This futuristic Audi RSQ concept isn’t as far off as we thought

By topgear, 12 May 2021

What is this distant vision?

This is Audi’s futuristic RSQ concept from 2004, which curiously didn’t make its debut at a motor show, but was purposely designed by the firm to try and raise brand awareness, particularly in the United States. 

Wait, so do I recognise this from somewhere?

No, it’s not the novelty computer mouse your dad was using back in 2001. The Audi RSQ concept was a vehicle created for nine minutes of screentime in the 2004 Will Smith science fiction vehicle I, Robot, in which Will’s mum sends him to Los Angeles to be looked after by robots because he’s been getting into trouble at home in New York.

No wait, it’s the end of the world. Chasing aliens? It’s been a long time. We definitely do remember that the world of I, Robot was set in 2035 – which terrifyingly we’re closer to now than the launch of the film.

So does the Audi of the future do anything exciting?

Visually the car of the future isn’t moving the game on a great deal, it looks much like an R8 with wheel covers on it. But – gasp – the R8 didn’t come out until 2006, which was also in the future back when I, Robot came out. It’s almost as if Audi was using a movie film to surreptitiously trail its upcoming product.

Sadly the R8 has never come with rear-hinged scissor doors or spheres instead of wheels, though. Promisingly, the RSQ concept was able to drive completely autonomously in the early-Noughties cinematic experience, with roads of the era moving at impossibly high speeds because human control and suicidal delivery scooters were all but removed from the situation.

Tell me something interesting...

Well, the C-pillar mounted doors and the spheres-for-wheels were included at the insistence of the director. The wheels would be central to the plot during exciting mid-film driving sequences, and he just thought that the doors would look cool.

Audi, for its part, insisted on adding its trusted trapezoidal grille at the front of the car (what with it being mid-engined and electric it probably wasn’t necessary, but hopefully you can excuse that minor plot point, they had to justify the cost) and MMI interface in the cabin, as if people would suddenly warm to a clonky user interface if they thought Will Smith would still be merrily twirling away in 2035. 

What’s it like inside?

The RSQ’s interior seems to veer firmly on the side of spartan – thankfully by 2035 voice control will have evolved to the point that we don’t need to rely on today’s dreaded touchscreens. Or at least we’ll have robots to operate them for us, maybe.

Sparse perhaps, but at least it’s airy thanks to the giant windscreen, with room added by the fact the steering wheel emerges from the dashboard in the film when Will selects manual control. That aside, the exterior of the RSQ might have gone all futuristic, but inside it’s mostly business as usual. 

What’s under the bonnet?

In the movie, the RSQ concept has the reassuring thrum of an electric motor underneath the rear engine cover of the car, perhaps it uses a banana skin-powered nuclear range-extender like the DeLorean of Back to the Future.

In our drab 2004 reality, the RSQ was powered by a wheezy sounding 4cyl engine and had actual wheels hidden underneath the fake spheres of the future. Hollywood is all smoke and mirrors, it’s so disappointing. 

How many RSQ concepts were built?

Three versions of the car were built by Audi for the film’s production – one which could move around under its own power, another car that was designed for static use, or could be dragged around, and then a final version of the car that was optimised for interior shots, enabling giant cameras to get inside for a good look. 

Why won’t the RSQ concept go into production?

Clearly there are still 14 years to go until the RSQ concept theoretically is in production, but we fear that this vision of the future has already been vastly superceded. In fact, Will Smith drove its successor in a 2019 film, Spies in Disguise.

Well, he almost did. He voiced suave superspy Lance Sterling in the animated film – that character drove the RSQ e-tron, designed specifically by Audi for the feature. Oddly the film was set in the present day, meaning the RSQ concept was replaced before it didn’t come out. Or something like that.

STORY Sam Burnett

Related Articles