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How the Audi Nanuk Quattro Works

        Auto | Concept Cars

From Urban Obstacles to Polar Bears
The Audi Nanuk Quattro
The Audi Nanuk Quattro
(Courtesy of Audi AG)

... or, how the Parcour concept became the Nanuk Quattro concept.

Even though both cars are really Italian in design, the Parcour was named after the French athletic discipline parkour, in which practitioners train to use everyday landscapes as obstacle courses. Nanuk is the Inuit word for polar bear. These monikers alone are enough to show the automakers' difference in perspectives between the two concepts, despite their shared DNA. So how did a German car with a French name end up being born in Italy? Italdesign Giugiaro is an Italian coachbuilder that often collaborates with auto manufacturers when they need to come up with something really spectacular, and sometimes, like in this case, they come up with projects of their own. In spring of 2013, Italdesign Giugiaro released the Parcour, a concept car with a space frame derived from Audi and Lamborghini, a one-of-a-kind crossover coupe-like body and a Lamborghini Gallardo powerplant that has performance specs similar to that of the Nanuk Quattro's twin-turbo V-10. The Parcour previously bore Lamborghini branding when it was debuted at the Geneva auto show in March of 2013, but when the car failed to get the desired attention, it was decided that the concept might fare better as an Audi since it better fits that brand's persona. It's rumored that Ferdinand Piƫch, the VW Group chairman, ordered the Parcour team to get the car in front of a new set of eyes. Many an auto journalist has remarked on the visual and mechanical similarities between the Parcour and the Nanuk Quattro, even though the Nanuk Quattro has been softened around the edges a bit to look and feel more like an Audi.

If this all sounds a little incestuous, it is, and it's just part of how concept cars work. Volkswagen, the parent company of Audi and Lamborghini, acquired a majority stake in Italdesign Giugiaro in 2010, and it's quite common for the VW Group brands to share elements, especially new parts and technologies that are all-new and exclusive, very expensive, or represent a significant investment in research and manufacturing. (The aforementioned Audi/Lamborghini space frame is one example; however, there are countless others -- a practice that's common across the entire auto industry.) It's also quite unlikely the Parcour will ever be built, even though it's not cheap to design and build a one-off car that will only be shown and not sold. In light of that knowledge, it's not all that surprising that the blood, sweat and tears that went into the Parcour concept would take a new form and perhaps have a second shot at generating enough warm feelings to get the go-ahead on production. In other words, the Nanuk Quattro is somewhat more likely to be built than the Parcour, and the top people at the VW Group felt strongly enough about the Parcour design to give it another chance.

The Nanuk Quattro was a surprise at Frankfurt -- and actual surprise debuts at auto shows are few and far between. The Internet tends to ensure everything leaks ahead of time. Audi had only a few months to morph the Parcour into the Nanuk Quattro, so the tight timeframe might have played a role in its secrecy. Also, it seems like Audi made an effort to keep it under wraps, as compared to all the concepts that are deliberately "leaked" ahead of time by the auto manufacturers themselves. Not just at the Frankfurt auto show, either; that's par for the entire auto show circuit. If the Nanuk Quattro gets the go-ahead for production, it might not look exactly like the car we see here. It's very common for concepts to get toned down a bit when they're eventually built, for many reasons such as parts availability, safety compliance, and making sure the finished product comes in at a price that enough people will be willing to pay. A finished Nanuk Quattro wouldn't be a cheap car, not with custom Italian design, a Lamborghini-worthy engine and Audi's off-road expertise. But then again, Audi's 1980s Quattros were rather pricey, too, especially for the era. And they weren't even pretty.