Amid announcements that included a connectivity partnership with AT&T and demonstrations of self-parking and self-driving cars, Audi stole the show with its dramatic Laserlight concept – the latest version of its well-received Sport Quattro Concept. Last seen in September at the 2013 Frankfurt motor show, the car is a familiar animal, but its CES iteration packs something entirely new: laser headlamps.
The low-profile headlamp assembly combines standard LED elements for low and high beams, and a laser element for high-penetration illumination on the open road. Audi claims the laser-powered light is three times brighter than LEDs, throwing a light beam the length of five US football fields. Yet despite their prodigious power, laser diodes are significantly smaller than LED elements – just a few microns in diameter – and require a fraction of the power of traditional headlamps.
The technology will see a racetrack debut at Britain’s Silverstone in April, on Audi’s new R18 e-tron Quattro Le Mans prototype racer. And beyond that, the company’s tech chief Ulrich Hackenberg has promised the lights will grace an undisclosed production model (“Before BMW,” he said during a roundtable discussion, referencing its Munich-based rival’s i8 plug-in hybrid supercar, which also features laser-powered headlamps) that is set to commence deliveries later this year.
The Sport Quattro Concept’s future is a bit less illuminated.
This slick homage to Audi’s fearsome Sport Quattro S1 of 1984 packs a hybrid powertrain comprised of a 4-litre V8 gasoline engine and an electric motor, which together deliver 700 horsepower to all four wheels. Audi estimates the car could make the sprint from zero to 62mph in 3.7 seconds, and press on to a top speed in excess of 190mph. The concept’s repeat appearances on show stands is hardly happenstance. It is almost certainly production-bound, but when and how is anyone’s guess for now. The company hints that the Sport Quattro may debut above the mid-engine R8 in the Audi lineup, as a very pricey, limited-production halo model.