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Car reviews - Audi - Allroad - 3.0 TDI 5-dr wagon

Launch Story

Audi logo1 May 2007

By MARTON PETTENDY

AUDI Australia thought long and hard about introducing the second-generation A6 Allroad Down Under, given its original C5-series predecessor notched up less than 1000 sales during five years in which there was no full-sized Q7 SUV and no diesel engines in its local A6 range. In the end, it chose to import a single 3.0-litre turbo-diesel TDI variant, priced at $106,000. Despite being bigger, heavier and more powerful than before, even Audi concedes the new Allroad will have a more limited appeal than its predecessor. Which is a shame, because for those that dream of venturing away from paved roads and don't need seven seats, the super-refined A6 Avant-based Allroad is a far more sensible (and environmentally friendly) solution than the go-anywhere, $15,000-cheaper Q7 equivalent.

We like:
Refinement, build/finish quality, interior and exterior design, ergonomics, torque delivery, noise supression, safety features, standard equipment, road-holding

We don't like:
Price premium over predecessor and equivalent Q7, no low-range gear ratio this time round, lower maximum ground clearance than before, space-saver spare wheel/tyre, no V8 option, no manual option

JUST as Volvo is struggling to make an Australian business case for the all-new version of its time-honoured V70 wagon (and instead appears likely to import only its soft-roader sibling, the new XC70), so too did Audi Oz grapple with whether to make available the Allroad alongside its donor vehicle, the A6 Avant, which arrived here almost two years ago.

Like Volvo, and for that matter Subaru with its Liberty wagon-based Outback, Audi remains one of the few car-makers to continue with the passenger car-based crossover wagon formula.

As Holden's defunct Adventra proves, the crossover wagon's popularity has waned in a world packed full of dedicated SUVs wrapped in bespoke bodies - despite the fact many of them are also car-based and offer no greater off-road capability.

From that perspective, for those that don't need or want the size, weight, fuel consumption or stigma attached to full-size SUV, Audi should be applauded for continuing with the Allroad concept.

Instead of taking an axe to it and leaving its SUV duties to the monstrous seven-seat Q7 and next year's A4-based Q5 five-seater (and the further-out A3-based Q3), the German maker has come out fighting with a second-generation model based on the third-generation A6 Avant.

Despite the fact it's also available overseas with 3.2-litre petrol V6, 2.7-litre diesel V6 and 4.2-litre petrol V8 power (we get only the 3.0 TDI V6 turbo-diesel), a closer inspection of the MkII Allroad's vital statistics shows Audi has, somewhat understandably, softened off its crossover formula.

First, there's no manual version as before, which also came with a low-range transfer case that made it a real darkhorse on slippery up or downhill slopes.

Maximum ground clearance has also been reduced by more than 20mm, from well over 200mm to a Kluger and Territory-like 185mm.

And there's no full-size spare wheel - something the Q7 has but which many of its luxury SUV rivals lack. Instead, Allroad comes with a space-saver limited to 80km/h, plus slightly higher-profile (but still road-biassed) tyres. All-terrain tyres are not available.

On the launch in western NSW, any one of the four punctures experienced over three days would have spelled a long, slow drive back to town, where the tyres would have required repair or, even more time consumingly, replacement.

Of course, the Allroad has much longer front and rear overhangs than the Q7, which also rides much higher off the ground when specified with air suspension (standard on the V8 and a $5750 option on V6 variants).

That makes the similar but torquier diesel engine in the Q7 3.0 TDI cost $91,450 - still almost $15,000 less than the Allroad. That's thanks to the higher passenger car duty attracted by the Allroad, as a direct result of its lower-than-before ground clearance and ramp-over statistics.

Of course, most of this is academic to those who want little more than the rugged, off-road look afforded by the Allroad's chunky wheelarch flares and matt-coloured bumpers with stainless steel stone guards.

Indeed, as a road car, the Allroad is far more refined than its predecessor, feeling much lighter on the road despite a modest weight increase and revealing far less of the suspension wobble that came with Audi's first generation of air springs.

The ride is also of a higher quality than before, despite seeming to be lower to the ground in the lowest (Dynamic) suspension mode, but ultimately the heavier Allroad doesn't ride, nor keep bodyroll in check, as well as other large German wagons.

Steering is typically Audi-light and the dearth of both feel and feedback makes it somewhat artificial and remote, but on straight roads this is easy to overlook when cocooned by the super-stiff A6 Avant body, superb noise supression and first-class cabin design and finish.

The 3.0 TDI engine hauls the Allroad even more quickly than in the Q7, despite 50Nm less peak torque, making it more than a second quicker to 100km/h and giving it an extra 20km/h of top speed. Highway-speed overtaking is effortless and though there is some turbo lag evident around town, the diesel Allroad remains a deceptively rapid wagon.

Claimed fuel consumption is almost 2L/100km less than the Q7 3.0 TDI too. And though we couldn't match the 8.8L/100km official claim, 9.4L/100km is far better than any Q7 can achieve in the real world.

Yes, adjustable air suspension gives Allroad owners a much wider range of usage than A6 Avant drivers, and the ability to raise the body off the ground an extra 60mm would be handy for the ocassional creek crossing, in sand or to traverse the weekender's rocky access track.

Notwishtanding the chunkier look and standard roof rails, however, the Allroad lacks the high seating position many buyers choose SUVs for, and is even further out of its depth than fully fledged luxury SUVs when the going get tough in remote areas.

But if it's a diesel A6 Avant you're after and don't mind the tougher look, the Allroad is a relative bargain at $106,000 - more than $3000 less than the petrol A6 3.2 V6 AWD Avant ($109,150), its closest relative in Australia.

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