Concept to reality
From Pikes Peak to the birth of the Audi Q7.
When Audi first unveiled the Pikes Peak concept in 2003, the vehicle raised eyebrows with its potential to quite literally take the brand to places it had never been before.
8 January, 2021
Named after arguably the toughest and best known hill climb in the world, the Audi Pikes Peak quattro represented a new direction for the brand
Audi has long had a reputation as a company that doesn’t produce concept vehicles merely top capture headlines and attention, but rather produces groundbreaking design studies that offer a genuine look at what is to come.
So when Audi unveiled the Pikes Peak quattro design study at the North American International Motor Show in 2003, speculation was rife that it represented a bold new direction for Audi globally. Indeed within three short years that speculation proved to be right on the money, but only those with an intimate knowledge of what the company had in mind could have predicted the tremendous success of the vehicle that came to be known as the Audi Q7.
Named after arguably the toughest and best known hill climb in the world, the Audi Pikes Peak quattro represented a marriage of Audi’s legendary quattro all-wheel drive , luxury and sports performance in a vehicle capable of taking on tough off-road terrain. The vehicle’s name conjured images of the gruelling race up the 4300m high mountain in Colorado, the 21km course with its 156 corners, loose rocky road surface and speeds of over 200km/h – with no safety barriers. This was a race Audi had embraced and dominated in the 1980s, Michele Mouton (the first female driver to win a world championship rally) taking the race in 1985, and then again in 1987 when Walter Rohrl smashed the record in his Audi Sport quattro S1.
But far from being a sports car in the traditional sense, the Audi Pikes Peak quattro was a third generation SUV concept, a vehicle offering seating for up to seven occupants, the very latest in in-car technology and entertainment, along with tremendous performance potential and the ability to leave the safety of the black top and go where the road did not.
The Pikes Peak concept was unmistakably Audi despite being a departure from the more familiar Audi vehicles. A physically large vehicle, its design was such that it maintained the sleek styling synonymous with the company, its external treatment more in keeping with a coupe than a seven-seat off-road vehicle. These design properties and dimensions were carried forward as the concept vehicle, so readily embraced by the automotive public and press at the Detroit Show moved around the world. At each subsequent show it attended over the following months (including the then Sydney International Motor Show later that same year) the Pikes Peak quattro attracted enormous attention and comment.
These international appearances were extremely important in the development of the vehicle that would ultimately become the Audi Q7, the company’s marketing strategists using these and subsequent appearances to gauger customer reactions and acceptance of this new Audi concept. This ongoing research was added to the existing data on the growing SUV class – this was after all, new territory for Audi, a market segment not before targeted b y the brand.
These international appearances were extremely important in the development of the vehicle that would ultimately become the Audi Q7
From here, the exhaustive research and computer simulations took on a more concrete form with the construction of a vehicle prototype
And as well as the unique demands of this particular market, any vehicle offered by Audi had its own strict standards to live up to, which made the customer expectations gleaned from around the world all the more important in further developing the Pikes Peak concept towards a series production vehicle.
The then Heard of Technical Development for Q Series, Frank van Meel said of the long research phase:
“The Pikes Peak with it third row of seats, large-area sunroof and extensive infotainment concept, introduced new aspects to this (SUV) category.”
The reaction was positive wherever the vehicle was shown and the concept began to evolve as designers and engineers began to look at how this concept could be turned into a fully-fledged production model, but remain true to the ideals behind the design study.
From here, the exhaustive research and computer simulations took on a more concrete form with the construction of a vehicle prototype. Indeed, so intensive and thorough was the data collection and simulation by Audi that only one prototype construction stage was needed in the vehicle’s development.
The prototypes though were subjected to something approaching hell on earth – mud, flood, road and snow. The exhaustive testing process saw the vehicles clock hundreds of thousands of kilometres, driven over every conceivable road surface in every conceivable climate across five continents.
The test vehicles were subjected to the worst of the worst, driven literally up hill and down dale, contending with extreme gradients at altitudes of more than 4300 metres, temperatures ranging from -28 degrees to as much as +50 degrees C in every possible weather condition.
In addition to this, extensive wind tunnel evaluation took place at Audi to optimise design and sealing, as well as putting the prototypes under the microscope in the various climatic chambers, simulating everything from from intense prolonged sun exposure, to hydropulse shock testers, kinetic test rigs and of course the full complement of crash test evaluation.
Throughout the process, both the design and the equipment of the prototypes was fine-tuned, continuously reworked to reach the desired standards of appointment and ability to make this new vehicle unmistakably Audi in every respect.
In what seemed an extraordinarily short space of time, the Audi Q7 became a reality. True to its design concept, it offered unheard of performance and luxury in an SUV with striking styling and appointment – its quattro all-wheel drive, ground clearance and suspension package though, specially designed to taker this vehicle to places previously unchartered by Audi. The Q7 to the Audi allroad quattro (A tremendous success in its own right) and went even further. A purpose-built luxury vehicle with genuine off-road ability. A large, visually stunning vehicle, robust enough to take on the toughest conditions worldwide, but without compromising the comfort and indeed safety of it occupants. That vision of the future offered up in Detroit in 2003 was now in series production. The Audi Pikes Peak quattro had become reality, and the it was called the Audi Q7.
To learn more about the current Audi Q7 range, visit audi.com.au
In what seemed an extraordinarily short space of time, the Audi Q7 became a reality
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