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Paris show: No sheep's clothing for Steppenwolf

Multi-faceted: Audi's Steppenwolf concept looks like a cross between an A3 and a TT.

Audi's centrepiece at the Paris motor show will be the wild-looking Steppenwolf

28 Sep 2000

AUDI has dubbed this radical new concept car Steppenwolf - perhaps because the unique cross-over vehicle is "born to be wild".

The German car-maker says the Steppenwolf - based on the same platform as the TT and A3 - is a "study for on-road and demanding off-road use".

Measuring 4.21m long, 1.83m wide and 1.46m high, the concept car is claimed to offer fully fledged seating for four.

Audi says the Steppenwolf is intended to demonstrate its vision for a compact, high-performance vehicle that can fulfil more than one purpose.

The design study incorporates Audi's quattro expertise and experience with height-adjustable air suspension.

The engineers set themselves the following goal for the Steppenwolf: "It should feel equally at home in the outback as on the motorway".

Under the bonnet lurks a 3.2-litre V6 engine that develops 165kW and 320Nm, enabling the car to accelerate from standstill to 100km/h in under eight seconds. Top speed is in excess of 230km/h.

The new V6 is likely to be offered in the A6 and A4 in due course - enabling Audi to compete on level terms with the likes of the BMW 530i and Mercedes-Benz E320.

Power is relayed to all four wheels by a six-speed manual gearbox.

The quattro permanent four-wheel drive system ensures maximum traction and excellent directional stability in all conditions and across all types of terrain.

The electronically controlled Haldex centre differential distributes power between the front and rear wheels. If the front wheels slip, an increasing proportion of torque is directed to the rear wheels.

In addition, the Electronic Differential Lock EDL distributes torque between the wheels on one axle.

It also uses Electronic Stability Program (ESP) to keep the car on course should the driver exceed its cornering capabilities.

Steppenwolf's technical innovations include a four-level air suspension that allows ground clearance to be varied by up to 60mm.

The vehicle rides low at highway speeds to promote stability and optimum aerodynamics yet offers up to 223mm of ground clearance when traversing rough terrain.

As on the all-road quattro, the Steppenwolf has two control strategies for the air suspension, an automatic and a manual mode. Automatic control is dependent on the vehicle's speed.

The four-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.

Externally, the Steppenwolf looks like a cross between a three-door A3 and a TT.

It rides on enormous 19-inch, six-star wheels shod with specially developed 225/50R19 tyres. The tyres' tread is claimed to be equally well suited to off-road and on-road driving.

The Steppenwolf can be fitted with either a carbon-fibre hardtop or a detachable soft top.

The car's interior is notable for its simple functionality and robustness. All important information is easily legible on large, round analogue instruments with white dials and red needles on a dark background.

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