The experience of test-driving a new vehicle leaves something to be desired. You’re on the verge of dropping tens of thousands and the salesperson offers you a little spin around the block (as was the case with this writer’s recent car-shopping outing). Uh, okay. What ever happened to really opening it up to feel the pickup, marveling at the horsepower, being impressed with the precision handling?
With its recent interactive installation in Toronto, the Audi Quattro Experience, Audi Canada set out to reinvent the test-drive experience by injecting it with some fun. Rather than try to lure customers into a showroom and get them behind the wheel, Audi brought a test track right to the heart of its target demo in Toronto’s financial district.
Working with Toronto-based advertising agency Zulu Alpha Kilo, Audi created a slot-car racetrack with custom-made 1:32 scale Quattros that allowed passersby to race through a rigorous course of hairpin turns, icy mountain passes, and open straightaways while using a custom iPad controller (dubbed the world’s first). While stopping for a little car race on a lunch break seems like kids’ stuff, the stakes were high: Participant race times were displayed on a live leaderboard onsite and online, and the fastest race time won an Audi Driving Experience package that included a hot lap on a race track in an Audi R8—test-driving at its most exhilarating.
Zak Mroueh, president, creative director, and founder at Zulu Alpha Kilo, says the idea for the installation was to showcase the road-hugging capability of the new Audi A4 Quattro in an innovative way. And indeed, bringing the idea to fruition required invention and innovation at every turn.
First, Michigan-based Slot Mods was tasked with creating a handcrafted 140-square-foot (20’ by 7’) custom slot-car track. Then, 1:32 scale 2013 Audi A4 shells were 3-D printed and fit with an Audi Quattro all-wheel drive slot-car chassis, as well as custom in-car IP cameras. Four HD 1080p webcams were installed at track eye level and 12 reed switches were strategically placed around the track and would trigger the camera to follow the action during the race. The video feeds were then pushed to large screens onsite, back to the iPad controller, and streamed live on the web. Integration with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube meant participants could share the video footage of their race with friends.
As with something so technical, it’s no surprise that there’s a making-of film. However, rather than simply chart the process, Zulu Alpha Kilo created a touching short film—"Painting Coconuts" directed by Tamir Moscovici of Industry Films—that not only captures the entire build through the eyes of track maker David Beattie of Slot Mods USA, but also offers a look into Beattie’s personal story, his passion for the art of custom track design and for the sport of slot-car racing.
Says Mroueh: "After landing on the idea to reinvent the test drive, we approached Slot Mods to help bring our vision to life. And because it was such a unique concept, we wanted to give the audience an opportunity to see behind the curtain and that lead to the documentary that shows how it all came to life."
Together, the racetrack installation and the short film paint a picture of driving (an Audi Quattro, of course) that’s full of innovation and fun. Which is far more interesting than your run-of-the-mill test-drive experience.