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Audi plans Frankfurt ambush

Peak condition: Like the Pikes Peak show car, the production version would use Touareg and new A8 underpinnings.

Audi intends to trump its German rivals with two new production models

5 Sep 2003

AUDI has always preferred the "big bang" approach to revealing new vehicles, resisting the current trend of its German rivals to pre-release pictures and details of new cars before their motor show unveilings.

Senior Audi executives, however, have told GoAuto there will not be just one big bang at the September Frankfurt motor show, but two.

In Australia for the local A8 launch recently, head of A8 design Dany Garand and head of concept development Dirk Isgen remained tight-lipped about Audi’s surprises at Europe’s largest motor show, which kicks off on September 9.

But both Audi AG men admitted that, fresh from renewing its entire mainstream model range, Frankfurt would be the ideal place to launch production versions of a new large coupe and Audi’s first SUV.

It’s a move designed to create maximum distraction at Frankfurt, the German auto-makers' most important motor show and where BMW will reveal its all-new 6 Series coupe, X3 cross-over and facelifted X5.

Mercedes-Benz will also unveil its 2004 CLE four-door "coupe" at Frankfurt, as well as the production version of the SLR.

Named after a 4300-metre Rocky Mountains hillclimb won by Audi three times, the Pikes Peak quattro SUV first appeared as a concept at, you guessed it, the Detroit motor show in January – the biggest motor show in the world’s largest SUV market.

And now Audi intends to get in on the burgeoning SUV sales action by revealing the production version of an off-roader based on the Volkswagen Touareg, which itself shares a majority of parts with Porsche’s Cayenne.

It’s an Audi SUV to rival the likes of X5, ML, Touareg and Cayenne. Automotive News last week reported Audi is currently in talks with suppliers about producing the Pikes Peak cross-over at Volkswagen’s Bratislava plant in Slovakia, where Touareg and body-in-white assemblies for Cayenne are currently produced.

If approved, production would begin for a 2005 model, which could go on sale in Australia within just 18 months.

Mr Isgen confirmed that, if produced, Audi’s SUV will replace the Allroad and be more performance-biased and road-oriented than Touareg.

Mr Garand concurred, adding that like the Pikes Peak show car, the production version would use Touareg and new A8 underpinnings, including air suspension.

"If Pikes Peak was produced it would have to be at a level above the others, who already have a head start," he said.

"If you adapt (current sales trends) to a business decision, it’s quite clear it is coming, but it’s complicated because we already have the Touareg in the Audi family.

"More and more we have to rely on parts commonality and I don’t see how this project will escape this. If I wanted to develop an Audi SUV, I’d look very closely at what parts are already available to save time and money.

"Of course we need to extend our product line-up like BMW and Benz and the top VW Group management want to position itself higher.

"If Audi wants to keep its difference from VW, then the only way it can go is more sporty, in a mass production type of way. Audi wants to re-expose to the world how sporty Audi can be." Mr Isgen confirmed Audi’s flagship W8 engine fits in the Pikes Peak engine bay, making it the car Porsche’s mould-breaking Cayenne should fear the most.

Meantime, Mr Isgen said the idea of a two-door A4 had long been considered, but admitted a top-end coupe – such as the Nuvolari concept coupe revealed at Geneva in March – based on the all-new 2004 A6 represented greater marketing value and would realise increased financial return.

A styling exercise more than anything else, Mr Garand said the Nuvolari 2+2 GT coupe would fit in the Audi range above TT, which is not due for replacement until 2007, to compete with 6 Series and even the Porsche 911 from early 2006.

"Almost 50 per cent of Audi production is Avant," he said. "So not a lot of development went into the coupe and the coupe has therefore been forgotten to a certain extent." Mr Garand indicated that situation was about to change and provided clues to the form such a two-door Audi may take.

"Nuvolari is not far away from the Bentley GT in concept but it needs to be more practical. The 911 is so successful because it’s a supercar with everyday practicality," he said.

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