It was an epic journey at the time – in today's climate, it simply couldn't happen.
It was a giant undertaking by any standards, launching a brand new vehicle to the press by having them literally drive across Australia.
5 January, 2021
The Audi Trans-Continental Crossing would see 100 participants and 15 Audi Q7s travel 7000 kilometres across Australia
Imagine being able to get behind the wheel of your Audi and just drive from the east coast of Australia to the west coast. The idea in the present climate is quite literally unthinkable, what with border restrictions and lock downs. But even without the on-going COVID situation, driving coast to coast across the vastness of Australia is always a serious undertaking. Doing it ‘off road’ – well that increases the level of difficulty exponentially.
But that’s exactly what Audi Australia did back in 2006 to launch the then brand new Q7 luxury SUV. More of an event than a test drive for the Australia motoring press, what came to be known as the Audi Trans-Continental Crossing would see 100 participants and 15 Audi Q7s travel 7000 kilometres across one of the harshest continents on the planet. From the gleaming Harbour City of Sydney right across to Cable Beach in Broome on the Kimberly Coast, the Trans-Conti travelled through every state or territory in the country save the ACT and Tasmania, visiting some of the most remote towns and outposts in Australia and taking on some of the harvests ‘roads’ in the world.
From Sydney to Broken Hill and then up to Birdsville, taking in the corner country and weaving into South Australia and Queensland along the way. Then back down into South Australia and across to the underground town of Coober Pedy before heading north again to visit Uluru and then onto Alice Springs. The final leg continued north through this remote country, crossing the Northern Territory border into Western Australia and on to Halls Creek before the final push to Broome and Cable Beach.
An epic journey by any standards and an audacious way to introduce a brand new model, it nonetheless set the standard and, even without COVID, is unlikely to ever be matched.
The idea behind this epic off-road adventure began to take shape as a way of celebrating 25 years of Audi quattro – that revolutionary system that celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. At the time, the Audi Q7 was still in its infancy, a greatly anticipated vehicle, but one that was still undergoing development and testing around the world. A Reece of the proposed route was commissioned by Audi Australia to see if it would be viable for to celebrate the quattro anniversary using the proven Audi allroad quattro as the star performer, its pedigree already well established Down Under.
The proposed course would take in some of the most remote parts of the country and some of Australia’s most treacherous roads and tracks. It would weave its way through historic indigenous sites and in some instances cover ground first trod by the earliest white explorers, many of whom perished in their quest to unlock some of the mysteries of Australia’s harsh interior. It would frankly, put the vehicles to the test.
With the initial findings back, it seemed that the idea was doable, albeit at considerable investment and as a massive undertaking not before seen by a car company in Australia.
With the initial findings back, it seemed that the idea was doable, albeit at considerable investment and as a massive undertaking
Where it differed significantly from a well run military undertaking though was in the fact that it had to remain in keeping with the Audi ethos
Around the time of the final findings, official word came through from Ingolstadt of the pending international launch of the Q7 – Audi’s luxury SUV was ready to be introduced to the world.
This changed the thinking considerably. If a vehicle could be tailor made for such a trip, surely it was the Audi Q7. And what a way for it to makes its debut Down Under.
It was always going to be a big call. For any car company to undertake a trip of this size over this terrain, inviting various members of the public and press was considered by many to be risky. It would only take one problem, a computer glitch or worse still, an accident to cruel the trip, but the decision was made to press on.
The logistics alone were enough to make most companies run for cover, indeed given the country in question and its remote nature, never mind the number of vehicles and participants, the whole project took on the dimensions of something resembling a small military operation.
Where it differed significantly from a well run military undertaking though was in the fact that it had to remain in keeping with the Audi ethos. This would be a luxury trip through Australia’s heart, and the conditions of the tracks would merely serve to demonstrate the Q7’s outstanding capabilities, while the participants would be happily ensconced in the luxury of the vehicles. Neither extreme heat or cold would worry the Q7 travellers, nor would the conditions of the tracks or any other ‘minor detail’ – this would be a trip through the Outback like no other.
And that’s exactly how it went. Groups of participants took part for several days at a time, before being flown out and replaced by the next group, ready to tackle the next ‘stage’. It was not a race, but rather a convoy that wound its way right across the country, Sydney to Broken Hill – essentially a transport stage and a chance to fully run the vehicles in. Then Broken Hill to Birdsville and taking on the famous Big Red sand dune before the next group took over. From Birdsville to Uluru via the treacherous Oodnadatta Track and Coober Pedy before the next group joined for the final stage to Broome on the remote Kimberly Coast.
Through thick dust with the consistency of talcum powder, across sharp scree and washed away tracks, across salt pans and across sand dunes, the Q7s never missed a beat. Aside from a few tyres which understandably fell victim to the conditions, none of the Q7s – a mixture of the Q7 4.2 V8 FSI quattro and Q7 3.0 TDI quattro – had any issues whatsoever. The participants travelled in absolute luxury for mile after mile, the climate control comfortably keeping the daytime heat at bay and none of the aforementioned thick dust ever penetrated the luxurious cabins.
The trip was conducted with Audi’s trademark attention to detail and style. Where suitable accommodation for participants was not available, individual tents and a fully functioning ‘campsite’ greeted travellers at the end of the day – all set up of course and fully catered with all of the mod coms of home and then some.
Through thick dust with the consistency of talcum powder, across sharp scree and washed away tracks
For the Q7, it was quite the way to make an entrance – cementing its reputation overnight
Some stopovers saw participants accommodated in the ‘local tradition’ in everything from iconic outback pubs to the famed underground hotels in Coober Pedy, to the resort accommodation at Uluru and even wonderful ‘container rooms’ at the Innamincka Hotel.
In every respect the Trans-Conti was a resounding success and a trip that the participants still talk about to this day. It inspired countless articles which were seen around the country and the world as well as inspiring an entire edition of Audi Magazine Australia. AUDI AG was so impressed by the concept, the result and beautiful images, that it decided to run a second trip the following year, inviting members of the international press to experience this unique Audi offering.
For all those who took part – no matter which stage they drove, it was an extraordinary experience and an incredible way to take in some of the remotest parts of the country. For the Q7, it was quite the way to make an entrance. The critics of the idea at the start were well and truly silenced and the Q7’s reputation was made overnight – well, over the course of three weeks.
Now, if only all those borders would open up again …
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