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New-car test drives to be reinvented by Brisbane Airport


Brisbane Airport to develop world's biggest car dealership site - with its own test track designed by race driver Mark Skaife.

There will soon be a new meaning to taking a new car for a test drive around the block.

A world-first car dealership site next to Brisbane airport will open in 2020 with its own race track and test drive circuit - so buyers don't get spooked by other traffic when testing a new model.

The 51 hectare-site - almost as big as Brisbane's CBD - will house up to 25 dealerships from most major brands, giving buyers the opportunity to compare rival cars in the same driving conditions.

The half a billion dollar project is being led by the operators of Brisbane Airport and has enlisted the help of champion race driver Mark Skaife to develop the circuit, which will also enable customers to experience new autonomous-car technology in a safe environment.

The 2.5km circuit is as long as many race tracks in Australia and can be configured in three different formats to host multiple events at the same time.

This has never been done before in Australia, if not the world

There are no plans to host motor races, but the venue may be opened on Sundays for "weekend track days", where members of the public can put their own cars through their paces.

As yet, no car makers or dealers have signed on to the deal, but the operators say there is "strong interest from most major brands" and contracts will get signed "once the bulldozers move in and they can see this is real".

"This has never been done before in Australia, if not the world," says John Tormey, the general manager of commercial business at Brisbane Airport. "Having a dedicated automotive precinct, a one-stop shop for buyers across most major automotive brands."

The initiative has come about because the dealerships in nearby Fortitude Valley are being overgrown by residential apartments and the land will soon become too expensive to sell cars from.

It's a dilemma facing car dealerships in the CBDs of most major capital cities.

A similar project by transport magnate Lindsay Fox at Melbourne's Essendon airport has up to 10 car brands in one location, but drivers must test drive cars on the surrounding freeways and public roads.

Sydney Motorsport Park has been experimenting with "mobile motor shows" where certain car brands invite customers to test new models on the circuit, but there are no dealership facilities on the site and the models available for test drives are limited.

The closest so far to the Brisbane concept are car service centres run by luxury brands near the domestic airports in Sydney and Melbourne so that high-flyers can have their cars worked on while they're away.

BMW also has a showroom and test area near the airport in Seoul, South Korea.

But the Brisbane project is first of its type allowing competing brands to build showrooms on the site of a test drive facility.

Mr Tormey said development of the land - on the north-western side of Airport Drive, opposite the international terminal - will commence in 2017, and the race track and initial showrooms will be completed by the end of 2019, ready for operation in 2020.

What do you think of Brisbane's bold plan to change the face of the test-drive? Share your thoughts in the comments below.