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Audi joins sports Q.

Byline: By Steve Hughes

Motoring trends go in cycles, as we are now finding with coupe-cabriolets, MPVs and SUVs.

One day they are as rare as hens' teeth and the next they are everywhere.

Soon we will be awash with cars that have electrically-operated steel roofs, all going up and down in musical formation in supermarket car parks to keep the punters amused.

No self-respecting family with more than two children can afford to be without an unfeasibly large people-carrier, even though half of the vehicle is never used and gathers cobwebs.

And so we come to sport utility vehicles, which are the modern equivalent of the original Land Rover Defender of more than half a century ago.

These days they are the trendiest of vehicles to be seen in and manufacturers are desperate to ensure that they have at least one in their line-up ( or, in the case of Nissan, six!

The latest to join the fray is the one car company whose name is probably the most synonymous with the 4WD concept but until now has been conspicuous by its absence. Finally, Audi is about to catch up with its competitors, although it is difficult to see how its new Q7 will attract buyers away from the BMW X5, Lexus RX300, Volvo XC90, Porsche Cayenne, Range Rover, Volkswagen Touareg and the rest.

For a start there is the name, with Q7 being surely the most uninspired moniker that any team of marketing egg-heads could conceivably come up with.

Then there is the time factor ( its rivals will have had years of everyday, real-life conditions to achieve perfection, while any newcomer will obviously be an unknown quantity.

Audi will be counting on the strength of the image of its four-ring badge on the bonnet to persuade people to part with their cash.

The company has a long and illustrious history of enviable 4WD quality, epitomised by every Quattro model it has ever made.

No doubt the newcomer will be an instant hit for that reason alone, helping to keep prices of the rest down due to the increased competition.

In the meantime, teams are testing pre-production prototypes to destruction in the coldest and hottest places on the planet in readiness for the arrival of the real thing early next year.

The Verdict:

Whose dream car? Anyone who wants not just a trendy SUV but the very latest one to come to market.

Whose nightmare? Volvo and Lexus salespeople.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 4, 2005
Words:409
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