The Quattro Spyder Turns 30 and We Still Can’t Forgive Audi for Not Releasing It

Three decades ago, the folks at Audi introduced the beautiful Quattro Spyder, a fascinating concept that came with a mid-mounted engine and looked more like a Ferrari than its contemporary, mass-produced siblings.
1991 Audi Quattro Spyder 11 photos
Photo: Audi AG.
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Apart from the legendary Quattro, the Audi models that roamed the streets in 1991 were boxy-looking and pretty uninspiring. However, for that year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, the carmaker pulled out all the stops and created a gorgeous car that captivated the minds and hearts of many enthusiasts.

The bodywork was extremely modern but not futuristic or eccentric in any way and that made it extremely appealing for both the public and the press covering the event.

One thing that confused the audience was the nameplate. The car employed a modified version of Audi’s famed all-wheel-drive system, so the Quattro part is self-explanatory, but it surely wasn’t a Spyder, which is a terminology usually associated with open-top vehicles. Much to everyone’s surprise, the glass roof was actually removable, and while the car still wasn’t a traditional Spyder, the name wasn’t completely out of place.

1991 Audi Quattro Spyder
Photo: Audi AG
Like the modern R8, most of the body panels were made out of aluminum and were fitted to a tubular steel space frame. This clever mix of materials resulted in great overall rigidity and a curb weight of 2,425 pounds (1,100 kg).

Inside, the car featured two leather-trimmed bucket seats, a sporty three-spoke steering wheel, and a modern dashboard design. It also came with a stereo system and air conditioning.

Apart from the way it looked, the coolest thing about the Quattro Spyder was the engine placement, which was a first for the carmaker and made it a legitimate modern sportscar. The powerplant mounted behind the seats was a slightly adapted 2.8-liter 90-degree 12-valve V6 borrowed from the Audi 100. It was a naturally aspirated unit so it only made 172 hp (128 kW) but one can speculate that if the car would have been mass-produced, a more powerful V8 from the Audi with the same name could have been optional at some point.

1991 Audi Quattro Spyder
Photo: Audi AG
Nevertheless, considering its weight, it was fast enough to feel like a sports car, and the engine placement along with the all-wheel-drive made for a thrilling driving experience.

It wasn’t just a show car, but a fully functioning, production-spec model and the Ingolstadt-based carmaker intended to manufacture it as part of a limited production run. The positive feedback it received at the auto show supported this decision but in an unfortunate turn of events, management eventually dropped the project. The official reason was that the envisioned price tag of 100,000 German marks ($ 61,033 in today’s money) made it too expensive, even though it was reported that Audi dealerships took thousands of pre-orders shortly after the car’s debut in Frankfurt.

Regardless of the real reason behind the final decision, it’s a shame that it never made it but many innovations used in its construction like the engine placement, trapezoidal suspension links, or extensive use of aluminum for the bodywork eventually made their way to other popular models, such as its spiritual successor, the beastly R8.

The insane Avus concept, a W12-powered midship was unveiled just a month later, so everyone quickly forgot about the Quattro Spyder. It was thus relegated to the back pages of Audi’s history books but thirty years later it’s still fascinating and deserves to be remembered for its timeless design.
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About the author: Vlad Radu
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Vlad's first car was custom coach built: an exotic he made out of wood, cardboard and a borrowed steering wheel at the age of five. Combining his previous experience in writing and car dealership years, his articles focus in depth on special cars of past and present times.
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