You can argue long and hard whether the best cars are bought or built, and that debate is set to continue into the electric era. On one side is the increasing number of aftermarket options for converting classics to electric power, although often at the cost of butchering a genuine car. On the other are cars like this—an all-new EV inspired by an iconic original.
Not that you are seeing the finished version of the E-Legend EL1. Rather, you're looking at it through the equivalent of X-ray specs to see what lies beneath the surface. We first told you about E-Legend back in 2021 when the German startup announced plans to build an EV supercar inspired by the Audi Sport Quattro—the shortened version of the pioneering all-wheel-drive coupe that was created to go Group B rally racing.
Work on the E-Legend EL1 has continued ever since, and the design for the production version is now finished, shown here in computer-rendered form. The company has also built a driveline test mule featuring the carbon-fiber structure that will lie at the heart of the production car, as well as an early version of its all-wheel-drive system. We were invited for an exclusive passenger ride in this test mule at the Flugplatz Oberschleissheim airfield near Munich.
Shaping the Future from the Past
The EL1's backstory is a rich one. E-Legend boss Marcus Holzinger is a former Volkswagen designer who left to work for Hote Design—the company established by his father—which specializes in building one-off auto-show cars. As an Audi modeler in the 1980s, the elder Holzinger worked on the original Sport Quattro, a shortened road car with a huge 12.5 inches taken out of its wheelbase to homologate Audi's Group B rally car.
The Sport Quattro looked both spectacular and cartoonish, although it wasn't actually very successful as a rally car; even the mercurial talent of Walter Röhrl managed only a single World Rally Championship victory with it, at the 1985 Rallye Sanremo. But that didn't matter to young Marcus, who spent his childhood around various competition Audis, as he took regular family trips to watch the rally cars in action. Thus, when his thoughts turned to creating an "inspired by" reinterpretation of a Group B car, the Sport Quattro was at the top of the list.
Work on the project began during Germany's first COVID lockdown in 2020, with Holzinger heading design and longtime friend Günter Riedl leading mechanical development. Riedl is an engineer whose company previously created a carbon-bodied sports car and also did much of the development work on the all-electric Wiesmann "Project Thunderball" roadster. The design is what Holzinger describes as "retro-fusion," a tribute rather than a replica. Audi has seen the finished design and, according to Holzinger, has no issue with somebody else reinterpreting one of its famous cars.
Under the Skin
Holzinger's original plan was to build the EL1 using an internal-combustion engine, but Riedl persuaded him to switch to an electric drivetrain. The first proposal utilized a triple-motor configuration, one powering the front axle and a pair turning the rear axle through a shared differential. That has since been reduced to a front motor and a single motor at the rear, combined with a gearbox and an inverter—all supplied by a well-known automaker, although Riedl won't say which one. Power comes from a T-shaped 80.0-kWh battery pack that sits behind the passenger compartment and extends into the tunnel between the two seats.
Peak output is claimed to be 804 horsepower, with the front motor delivering up to 268 horses and the rear up to 536, along with a combined torque peak of 774 pound-feet. E-Legend predicts a 2.8-second run to 62 mph, continuing to 124 mph in 7.5 seconds and topping out at 186 mph. But the prototype version isn't quite there yet. According to Riedl, it's currently putting out 603 horses with a fixed 35/65 front-rear torque split. It also has open differentials at each end; the production car will have a mechanical limited-slip differential at the rear and possibly also one at the front. But as well as having less power, there is also less mass in the prototype given its lack of bodywork and interior; E-Legend says the finished car is on target to weigh 3950 pounds.
Although skeletal, the EL1 prototype's carbon-fiber structure is beautifully finished when viewed up close. E-Legend plans to create a series of other Group B–inspired models using the same core architecture. The lower part of the carbon tub will be common to all variants, but the upper structure and bodywork will change for each model. (Riedl confirms there is more than enough structural strength in the naked tub to allow for open-topped vehicles as well.) Suspension and motors are then mounted to the tub on aluminum subframes, with unequal-length control arms and coil-over shocks at each corner. The EL1's wheelbase is 96.3 inches, 9.5 inches longer than the original Sport Quattro.
Rubber to the Runway
Our passenger ride is both breezy and exciting despite being conducted entirely on a concrete airfield. Even with reduced power, the naked EL1 felt unsurprisingly fast, and driver Mark Schefbauer—who races karts in addition to working for E-Legend—proved that the electric powertrain can deliver repeated bursts of hard acceleration without any hint of derating. The feeling of speed was certainly exacerbated by the lack of doors and the tendency of the front wheels to fling small stones into the cabin when the steering wheel is turned to full lock.
Cornering forces were substantial, but Schefbauer had to work hard to manage what was a sudden transition between understeer and oversteer when the limits were breached. The lack of locking differentials was also obvious with frequent puffs of smoke from the unloaded inside tire when cornering under power.
There is much work to be done before the EL1 is finished, but the mechanical package already delivers what feels like a Group B–appropriate quantity of thrills. E-Legend plans to produce just 30 examples of the EL1, that exclusivity underlined by a price tag of 890,000 euros—$960,000 at current exchange rates. Holzinger says that several cars have already been sold and that the plan is for the fully finished version to make its U.S. debut at Monterey Car Week in 2024.
Work on the next E-Legend model is also advancing, although Holzinger refused to divulge which Group B legend is next in line. There is no shortage of candidates, from the Ford RS200 and Lancia Delta S4 to the Peugeot 205 T16 and even the obscure masterpiece that was the MG Metro 6R4. Place your bets!
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