Audi in techno heaven
IT'S a fact of modern living that even Tomorrow's World couldn't have predicted.
The most sophisticated 4x4s on the roads today boast more technology than the original NASA space programme.
Many are loaded with the sort of kit that can guide them up the face of a mountain.
And when it's time to head back down, they have descent controls that allow a driver to jump off the pedals and leave everything to the car.
Now premium manufacturer Audi has upped the stakes even more with a satellite navigation set-up that will have computer game geeks drooling.
Drive through a major city in the new Q5 - a five-seat baby brother of the heavy duty Q7 sports utility vehicle - and it's almost like playing Grand Theft Auto in the car as maps appear with textured buildings and lane guidance is shown in 3D for motorway exits.
It's down to the latest evolution of Audi's Multi Media Interface infotainment control system which is no longer reliant on DVD, instead deriving its info from a hard disk drive which can also store up to 4,000 songs.
This little lot will only present customers with a fiver change from £2,000, but it does include the likes of a TV tuner, speech control, Bluetooth telephone, iPod connection, electric tailgate and parking system.
Techno heaven, certainly. And it's just the tip of an extremely lucrative iceberg.
At the launch of the Q5, which goes on sale early in the New Year, I drove a 2.0 TDI Quattro diesel model (likely to be the best seller) that was specced up to the gills with £13,000 worth of optional extras.
There was everything from nappa leather sports seats at £800 and 10-spoke alloy wheels (£600) to a slick panoramic sunroof for £1,100 and three-zone climate control at £450.
And for those who want to take advantage of the Q5's off-road ability - which doesn't cost any extra - there's an uprated electronic stability programme configured to maximise traction and integral ABS that selects the ideal strategy for sand, gravel or loose rocks.
Combine that with hill descent control plus a roof rack sensor that can sense a shift in the centre of gravity and you have some serious technology.
But here's the rub - just two per cent of 4x4 owners have ever driven across rough country.