New models - Audi - Allroad - 2.7T wagon
Audi's allroad warrior
Audi is set to take on the Mercedes-Benz M-class and BMW X5 in the luxury 4WD stakes
22 Feb 2001
By PHILIP LORD
THE ballooning prestige four-wheel drive segment will be joined by yet another polo field show pony next month with the introduction of the Audi allroad quattro.
Audi is a company very familiar with four-wheel drive, with its recent history littered with motorsport success based on the quattro four-wheel drive models. But its allroad quattro is the company's first 4WD to offer any pretensions of true off-road ability.
The allroad quattro comes as a six-speed manual for $97,200 or a five-speed Tiptronic auto for $99,250. While a turbo-diesel V6 is available in other markets, Australian market models will have the S4's 2.7 bi-turbo V6, re-tuned with a flatter torque curve to better tackle off-road pursuits.
The allroad joins other recently arrived competitors such as the BMW X5 and the Mercedes-Benz ML430. Audi believes less direct competitors will include vehicles such as the Range Rover HSE and Volvo V70 XC.
Due to popularity of the model overseas, Australia's allroad quota to the end of 2001 is 100 cars. But Audi doesn't see this as any more than a low volume vehicle, anyway.
Audi's marketing manager Patrick Collins says "If we had unlimited supply, it wouldn't be much more, perhaps a few hundred". Audi sees the allroad as a hero car, according to Collins, adding to awareness of the Audi brand in the popular 4WD segment.
Audi expects 90 per cent of buyers will be high-income 40-49 year-old males who are also an adventurous lot, adds Collins: "They like to explore new places, and until now have had to settle for a traditional 4WD, which is a compromise on-road." Though the allroad is based on the Audi A6 Avant, there are subtle visual differences. A wider track, a slight increase in body height, a ribbed, stainless steel lower bumper section, larger bumpers, flared wheels arches and a ribbed roof section painted in a contrasting colour are the main ones.
Inside, there are no inclinometers or grab handles to tell you this is Audi's off-roader. It's very similar to the A6 Avant.
The bi-turbo V6 develops 184 kW at 5800rpm and 350Nm from 1800 to 4500rpm. The five-speed Tiptronic is the same used elsewhere in the Audi range, but the six-speed manual is new.
While loosely based on the conventional six-speed Audi gearbox, it adds planetary gears that, when activated by a button on the gearknob, gives the Audi's its gear reduction, or low-range. Both transmissions work through Audi's torsen centre differential and electronic traction control.
The allroad has a four-level height-adjustable air suspension similar to the Range Rover's. It allows the Audi a ground clearance range from a low setting of 142mm and a high setting of 208mm.
The Audi's 17-inch alloy wheels have double wheel centres, increasing strength. The spare wheel is a full-size alloy, but is temporary, meaning it has to be inflated with the on-board compressor and is speed limited to 80km/h.
The Audi weighs 1795kg - 95kg more than the similarly sized Volvo V70XC.
As you might expect for the price, the Audi comes loaded.
It has eight airbags (front and side) leather interior, electric glass sunroof, power windows and mirrors, climate control, remote locking, acoustic parking system, stability and traction control, double-spoke hub 17-inch alloy wheels and lap-sash belts all around.
An 'A-plus' option package includes a satellite navigation and phone system, but price for this option is not yet finalised.
The only noteworthy negatives on the allroad spec sheet is its lack of bush nous - a temporary spare and 95RON fuel requirement are both negatives if you do actually head off the beaten track.
Drive impressions: The allroad looks like a pumped-up A6 on the outside, but inside you would hardly know the difference.
It's comfortable and roomy up front, but rear seat passengers won't like the recline angle of the back seat nor the overly firm, uncomfortable middle perch.
Start up and drive off to some demanding twisting roads and allroad's forward lunge ability thanks to the bi-turbo V6 and the grip and composure of the chassis are not usual lumbering off-roader trademarks. Slightly more body roll, slightly less grip, but otherwise a fast, fun-to-drive bitumen bully.
Drive over some corrugations or potholes, particularly at low speed, and the allroad will thump noisily through and, while acceptable, it does doesn't offer superlative ride comfort.
But throw in some light-duty rough stuff and the allroad doesn't falter.
With increased ground clearance from the adjustable four-position ride height and constant 4WD traction, slimy dirt tracks are dispatched easily. For water crossings the air intake is high, the under-bonnet is sealed, for general off-road use the underbody is reasonably well protected and underbody components tucked away.
Low range is not quite low enough for the really rough stuff, but is a clever design and much better than other attempts at keeping speed down off-road.
For serious undulating off-road bush trails, the allroad would come to a grinding halt only a few metres up the trail from its close competitors.
Audi might have saved itself a few development dollars basing allroad on the A6, but it has made up for it by spending well where it counts.
It has adhered to the design brief of giving the best of both worlds - on-road agility and a light but carefully applied dusting of off-road competence.
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