The Project "Steppenwolf" all-around vehicle
Audi displayed a concept vehicle for on-road and demanding off-road use. Following the successful launch of the Audi allroad quattro, this concept vehicle now shows how the Audi development engineers visualize a high-performance all-around vehicle for the compact class. And it embodies a study which represents the consistent evolution of contemporary Audi design.
But that's not all: "Project Steppenwolf" - as this three-door, four-seater is known - also provides evidence of the kind of "Vorsprung durch Technik" (Advancement through Technology) which has long since become synonymous with the name Audi.
This study for the compact class also makes use of Audi's quattro expertise and experience with the height-adjustable air suspension. The engineers had set themselves the following goal: "Project Steppenwolf" should be able to master rough terrain in extreme conditions just as effortlessly as high-speed driving. It should feel equally at home in the outback as on the highway.
A free-revving 3.2-litcr V6 engine developing 225 hp (165 kW) accelerates "Project Steppenwolf" from 0 to 62 mph (100 km/h) in under eight seconds. Its top speed is well over 145 mph (230 km/h). Its peak torque of 235 lbs.ft (320 Nm) is available across a wide speed range. The manual six-speed gearbox turns this strength into a guarantee of excellent pulling power in every speed range.
The quattro permanent four-wheel drive system ensures maximum traction and excellent directional stability in all conditions and in all types of terrain. The electronically controlled Haldex center differential distributes power between the front and rear wheels. If the front wheels slip, part of the torque is put to the road smoothly via the rear wheels as required.
In addition, the Electronic Differential Lock (EDL) distributes torque between the wheels on one axle. And the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) helps the driver to remain in control if confronted with potentially critical driving situations at the limit.
With its precise rack-and-pinion steering, "Project Steppenwolf" can be guided across rough terrain as accurately as it can through fast double bends on the ideal line.
The Brembo brake system is clearly visible in the wheels: large, perforated discs and the characteristic red lettering on the calipers with eight pistons point to the system's excellent efficiency.
Audi development engineers have come up with an innovative solution for the parking brake, which acts on the rear brake discs. An electronically controlled electro-hydraulic system performs the function of the conventional, manually activated handbrake. This enables the lines to the rear brake calipers to be activated via hydraulic valves in such a way that the hydraulic circuit of the foot-operated brake is decoupled.
When the driver presses the button for the parking brake in the cockpit, an 80 bar hydraulic pump takes command of the rear brake calipers. A non-return valve blocks the return flow, the rear brakes lock, and if the driver presses the control button again, the rear brakes and the foot-operated brake arc connected again.
To prevent operating errors, the control electronics only allow the parking brake to be activated and deactivated when the ignition is on and the vehicle stationary.
The front axle of this four-wheel-drive vehicle has McPherson strut suspension with forged wishbone, cast steel swivel bearings and specially matched axle geometry. The anti-roll bar is connected directly to the suspension strut. The rear suspension uses a longitudinal double-wishbone axle an extremely space-saving construction which is partially responsible for the particular space efficiency of "Project Steppenwolf."
A special feature on. "Project Steppenwolf" is its 4-level air suspension which sets it apart from all potential competitors. This groundbreaking system was first presented and introduced in series production on the allroad quattro. Now this technology can be found for the first time on a compact vehicle, qualifying it as an all-around vehicle in a class of its own.
The air suspension at front and rear permits a variable ground clearance across a range of 2.4 inches (60 mm) in total. The running gear of "Project Steppenwolf" is thus able to produce an extremely low center of gravity and. optimum aerodynamics on asphalt just as effectively as ample ground clearance on rough terrain.
Compared with an A3, for example, "Project Steppenwolf" offers 4.0 inches (102 mm) more ground clearance in the highest position which. is 8.8 inches (223 mm) off the ground and an additional 1.7 inches (42 mm) in the lowest position.
As on the allroad quattro, "Project Steppenwolf"' has two control strategies for the air suspension, an automatic and a manual mode. Automatic control is dependent or the vehicle's speed. At speeds of 50 and 80mph (80 and 130 km/h) the system lowers the body in two .80 inches (20 mm) stages from the normal to the low level. Correspondingly the body is raised again to the normal level when speed is reduced.
