Audi have used the 79th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours to showcase its latest innovative model – the e-tron Spyder concept car with plug-in hybrid drive technology.

In the run-up to the race, the e-tron Spyder joined the “LeMans vers le futur” demonstration drive, whilst an Audi Q5 hybrid quattro joined Audi’s exhibit in the Racing Village next to the Audi Fan Area. The Audi R8 GT Spyder also made its debut on Friday night before the 24-hour race.

Audi at Le Mans

Backed by the power of three propulsion units, the Audi e-tron Spyder uses two asynchronous electric motors to drive the front wheels with a combined 86 bhp of power and 352 Nm (259.62 lb-ft) of torque. In front of the rear axle sits a twin-turbocharged 3.0 TDI, mounted longitudinally in the direction of travel. It pumps out up to 296 bhp of power and 650 Nm (479.42 lb-ft) of torque, which are channelled to the rear wheels via a seven-speed S tronic gearbox. The V6 engine, currently making its production debut in the A6 Avant, is a highly sophisticated powerplant, emitting a sonorous growl when under load.

The three units can summon up their power separately or in unison. The maximum system output is 383 bhp, with a maximum system torque of over 900 Nm (663.81 lb-ft). The lithium-ion battery, which takes about one hour to charge up at an electrical outlet, is located in the front section of the car and stores up to 9.1 kWh of energy.

At just 1,450 kilograms the Audi e-tron Spyder accelerates from zero to 62 mph in 4.4 seconds and reaches an electronically governed top speed of 155 mph. In keeping with the proposed standard for plug-in hybrids, it consumes a mere 2.2 litres of fuel per 100 km (128 mpg) on average and emits just 59 grams of CO2 per km. In all-electric mode, it has a range of 31 miles and a top speed of 37 mph, and on one fill-up of the 50-litre tank the open two-seater can travel over 621 miles between refills.

Audi e-tron Spyder

Under normal driving conditions, the drive management system sends 75 percent of the power to the rear wheels and 25 percent to the front wheels, but the system selectively applies the brakes to slow the wheels individually or provide precise, millisecond-long surges of power to specific wheels in order to speed them up, allowing understeer and oversteer to be nipped in the bud. This high-precision torque vectoring system marks a new stage of evolution for the quattro drive – the e-tron quattro.