‘You want to do what?’ gasps our guide Ara Sahakian, a sand-driving expert and owner of expedition company Offroad Zone Dubai. As we repeat our mission, his dark eyes widen in disbelief. ‘You must be mad,’ he says. ‘It’s hard enough trying to navigate the sand in a specially modified SUV, let alone at the wheel of something you normally drive to a company board meeting.’
But the car in question is the Audi A7 Sportback, and we’re here in the Middle East to put its quattro underpinnings to the ultimate test – by driving it up a sand dune.
So early the next morning we drive out of Dubai city where skyscrapers are quickly replaced by golden sand. Soon we’re turning off the road and deflating our tyres to increase the car’s footprint, replicating the softness of a camel’s hoof.
The A7 Sportback immediately grips well, despite the liquid-like surface, and the quattro technology really proves its worth. Intensive acceleration sends plumes of golden powder flying behind us as we climb higher and higher up the dunes, until the whole desert seems to stretch out beneath us. Our guide is suitably impressed: ‘I can’t believe it,’ admits Ara, as we take a moment to admire the view. The Audi A7 driver on the way to the board meeting probably wouldn’t believe it either.
Written by John Silcox. Photographs by John Wycherley.