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

The Car

20 Jul 2007

AUDI has cautiously launched a single diesel variant of its bigger, heavier and softer new A6 Allroad quattro in Australia – as an all-terrain alternative to even bigger, heavier and thirstier SUVs such as its own Q7 luxury off-roader.

Described as the "ideal complement" to the Q7 launched just eight months ago, the second-generation Allroad is based on the redesigned A6 Avant launched here in August 2005 and comes in 171kW/450Nm 3.0-litre TDI V6 turbo-diesel guise only, priced from $106,000.

The similarly-engined Q7 3.0 TDI can be had for more than $20,000 less (at $85,700), while V6 TDI power has also been available in the A6 (sedan) since the current model was released here in October 2004. The A6 TDI quattro sedan is priced at $101,700.

Along with a 132kW/370Nm 2.5-litre diesel V6 variant ($82,900 in 2005), the previous C5-series Allroad was also available with two petrol engines: a 220kW/380Nm 4.2-litre V8 ($108,900) and a 184kW/350Nm twin-turbo V6 ($89,900) – the latter available with the option of a six-speed low-range manual transmission.

The new model’s price hike is due largely to the higher import duty it attracts because, unlike its predecessor, the 2007 Allroad fails two meets two of the four off-road vehicle criteria required by Australian Customs for vehicles to be deemed SUVs, which attract a five per cent import tariff compared to 15 per cent for passenger cars.

Apart from lacking a two-speed transfer case, the new Allroad no longer offers enough ground clearance or ramp-over clearance to pass as an SUV here. At its highest setting there is 185mm of ground clearance. The old Allroad offered 208mm, while the Q7 ranges between 180mm as standard and 240mm in Lift mode.

As such, Audi Australia has dubbed the Allroad a "Sports Utility Wagon or SUW" for those "looking for a more discreet package", and says the new A6 soft-roader is very much a niche model that will attract a small but important number of mostly repeat buyers.

The resurgent German maker found a modest 993 new homes for the original Allroad between February 2001 and mid-2005, when the Q7 did not exist. It attracted 50 per cent more buyers than forecast - just as the first Allroad did globally, where almost 90,000 were sold.

Given the new model’s higher pricing and new competition from its own Q7 and other luxury SUVs like the Mercedes M-class and BMW X5, Audi Oz concedes the new model will be far less popular than its predecessor.

It expects to sell about 100 Allroads for the remainder of 2007 and in future years, but believes it can entice customers from both luxury SUVs and wagons like BMW’s 5 Series Touring, the Mercedes E-class Estate (the only diesel in its class), Volvo’s V70 (and the crossover version of its successor, the upcoming XC70), Saab’s 9-5 Estate and even Audi’s own A6 Avant, which attracted 80 buyers in 2006.

Together, the premium C-segment wagon market attracts around 350 sales per annum, whereas the luxury SUV segment amasses about 16,000 sales annually. And while the A6 Avant is not available as a diesel, some 42 per cent of A6 sedan sales are diesel, and almost three-quarters of all Q7s sold are TDI variants.

Privately, however, after considering whether to import it at all, Audi officials think the Allroad can be as popular as its forebear, thanks to slightly tougher image it presents and the light-duty off-road capability it affords via standard 60mm-adjustable air springs – something other crossovers like the XC70 and Subaru’s far-cheaper Outback do not offer.

Based on the two-year-old A6 Avant, which is 34 per cent torsionally stiffer than before, the new Allroad is 124mm longer (4934mm), 10mm wider (1862mm) and rides on a 76mm-longer (2833mm) wheelbase. As a result, Audi says there is 10mm more rear legroom, 23mm and 6mm more front and rear shoulder room respectively and a 76mm-longer boot length.

Total luggage space of 1660 litres is also up by 70 litres, while space behind the rear seats is 565 litres (up 110 litres). Kerb weight rises from 1825kg to 1880kg, while braked towing capacity is 2100kg.

