Audi Brings eTron to Beijing Disguised As a Rugged TT

Audi TT offroad concept

To begin with, the Audi (VLKAY.PK) TT Offroad Concept is a bit of a generous name for what you see before you. Not that we doubt its off-road capabilities — though it’ll likely need some thicker rubber – but because aside from a few features and components (the signature round roofline, the headlights and grille), the car doesn’t share a whole lot with Audi’s popular TT coupe.

In fact, those few features are virtually the only similarity that the car shares with its sporty cousin. Otherwise, it’s different through-and-through, right down to the powertrain. And that is really the reason this car is so fascinating: It reportedly boasts 408 horsepower from a plug-in hybrid system that can also return more than 120 miles per gallon. Theoretically, of course.

However, the hybrid-mashup of the TT with an SUV is exactly what Audi was going for in efforts to grow the nameplate into a sort of family of vehicles. “The Audi TT offroad concept provides a glimpse of how we might imagine a new model in the future TT family,” Ulrich Hackenberg, a member of the Board of Management for Technical Development, said in the company’s statement. “It combines the sporty genes of the TT with the strengths of a compact Audi SUV.” 

This makes the concept a sort of luxury contender in a market currently dominated by the Subaru XV Crosstrek — small and compact, nimble, and with raised ground clearance to ensure more rugged capabilities. That’s great and all, but we’re really interested in what’s under that hood.

Audi TT offroad concept

Not surprisingly, the Offroad Concept uses the eTron powertrain that Audi has been working on for several years. It charges wirelessly, through Audi Wireless Charging, so you don’t actually have to “plug” it in. Most of the power comes from the 292 horsepower, turbocharged 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine; a hybrid system with two electric motors (40 kWh in front, 85 in the back) kick in the rest. More than 400 horsepower is impressive, but like all good off-roaders, the car needs torque, and its nearly 480 pound-feet doesn’t disappoint.

Of course, in its conceptual nature, it’s unclear whether any of this will actually see production. Audi has been teasing its eTron hybrid system for so long now that many have lost interest in hearing about the latest Audi concept that promises X miles per gallon and X horsepower, only to find out after much back and forth on Audi’s end that it won’t see production.

So while the car would certainly be cool — and we sincerely hope that the powertrain becomes a reality at some point (at least in a form that consumers can buy) — we’re not holding our breath, since the TT Offroad is yet another showcase for the powertrain in long line  of conceptual vehicles in the past four or so years.

Where this technology does show tremendous promise would be in Audi’s large SUV and sedan offerings, vehicles that don’t get very good mileage as of now. While the TT Offroad is fun to imagine, it’s aimed at quite a niche market and has limited real-world applications (on a Venn diagram, Audi owners and avid off-road enthusiasts would likely hardly overlap). Create a real-world plug-in A8 or Q7 though, and Audi may regain its toehold in the tech race currently being dominated by Mercedes.