Audi AI:Trail Quattro Concept Is the Eccentric Off-Roader of the Future

Because headlights are so 20th century, this Audi has light drones that fly ahead and light the way.

Audi AI:TRAIL quattro
AUDI AG

Most concept cars push the limits of what's believable, oftentimes delivering insane features that will never make it to production. Audi's AI:Trail Quattro concept does exactly that, but it takes things to a whole new alternate universe where all our sci-fantasies are realized.

Most of the AI:Trail is scarcely believable, so let's start with what's grounded in reality: its powertrain. A high-capacity, floor-mounted battery powers a quartet of electric motors—one on each wheel—whose combined output totals 435 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque. That might make it sound fast, but it isn't; its top speed is just 81 mph, and Audi didn't even bother to make up acceleration stats.

Audi
Audi

On the road, Audi says it can go 311 miles on a full charge, and in conditions at their most rugged—off-road, uphill, and on a slippery surface—Audi still guarantees 155 miles' range. And as a purpose-built off-roader, it's here that the AI:Trail shines with its 13.4 inches of ground clearance. With no overhangs, the ability to wade through half a meter of water without noticing, and colossal 33.5-inch off-road tires, it'd be tough to high-center the AI:Trail on anything.

Audi

Because its frame is constructed from a mix of steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber, all used where most appropriate, the AI:Trail weighs just 3,858 pounds when empty despite its huge lithium-ion battery and bodywork made largely of glass. Its wraparound windshield, low beltline, and glass roof grant terrific visibility for sojourns into nature. And when in the great outdoors, of course, that's where your attention had better be; there are no screens in the AI:Trail aside from the one on your phone, which docks in the dashboard to serve as your instrument panel.

Its controls are otherwise traditional and consist of a steering wheel, pedals, and a few buttons. They're the focal points of an interior carpeted with a mixture of recycled wool and leather, which seats up to four, though the hammock-like pair of rear seats can be removed either to serve as camping chairs or extra rear cargo space. Said area is primarily accessed through the tailgate and includes a separate compartment in this space for stowing wet and dirty outdoor gear.

Audi

While the AI:Trail has a set of lights that can be pointed outward or inward to light its exterior or interior, it doesn't have a traditional set of headlights. No, the AI:Trail instead has five drones—charged inductively on the roof—with floodlights on them that fly ahead of the vehicle as it travels down the trail, and when you stop to camp for the night, they can perch themselves around your campsite to light it.

Audi says that at low speeds in smoother, flatter off-road areas, the AI:Trail could effectively drive itself at SAE Level 3, and that in areas with good infrastructure, it could operate almost on its own at SAE Level 4 automation. But seeing as the AI:Trail is a concept, and one that'll never see production at that, Audi can say whatever it wants about the vehicle's capabilities. Jut don't expect to see it or its associated technologies (automated driving or headlight drones) in a showroom near you any time soon.