Do you remember... the 2003 Audi Nuvolari Quattro concept

05th April 2018
Ethan Jupp

As of this year’s Geneva Motor Show, it’s been fifteen years exactly since Audi introduced one of its most crucial concept cars of recent memory. It indicated (reliably) the design direction that Audi was to take for the next ten years. It previewed a model that would cement Audi as a legitimate competitive piece of the German tripartite we so love to compare today. It paid tribute to a totem of the Auto Union Legend. It’s the Audi Nuvolari Quattro Concept.


We’ll address all of these points – why the Nuvolari is such an important one-off for Audi – as well as allude to the fact that in spite of that significance, it was but a third of Audi’s three-concept preview of a new model and image onslaught.

Nuvolari to some might sound an odd exotic name for a manufacturer whose forecourt bread and butter was a selection of numbered As Ss and RSs. It in fact commemorated 50 years (in 2003) since the death of Tazio Nuvolari – master Grand Prix helmsman of the mad propaganda-fuelled era of racing leading up to global war in 1939. Auto Union became the Au in Audi – a story for another feature, we feel. Nuvolari’s prodigious death-defying antics behind the wheel fortified the backbone of Audi’s gestational heritage.

The Nuvolari Concept, at least in part, evokes the spirit of those old Auto Unions. That long swooping dull silver body with a beating heart of excessive power – a 5.0-litre twin-turbo V10 producing 600bhp. Mega numbers for a car of its type in 2003. A similar unit would go on to motivate 2009’s brutal RS6. 

While an appropriate nod to a hero of Audi’s past, the Nuvolari Quattro primarily looked to the future. Granted, of the three (Nuvolari, Pikes Peak and Le Mans) concepts, this would lend least to the specific model it inspired, the silhouette, interior layout and general premium exotic demeanour would live on. The introduction of the A5 in 2007, along with production versions of the other concepts, put Audi on the map for a new era. 


It all fell in to place perfectly, in truth. The imposing, trapezoidal grille that we now know and love (and some love to loathe), the beautifully appointed leather-lashed cabins with choice splashes of Alcantara and a crisp infotainment – the Nuvolari previewed it all on the eve of the “every appliance in my kitchen is brushed stainless steel” modern style revolution.

The specifics of its styling would be lent to many corners and generations of Audi’s range. The headlight shape previewed what 2008’s B8 A4 would look like, the rear lights 2004’s B7 A4 and the cabin, A5, with an early version of MMI, those display binnacles and that grille shape on the wheel all clear to see. All would be in service in subsequent production models for the following decade or more. 

The Nuvolari was primarily a wide-reaching styling exercise that laid the groundwork for the fascia of a more assertively premium brand. The cultural leviathan “life goals” Audi, that dominates the aspirations and Instagram feeds of millennial materialism today. Suppose it shares that with the Auto Unions too ­– a similar crowbar in popular culture and understanding, albeit one less sinister and deliberate.

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