By contrast, the high level .80 inches (20 mm) above the normal level - has to be selected manually. Once again, however, the vehicle leaves this position automatically if the speedometer indicates more than ca. 20 mph (35 km/h). All other high levels can also be selected manually at the control panel in. the cockpit. Provided no safety-critical speeds are exceeded, "Project Steppenwolf" remains at the level selected.
Thc 4-level air suspension not only ensures the appropriate degree of ground clearance, it also has the effect of a load-compensating ride height control system. The level selected is maintained at all times, regardless of the load the vehide is carrying or even if it is towing a trailer.
The air suspension of "Project Steppenwolf" has another advantage - a talent for which the Audi allroad quattro's system has already been praised on numerous occasions: it offers what is, not only for off-road vehicles, a unique synthesis of ride comfort on the roughest surfaces together with minimum body movement when cornering at high speed. An excellent basis for ample driving pleasure. Here, the design team is at work.
Audi development engineers decided on the floor pan with transversally installed front engine as the technical basis for this new model, the same platform used on the Audi A3 and Audi TT. Its length of 13.81 ft. (4.21 meters) and its status as a fully fledged. four-seater consequently also reveal "Project Steppenwolf" as a representative of the compact class despite the fact that the visibly wider track and crouched aggressiveness of the body, which is 6.0 ft. (1.83 meters) wide and 4.79 ft. (1.46 meters) high, speak a totally different language.
The strikingly flared wheel arches and powerfully dimensioned side sills, the high waistline and the flat curve of the roof sculpt the car's powerful stature. The contrast between the dark roof and sand-colored body accentuate this dynamic yet elegantly stretched silhouette still further.
"Project Steppenwolf" makes no secret of its fondness for adventure away from the beaten track. Powerfully contoured bumpers, painted dark gray to contrast with the body color, demonstrate its off-road destiny just as clearly as the spotlights in the door mirrors. The enormous 19-inch six-star wheels with reinforced transitions between wheel spider and rim are a visual indication of extreme robustness and functionality.
The tread pattern of the specially developed 225/50R19 tires also reflects the versatility of "Project Steppenwolf": a tread that is equally well-suited to off-road and on-road driving.
"Project Steppenwolf" can be fitted with either a carbon-fiber hardtop or a detachable soft top. And it can be driven with the top down: all occupants can then enjoy maximum headroom between the windscreen and tail end. The stable frame is only retained between the C-posts, above the tailgate, in order to sustain the body's high torsional rigidity off-road too.
The soft top for "Project Steppenwolf" is made of sealed textile fabric and, as on many off-road. cars, is fitted by hand. The driver just has to attach two posts above the side windows and snap on the soft top.
The design of "Project Steppenwolf" is completely new, but every line, every detail. shows it to be a member of the Audi model family. The flat radiator grille with the four rings, the sporty, slim silhouette and the high waistline together with the narrow roof area have become almost traditional identifying features of the brand. And the striking wheel arches immediately call to mind the TT, currently the most typical representative of the Audi line.
The Audi designers have succeeded in interpreting familiar lines in a new and unusual way, without departing from the Audi design language. Unusual solutions such as the design of the front indicators are harmoniously integrated into the tight unit.
Surprising solutions can also be found under the hood where the Audi designers' striving for form has once again set clearly visible standards. The six intake pipes of the transverse six-cylinder engine arc in brushed metal with a matte finish: a clear, visual indication of this power unit's potential.
A "service bridge" located laterally in front of the engine contains all the important openings for topping up oil, coolant and washer fluid, side by side. This engine design combines the design of a classic racing-car inner life and an Audi engine compartment of the future.
Another special feature can be found at the back of the Audi design study: a drawer under the luggage compartment edge houses the spare wheel. However, if necessary this moving compartment can also be used with a second insert - in this case "Project Steppenwolf" would then carry the Tire Mobility System repair kit with 12-volt compressor and tire sealing compound instead of the spare wheel.
The alternative drawer insert provides space for the optional winch which is engaged with an adapter and can be activated underneath the radiator grille. There is also room in the rear drawer for two running boards which can be attached below the side doors: these provide a useful climbing aid which can. be used, for example, to secure luggage to the roof when the air suspension is raised.
Anyone taking a step back will recognize the characteristics of the new Audi design in the overall form of the body: wide, clearly contoured lines and large, pure surfaces combine to produce an architecture in which calm and tension are equally present. No superfluous swage lines or curves upset this visual clarity. Function and form become one.
