Audi Quattro Spyder Concept Is The 1990s R8 We Never Got

The R8 of the 1990s that never was

We are starting a new weekly series here at Quattro Daily by revisiting some of Audi’s greatest concepts. For our inaugural episode, we’ve decided to kick things off with one of our all-time favorites, the mesmerizing Quattro Spyder. It made its first appearance at the 1991 Frankfurt Motor Show as a gorgeous supercar with a mid-engined layout and, of course, Quattro all-wheel drive.

Why do we like the Quattro Spyder?

For a number of reasons. While beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, we’re finding the Quattro Spyder to be one of Audi’s greatest hits in terms of design. Just look at it now, nearly 30 years later, looking very much relevant. Applying a few changes here and there would turn the concept into a performance model we would slot between the TT RS and the R8.

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Is that all?

Of course not. While it followed the aluminum-bodied, mid-engined, AWD recipe the R8 received some 15 years later, the car was much lighter. The Quattro Spyder tipped the scales at just 1,100 kilograms (2,425 pounds). Ok, so it didn’t have a V8 or V10 like the R8, but the 2.8-liter V6 borrowed from the Audi C100 was perfectly fine for that era. It pushed out 172 horsepower and 245 Newton-meters (181 pound-feet) of torque, which might not sound like much, but the car was 460 kg (1,014 lbs) lighter than the V8-powered R8.

Anything else?

While the R8 available today can be had either as a coupe or a convertible, the 1991 Quattro Spyder was both at the same time since the glass roof was removable. It also featured a small trunk area behind the engine cover’s louvers to improve the practicality of an otherwise impractical vehicle as most sports cars are.

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Why wasn’t the Quattro Spyder built?

The official answer is: “Envisioned price of 100,000 German marks could not be met.” Interestingly, Audi dealers had been accepting pre-orders before the Quattro Spyder was officially canceled. You can imagine the sticky situation dealers faced back then, having to explain to customers their desired car practically didn’t exist. In today’s money, 100,000 DM would’ve meant roughly $56,000 or the equivalent of an RS3 Sedan.

Legend has it there was another reason why it didn’t receive the proverbial stamp of approval. Ferdinand Piëch, Audi’s CEO back then, was allegedly concerned the Quattro Spyder would clash with the Porsche 911 and therefore cannibalize sales of Stuttgart’s iconic sports car. Some say that his mother, none other than Ferdinand Porsche’s daughter, cautioned him about this potential issue as Porsche was already in a rather bad financial shape at that time.

Adrian Padeanu

Long-time fan of the fabled Four Rings.