that blows our minds whenever it’s wound out at FOS.
A fitting car, then, to give the nod on the Quattro’s 40th anniversary with the RS6 GTO. Audi, if you want to go after the Alfa Romeo Giulia GTAm and Jaguar XE SV Project-8 with an IMSA-influenced RS4 special along the same lines as this, you have our full support.