'...head out off the highway."

March 12, 2001

Detroit-If Audi's latest concept, Project Steppenwolf, comes to fruition, you'll be able to schlep farther afield in a smaller quattro-technology vehicle. The four-position, adjustable height air-suspension system found on the production allroad quattro has been given greater heights on this compact-class vehicle-a maximum ground clearance of 8.8 inches (0.6 inch higher), which can be lowered by 2.4 inches for reducing air drag at highway speeds.

The air suspension has an automatic and a manual mode. With automatic height setting, speed governs the height selected-at speeds of 50 and 80 mph, the system lowers the body in two 0.8-inch increments to the lowest level. The highest level, 0.8 inch above normal, must be selected manually, and returns to the normal position if speed exceeds 20 mph. The other levels can be manually fixed, provided no safety-critical speeds are exceeded.

New technology on the Steppenwolf includes an electronically activated parking brake. When the driver pushes a button, an 80-bar hydraulic pump clamps the rear brake calipers. A non-return valve blocks the return flow, locking the brakes. Pushing the button again restores normal foot-brake action. But unlike the ability to use a conventional hand brake as an emergency brake, the Audi system is only enabled when the ignition is on and the vehicle stopped. Perhaps, for some drivers' peace of mind, an intermediate setting would be incorporated if the system reaches production.

Now if we can only figure out if the vehicle was named for the book or the rock group?

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