Compared to the 188kW/330Nm 3.2-litre petrol V6-powered A6 Avant quattro ($104,800), the Allroad also adds TDI power plus standard aluminium roof rails, larger wing mirrors, twin rear exhaust outlets, matt-coloured bumpers (with stainless steel undertrays), side skirts and (flared) wheelarches.

Making room for the front bash plate is a shorter version of Audi’s single-frame corporate grille, which also features a "floating" numberplate.

Inside, "allroad quattro" badged aluminium door sills and slightly different carpets and trims set the Allroad apart from lesser A6 Avants.

Of course, a key Allroad sales pitch will be its standard adaptive air suspension, which comprises "Dynamic" (offering 125mm of ground clearance - 7mm higher than A6 Avant – at speeds above 120km/h), "Comfort" (140mm at all speeds), "Lift" (185mm at speeds under 30km/h) and "Automatic" modes.

As with all air-suspended Audis, suspension modes can be selected on the standard seven-inch monitor via the console-mounted "multi media interface" (MMI) control knob.

Then there is the quattro all-wheel drivetrain which, like all AWD Audi models except Q7, distributes torque equally to both the front and rear axles, but can direct up to 75 per cent of torque to the rear when required. The Q7 defaults to a 42/58 front/rear torque split, and can send up to 65 per cent forward or 85 per cent rearward.

Unfortunately, the Q7’s (and the A6 Avant’s) full-size spare wheel/tyre is also missing from the Allroad - an apparent victim of the fitment of a rear underbody protection. In its place is a space-saving "temporary spare", which is limited to 80km/h.

Nor is an all-terrain tyre available for the Allroad, which rides on 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in slightly higher-profile 225/55-section tyres than equivalent A6s.

Apart from a full complement of safety features including specific ESP traction and stability control, ABS, EBD, EDL, twin front airbags, twin front and rear side airbags and twin front and rear head airbags, the standard equipment list includes automatic headlights and wipers, headlight washers, climate-control, cruise control, trip computer, Milano leather trim, powered front seats, a front armrest, 160-Watt 10-speaker CD sound system, speed-sensing Servotronic power steering, an electric parking brake and a four-spoke multi-function leather steering wheel with paddle gearshifters.

Electric seats are optional on the Q7 3.0 TDI (which also charges a $1700 premium for the third row of seats, making a total of seven), and there’s also a $5750 charge for air suspension on the diesel Q7.

Mated to the same six-speed automatic transmission, the Q7 3.0 TDI offers 500Nm of torque from 1750rpm, returns average fuel consumption of 10.5L/100km, a 0-100km/h sprint time of 9.1 seconds and a top speed of 210km/h.

Delivering the same 171kW at 4000rpm (but 450Nm of torque from a lower 1400rpm), the five-seater Allroad’s variable-geometry turbo-diesel DOHC V6 returns a claimed 8.8L/100km, sprints to 100km/h in 7.8 seconds and has a top speed of 230km/h.

Allroad options include a rear-view parking camera ($1800), remote starting system, 270-Watt/13-speaker BOSE surround sound system ($1850, sunroof, DVD navigation ($4200), TV, adaptive Xenon headlights with daytime running lights and LED tail-lights, 18/19-inch wheels, tyre pressure monitoring, sunblinds, an automatic tailgate ($1500), colour-coded bumpers ($2000) and metallic paint ($2000).

Audi Oz offers a $5500 "Technik Package" comprising DVD navigation, Bluetooth phone and i-Pod audio preparation and voice control system, as well as a $4500 "Comfort Package" comprising the parking camera, Bluetooth, sunroof, Valcona leather and different woodgrain inlays.

In Europe, the new A6 Allroad is also available with 132kW/380Nm 2.7 TDI diesel V6, 188kW/330Nm 3.2 FSI petrol V6 and 257kW/440Nm 4.2 petrol V8 power.

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Did you know?

To help keep weight down, the new Allroad’s front roof frame has a hybrid structure, made from a combination of steel and plastic

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