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Audi’s new Q7 hits Mt Hotham
Mount Hotham partners with Audi to host its first winter driving event
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3 Sep 2015
AUDI has added another snowy mountain-top activity at Victoria’s most popular alpine resort, with the ‘Quattro Snow Driving Experience’ running at Mount Hotham’s summit from September 2-8.
The winter driving event was launched yesterday and allows members of the public to experience Audi’s all-new Q7 large SUV in a challenging alpine environment, ahead of the vehicle’s official launch in Australia later in the month.
For a fee of $600, guests are given the opportunity to test the vehicle’s quattro four-wheel-drive system in a series of exercises in Mount Hotham’s snow, ice and mud, under the direction of Audi chief driving instructor Steve Pizzati and his expert team of drivers.
Mr Pizzati explained this week that anyone who regularly visits Australia’s snow fields would benefit from training in how to deal with the mountain’s potentially hazardous driving conditions.
“Anyone can pass their driving test and then come straight here,” he said. “We are going to give you an opportunity to experience what you might encounter when driving in difficult conditions.”
Participants spend the day negotiating handling, braking and alpine touring challenges, which are designed to demonstrate the potential dangers of driving on slippery roads in a safe and controlled environment.
The braking test demonstrates how ABS allows a vehicle to be steered even in deep snow and under heavy braking, while an autokhana-style course is intended to force the Q7 to both understeer and oversteer.
A tour of Hotham’s off-road trails follows tracks that are not normally open to the public during winter, and allows participants to try out the Q7’s ride quality and off-road features.
A set of Pirelli Scorpion snow tyres and air suspension are the only significant non-standard Q7 features of the Hotham fleet, and during a test run we were surprised at how much grip the big SUV could find.
Trails covered by deep thawing snow were no match for the Q7 and only once during the day was the Q7 halted when one driver chose perhaps an overly ambitious drift.
With all electronic driver assistance systems switched off – a practice sometimes necessary when tackling the toughest terrain – the Q7 drifted and weaved with competence, and while big slides and understeer could be provoked, we always felt in control.
Out on the single track, the ‘Lift/Offroad Audi Drive Select’ setting jacks up the suspension for greater ground clearance, and displays a useful ‘vehicle vital statistics’ window in the central MMI screen.
While the trails were not the most challenging terrain we have encountered, the tour of beautiful surroundings and mountain panoramas did highlight the Q7’s ability to go much further than just graded roads and the school run.
The fiery new Audi RS3 was also tantalisingly on display at the event, but Audi Australia was not allowing journalists to take it for a test drive.
In addition to the series of driving challenges, Audi customers are given exclusive access to reserved parking spaces around the Mount Hotham resort, and have VIP treatment on the specially rebranded Quattro chairlift and with an express lane.
The course has already proven popular, with almost all places accounted for, but Audi reports a few spots are still available including Sunday, if people are still lost for a Father’s Day gift idea.
Other programs in Audi’s ‘Drive Experience’ catalogue include circuit-based events that train drivers from a beginner level in standard road cars, up to a fully fledged R8 racecar.
For winter driving enthusiast customers with a larger budget, cool experiences include an ice-driving experience in New Zealand and another in Europe.
The second-generation Audi Q7 officially launches mid-September priced from $103,900 plus on-road costs.
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