Audi is eager to show that its first mass-market electric car, the e-tron, is the real deal. The German automaker rolled the e-tron down Colorado’s Pikes Peak to demonstrate its regenerative braking system, then sent it to Namibia to thrash in the desert. Now, an Audi e-tron has driven up a ski slope in the Austrian Alps.
The stunt replicates a famous Audi commercial from 1986 that featured rally driver Harald Demuth driving an Audi 100 CS up the Pitkavouri ski jump in Kaipola, Finland, to show off the sedan’s quattro all-wheel drive system. This time, Audi chose the Mausefalle (mousetrap) area of the Streif downhill course in Kitzbühel, Austria. With an 85-percent gradient, the Mausefalle is the steepest part of the course, according to Audi.
The Audi e-tron used for the stunt was a modified prototype sporting spiked tires and an additional electric motor. The standard e-tron uses one electric motor to power each axle, but a second motor was added to the rear axle of this car. That boosted output from the stock 402 horsepower and 413 pound-feet of torque to 496 hp and an absurd 6,579 lb-ft of torque, according to Audi. Software was changed to deal with the extra torque. Racing driver Mattias Ekström — whose résumé includes a World Rallycross Championship and two championships in Germany’s DTM series — was in the driver’s seat.
“Even I was impressed with the way this car handles such difficult terrain,” Ekström said in a statement.
For safety, the e-tron was equipped with a roll cage, racing seat, and six-point harness. It was also tethered to a safety cable. This was not used to pull the vehicle, Audi noted.
Driving a car up a ski slope is impressive, but because Audi had to heavily modify the e-tron to do it, the stunt doesn’t really demonstrate the capabilities of the stock version people are actually able to buy. Not that most buyers of luxury SUVs are expecting that kind of capability from their vehicles. In showrooms, Audi faces a different kind of challenge: Convincing buyers to go electric, and to choose an e-tron over a Tesla Model X or Jaguar I-Pace.
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