2007 saw the launch of the Google Lunar XPRIZE. This competition (with a $30M prize pool) was created to incentivize entrepreneurs to find a way for affordable access to the moon and beyond. Basically it’s a good old fashioned Space Race, the first team that are able to land a ‘Rover’ on the moon, travel 500 metres and transmit back high res images and video will win $20M. It’s obviously a huge mission, aside from the seemingly mundane, get a rocket and blast off into space, the Rover has to land without harm, cross uneven and uninhabited terrain and then have the technical nouse to send data 384,400km back to earth.
Audi have risen to the challenge and are helping to support a group of part-time German scientists in their pursuit of this goal – all the while utilizing and expanding on their current knowledge base of how to successfully cover the rough and uneven surfaces of the Earth’s crust. Audi’s know-how in things such as quattro all-wheel driving, lightweight construction, electric mobility and piloted driving will obviously advantageous in team ‘Audi lunar Quattro’. Mission’s need to be completed by the end of 2017 so in the meantime Audi have had a couple of launches a little closer to home…
As the A3 celebrates its twentieth year, Audi enthusiasts herald the long awaited arrival of the new RS3. Besides this iconic sportback being the entry point to the RS club it is also one of Audi’s hero products and it is very desirable. The new RS3 is 55kg’s lighter than the previous model and its 0-100 time (of 4.3 seconds) is 0.3 seconds faster – oh and it’s 25mm lower than the regular A3. The honeycomb-look grille consumes the majority of its face with large air inlets and blades integrated into the lower front spoiler are both functional and look cool too.
Flared front guards, chiseled side sills and a large roof spoiler gives the RS3 a staunch body effect from the front with a pronounced bumper, high gloss rear diffuser and large oval tailpipes complimenting the effect from the back. Inside the cabin the sporty feel continues, RS seats with diamond stitching, RS flat bottomed sports wheel covered in Alcantara, contrast stitching across the dash with turbo boost gauges and a lap timer function for those days out on the track.
The 2.5litre TFSI Engine under the hood is the most powerful 5 cylinder in RS history. 270kW of power and 465Nm of torque combined with 7 speed S tronic box will take you up to a (ltd) top speed of 250kph. The Quattro driving mechanism and torque vectoring (during fast cornering it slightly brakes the interior wheels, making the car turn slightly in to the corner) means that none of the power or fun the engine delivers is lost. On the topic of fun, Audi NZ have made the RS Sports exhaust standard and its notes are guttural, roaring and hissing, in Dynamic & Sports mode the flaps open and it backfires on 3 cylinders when dropping down in gears.
We took a not so leisurely drive down to the Taupo racetrack where (even in the pouring rain) the RS3 got up to around 200kph and navigated around the twisty track at ridiculous speeds. I have to say, it’s very hard to find fault in this little beast of a car – it’s very fast and loud, handles incredibly well and fit’s in brilliantly with a small family lifestyle – maybe it’s too much fun?
Then there’s the mothership, the new Q7. At 5.05m in length, 1.97m in width and 1.74m in height the Q7 is one big mother…ship. I must say that it feels rather substantial (maybe a little too much so) on the road as well. But it’s also shed the pounds, with the use of aluminium and ultra high strength steel it’s now up to 325kg’s lighter than its predecessor and at under 2 tons, it’s also the lightest in its class too.
A sculpturally molded singleframe grille dominates the front with LED headlights offering functional garnish. Round the back, the modern looking tailgate wraps itself around the steeply rising D pillars. The overall look is stocky and very significant. Inside the obviously spacious cabin (the largest in the segment) you get a true picture of what you’ve invested in. The materials (albeit leather, Alcantara or aluminium) all have a reassuringly expensive air about them and the infotainment system features Audi connect and an impressively LOUD sound system. The digital dials with SatNav included (as seen in the TT) is exceptional and the rear, rear seats (3rd row) pop up or fold down electronically as does the tailgate, it’s these seemingly small things that add up to make this large SUV great.
The 3Litre TDI V6 engine delivers 200kW/600Nm and shoots the large SUV from 0-100kph in 6.5seconds and has a fuel efficiency of 5.79L/100k’s (23% better than before). But as you sit in the cabin and drive; the two things you notice (or rather don’t) is how very very quiet the ride is and also how smooth. The Q7 seems to just glide along the road, even under quite hard acceleration. Gear changing, either up or down the box seems to slip by without a sound as does the world outside, it’s only when you glance at the speedo that you realize it’s time to ease off the accelerator. Ride height is adjustable on the go as is the off road setting and you feel sure that the Q7 will handle all terrains.
Safety and ease seems to be something that Audi have focused on too with the new Q7. Its range of Driver assists (again the world’s largest offering in the segment) includes the likes of adaptive cruise control, predictive efficiency assist, high beam assist, pre sense city, pre sense front and rear (to name but a few). They are all designed to keep you and the car unscathed.
With all technological and mechanical advancements that Audi have developed (and are continuing to do so); maybe the target of landing rover on the moon is a little too easy? Maybe NASA will one day be taking tips on space travel from the Germans. One thing for sure is that grabbing the American Flag off the surface of the moon (or the Arizona desert) would be a fun ride in either of these two new Audi’s.
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