It looks like it’s meant for outer space.
Audi seems to have one design goal with their AI:Trail concept — take everything you know about off-road SUVs and ATVs and throw it in the trash bin. This is just a concept, but Audi insists this shows the company’s path forward into the future. To that end, the AI:Trail is meant to be an all-electric vehicle meant to head well off the beaten track. Audi just revealed this vehicle at this year’s Frankfurt Auto Show, alongside major reveals like the all-new Land Rover Defender.
And let’s get one thing out of the way right now. If you’ve been calling it the “AI” Trail, as indeed we were, that’s the wrong pronunciation. It’s sounded out as the “I” Trail, even with the A in the name. I have a feeling Audi would have drawn the ire of a certain tech company if they actually called it the “I:Trail”. The AI:Trail joins Audi’s electric concept lineup, including the AI:Con, AI:Me and AI:Race. Each of the vehicles take on a different aspect of daily life, from a city runabout to a long-distance cruiser, fun racing toy, and indeed a purpose-built off-roader.
The design is wonderfully ludicrous
Journalists the world over seem to be salivating over the AI:Trail, basically pleading in unison for Audi to put it into production. It’s spectacularly different from any other off-roader out there, with its wraparound glass canopy, sharp edges and lines everywhere, and large off-road wheels and tires that are pushed out right to the edges of the vehicle.
At first glance, this strikes me more as a four-seater side-by-side than a traditional SUV, though Audi refers to it as a car. At 13.5 feet long and 7.05 feet wide, its dimensions are pretty close to something like a Polaris RZR XP 4. The Audi AI:Trail has 22-inch wheels, however, with 33.5 inch tires and a decent 13.4 inches of ground clearance. Audi says its vehicle can ford up to 1.6 feet of water. As it’s a pure-electric vehicle, the Audi AI:Trail also weighs in at a hefty 3,858 pounds, though it does use a mixture of steel, aluminum and carbon fiber to try and keep the weight at bay.
One of the most striking parts of the interior in the Audi AI:Trail is hte complete lack fo instrumentation. Your smartphone docks into a port atop the steering wheel, and crucial information is displayed through the app. That allowed designers to move the entire dashboard down, allowing for greater visibility. On that subject, the sheer glass area does allow for nearly a full 360-degree field of vision, which can help when you’re off-road.
The Audi AI:Trail is a level 4 autonomous vehicle, at least when you would be driving it on the road. An autonomous off-roader may sound a bit strange — after all, one of the points of going off-road is to challenge your driving skills — but Audi’s system won’t actually work off-road. They point that out in their release:
“The driver needs to resume the task [of manually driving] only when the car leaves the area defined for fully automated driving. The Audi AI:TRAIL is therefore equipped with the traditional steering wheel and pedals. The driver will need them when going off road at the latest.”
Being an off-road concept, the Audi AI:Trail needs to have some range behind it to really make the cut against conventional off-roaders. Audi says the target for range on the road is between 248.5 and 310.7 miles using the WLTP standard. On rough ground where the energy consumption is higher, that figure drops to 155.3 miles.
The AI:trail uses an electric motor on each wheel to individually meter out torque as needed. The total system output is an impressive 429 horsepower (320 kW) and 737 lb-ft of torque.