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BBC Autos

Nanuk, the off-road Audi supercar

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Concept cars are built with the explicit purpose of tickling the imagination, stunning crowds and presenting in many cases a far-off vision for a brand.

But among those gathered on 9 September, the eve of the Frankfurt motor show, at an off-site presentation, the Audi Nanuk prompted a collective "Haven't we seen this before?"

The similarities in profiles between the Parcour Concept – designed by the Volkswagen Group-owned Italdesign Giugiaro and presented in March 2013 at the Geneva motor show – and the Nanuk seemed uncanny, and rightly so. Both vehicles were designed with significant input from Italdesign, which has provided VW Group with styling direction for nearly four decades.

Audi’s now signature six-sided grille takes centre stage, endowing the Nanuk with a slightly less aggressive front clip than that of the Lamborghini-leaning Parcour. Otherwise, the Nanuk's wedge-like shape, down to the proportions of its wheels and the rake of its windshield, heavily echo those found on the Parcour. The Nanuk's austere interior, marked by reconfigurable digital displays, also remains true to its predecessor.

The greater point of differentiation between the two lies in the engine bay mid-ships. A 544-horsepower, turbocharged 5-litre V-10 turbodiesel takes the place of the Parcour's gasoline-powered, Lamborghini-sourced V10. Matched to a seven-speed S-tronic automatic transmission and Quattro all-wheel-drive, the Nanuk is said by Audi to be capable of returning sub 4-second sprints to 60mph while achieving 30mpg on the US cycle – impressive (if somewhat illusory) figures, considering the Nanuk's two-tonne curb weight.

The Nanuk also emphasises the versatility of its chassis, on- and off-road, with four-wheel steering, air suspension and electronically controlled dampers.

Like the Parcour, there are no plans to adapt the Nanuk to the production line – which, as with the Parcour, seems like an opportunity missed, if only to satisfy a razor-thin niche in the marketplace.