The impression conveyed by the interior is also dominated by clear functionality and extreme robustness. All important information is easily legible on large, round analog instruments with white dials and red needles on a dark background. Predominantly smooth surfaces and the metallic surrounds on displays and control elements convey the same tidy atmosphere of a cockpit.
But sobriety is not the only dominant feature: the generous use of "shoe sole leather" on the instrument panel creates an elegant yet pragmatic ambience.
There are even cognac beige leather inserts in the footwell, with a Mack rubber recessed. texture to give them a non-slip surface. It is of course no coincidence that this texture matches the striking tread pattern of the tires.
A unique combination of materials which lends a discreet elegance to the interior. An elegance which is in no way detrimental to function and durability: the centimeter-thick sole leather on the floor is sturdy enough for everyday wear and tear, and sufficiently resistant to dirt and moisture.
High side sills and the mighty, continuous center tunnel surround the driver and passengers, producing anatomically correct niches with excellent lateral support. The seats with their pronounced contours arc low and mounted on flat consoles so that the occupants assume an almost sports-car-like position, with their legs stretched out. One aspect which is unusual for a coupe is that "Project Steppenwolf" offers not only the driver and front passenger, but also the two rear-seat passengers excellent seat comfort with plenty of room for legs and upper body.
Rear passengers will be treated to first-class comfort as soon as they climb aboard. The door cut-outs extend a long way back to provide a large opening, and the front seats of "Project Steppenwolf" are fitted with the "Easy Entry" mechanism which has already proved a success on the A3. This allows them to be moved right forward, returning to their original position when the backrest is folded back again.
The voluminous luggage compartment is also untypical of a coupe. It can be loaded up easily through the side-hinged tailgate which has a window that can be lowered. The rear seats can of course be folded forward individually or together so that the entire area behind the front seats can be used to accommodate bulky sports equipment or even bicycles, for example.
When the low-beam headlights are switched on, the inside of the center console is illuminated in a soft red. The footwell is well-lit when getting in or out of the car. The electronics dim the lighting to a minimum whilst driving to prevent distracting reflections in the front windows. Together with the typical Audi red instrument lighting, this illumination creates the atmosphere of an aircraft cockpit inside "Project Steppenwolf," especially in the dark.
The driver's right hand only has to reach a short distance from the easy-grip three-spoke leather-rimmed sports steering wheel to the specially designed gear lever. With its matte metal surface and the open gearshift mechanism, it too provides its own individual touch, as indeed do the large rocker switches with wide rubber textured strips on the center console. The starter button, protected by its own separate flap, is located at the center of the rocker switch panel. The large, ergonomic rotary switch for the 4-level air suspension on "Project Steppenwolf" is also in the center console.
The driver wi1l find the right switch immediately, even in the dark, even wearing gloves; operation of the controls never produces any unwelcome surprises.
The navigation system Plus with large LCD monitor is perfectly integrated into the smooth center console. The presence of this instrument in the off-roader's cockpit would appear to make even more sense than in other vehicles; it makes the driver's work easier and leaves him free to concentrate on his most important task. The GPS aerial of the navigation system is integrated out of sight in the rear roll bar.
The large center console is not only highly functional, it also houses a cooler box. This is ideal for keeping drinks in, and will by no means only come in handy if embarking on a trek across the desert.
There is no lack of storage space in "Project Steppenwolf" for all those everyday items needed in the car. Besides a large glove box, there are particularly practical storage compartments in the high side sills which secure their contents with a net. This will put an end to maps, etc. falling out of the door pockets when the doors are opened.
Generous seat pockets attached to the back of the front seats can be removed: the most important items can thus be stowed here and taken out of the car if an off-road expedition is continued on foot, for example.
Something which has come to be expected in an Audi can also be found in "Project Steppenwolf": a BOSE® sound system with CD player. A total of nine speakers produce a listening experience which will satisfy even the most sophisticated of demands.
"Project Steppenwolf" is an all-around vehicle. Just like its legendary ancestors, the Audi quattro and Sport quattro, it offers the technology of a rally sports car -on both asphalt and gravel tracks. It unites the indisputable authenticity of a driving machine with the advanced elegance of Audi design. A car that extends horizons, whose potential allows experiences beyond the realms of apparent possibility. A precision tool for the way through even uncertain terrain.
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