Riding in the Audi Quattro-inspired E-Legend EL1

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Audi’s rally-inspired performance coupe was displayed in Munich, and Mike Duff goes for a first ride to see what it is all about.

Many bold automotive start-ups die without either a bang or a whimper, simply disappearing without ever delivering on their promises.

That’s not the case with E-Legend, the German start-up that two years ago announced its plan for an electric supercar inspired by the 1980s Audi Sport Quattro.

We met the EL1 concept and the team behind it at the 2021 Munich motor show. Since then, work has been continuing steadily in the background, and E-Legend has now built a prototype of the EL1’s carbonfibre structure and four-wheel-drive powertrain – which I got to experience with a breezy but thrilling passenger ride at the Oberschleissheim airfield near Munich recently.

The 2021 concept was an exterior styling model; this prototype is the exact opposite. It’s like seeing the finished car through X-ray glasses.

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While designed to be functional, the carbonfibre structure is also impressively well finished up front, the central carbonfibre structure having subframes mounted to each end for the double-wishbone suspension and motors.

E-Legend is planning a series of Group B rally-inspired replicas using the same basic platform. The lower part of the tub will be common to all, while the upper structure and body will be changed.

The wheelbase will be changed for the other cars by varying the distance between the tub and the rear axle, but E-Legend boss Marcus Holzinger confirms that the EL1’s 2445mm will be the shortest – and that’s still 241mm longer than the wheelbase of the Sport Quattro.

Two years ago, we were told the plan was for a triple-motor driveline, with one at the front and two at the rear, driving through a shared differential. That has since been revised, with the prototype now having one motor at each end. The rear one comes from a well-known manufacturer, although the team isn’t yet willing to say which.

System power is unchanged, at 600kW, with the front motor able to deliver up to 200kW and the rear one 400kW. Torque peaks at 1050Nm. Energy comes from a T-shaped 80kWh battery pack that’s fitted between the passenger compartment and extends into the tunnel between the two seats.

E-Legend predicts the finished car will go from 0-100km/h in 2.9sec and achieve a 7.5sec 0-200km/h time.

The prototype isn’t quite up to delivering those numbers yet, currently making a maximum of 450kW, according to Günter Riedl, whose Roding company is leading development. (Roding also created the electric powertrain for Wiesmann’s Project Thunderball roadster.)

The test mule also has a fixed 35% front, 65% rear torque split and no form of traction control, plus open differentials at both ends.

The finished car will have stability management, the ability to vary torque between its axles almost instantly and at least one limited-slip differential at the rear, and Riedl says a second one at the front is under consideration.

My passenger ride is conducted on the airfield’s concrete apron but is sufficient to prove that, even when short of its ultimate output, the EL1 feels seriously potent.

The lack of bodywork means the prototype weighs a fair bit less than the finished car’s 1790kg target weight and greatly increases the sense of speed – especially with small stones thrown into the cabin when the front wheels are turning.

The accelerative forces are serious, and I get no sensation of the powertrain de-rating under repeated hard use. It generates savage cornering forces, too – although it’s obviously struggling to put its power down when turning.

My driver, Marc Schefbauer, races karts as well as working for E-Legend, and he’s fighting hard to manage what is obviously a sudden transition between understeer and oversteer on the dusty surface.

The lack of locking differentials is also obvious in the frequent puffs of tyre smoke from the unloaded inside wheels.

There’s clearly much work to be done before the EL1 is completed, but the naked prototype proves that, even when below full potency, E-Legend’s powertrain is capable of delivering what feels like a Group B- appropriate level of performance, if not the sound and fury.

Holzinger says that the finished EL1 will be shown next year and the first customer deliveries will start soon after. Several cars have already been sold, but buyers with around $1.5 million to spend can still put their name down for one of the run of 30. We should also find out which other Group B hero has inspired the follow-up EL2 next year.

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