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First drive: Allroads lead to a V8 at Audi

Inside style: There is a level of restrained style and perceived quality to the interior that owners of most current Mercedes models or the new BMW 5-series could only wish for.

Revised features plus V8 power add polish to an often ignored 4WD alternative

13 Feb 2004

AUDI has broadened and repositioned its Allroad quattro range with the late introduction of a V8 engined model this week.

The new 4.2-litre V8 is related to the compact, lightweight unit that has just debuted in the high performance S4 range.

In this Allroad quattro application it produces 220kW of power at 6200rpm and 380Nm of torque at between 2700 and 4600rpm.

Audi says the 1860kg Allroad 4.2 V8, solely allied (like the rest of the range now) to a five-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, can achieve the 0-100km/h sprint in 7.2 seconds, on its way to a 240km/h top speed.

In contrast, the Allroad V8’s arch enemy – the 2120kg BMW X5 4.4 V8 with a six-speed automatic gearbox – produces 235kW/440Nm, hits the 100km/h mark from rest in 7.0 seconds, but can only muster a top speed of 210km/h.

That lower top speed is a corollary of the bulky BMW’s vast frontal area, while the Audi benefits from the Allroad’s air-suspension system that can not only liberate 208mm of ground clearance up to 35km/h, but also automatically lower the normal ride height by 25mm to 142mm above 130km/h for better overall aerodynamics.

Sadly for the slightly more serious off-road user, the deletion of the Allroad 2.7T’s six-speed manual option means that the low-range transmission that accompanied it has also disappeared.

Audi is proud of the new eight pot’s packaging, which has been central to its use in the Allroad’s relatively compact engine bay.

The existing 220kW/400Nm 4.2-litre V8 engine available in the Audi A6 4.2 was deemed too long.

So to avoid resorting to that car’s 37mm-bolder proboscis (which would have compromised the Allroad’s off-road approach angles), the new V8’s length has been reduced by 52mm to 464mm instead.

This has been achieved by using two small fans in place of the bulky old single unit, as well as by moving the chain (instead of tooth) belts – which drive the water pump, oil pump, hydraulic pump and the air-conditioning compressor – to behind the motor.

Other engine innovations include the use of lightweight magnesium components, which reduce the engine’s mass by around five kilograms, and a “drive-by-wire” accelerator.

A two-stage variable intake manifold and the use of one variable camshaft system per bank of cylinders (that varies the valve timing of the inlet camshafts according to the engine speed range) improve the V8’s low-end torque spread and reduce exhaust emissions.

To make room for the $108,900 V8 range-topper, the newly formed Audi Australia has lowered the price of the existing base Allroad 2.5 TDI turbodiesel V6 and 2.7T bi-turbo petrol V6 models by $5170 and $7570 respectively. The former now starts at $82,900, while the latter is $89,900.

This contrasts to the newly facelifted X5 3.0i petrol auto’s $84,000, the 3.0d turbodiesel auto’s $84,500 and the 4.4i V8 auto’s $111,800.

But what Audi gives Audi also takes. Both Allroad quattro V6s now lose some of the luxury features that were previously standard.

Buyers must now shell out extra for electrically adjustable front seats, xenon headlights, wood trim, a sunroof, CD changer, an alarm system and parking radar. The V8 has all but the last item as standard, and adds 18-inch (instead of 17-inch) alloy wheels shod with 245/45 R 18 Y tyres, burr walnut door trim, premium-sound audio and metallic paint.

On the safety front, all Allroads include dual front, side and window airbags, Audi’s alphabet soup of electronic brake, stability and traction controls (ABS, EBD, ESP, ASR, EDL), quattro permanent four-wheel drive (that uses a Torsen interaxle differential for optimum grip), the four-level air-suspension with a dash-mounted automatic ride height control and front fog lights.


Audi expects the V8 to add around five sales per month to the 17.4 monthly average it achieved last year

Key cabin items include keyless entry, power windows, dual zone air-conditioning, a front centre armrests, cruise control, trip computer, electric height adjustment for the front seats, leather upholstery and a nifty ski bag in the rear centre armrest.

Audi Australia general manger Graham Hardy defends the 2004 Allroad’s specification losses, citing the need for more attractive base prices that don’t have to carry unnecessary premiums against similarly powered but cheaper rivals.

"This is to better match and line-up …the 2.5 TDI and 2.7T against some of its competitors …from a market point of view and an equipment point of view," he said.

"With the tremendous growth in this market …we feel it is an area where we could do more, so we have used this opportunity with the new V8 to completely restructure our participation." Audi expects the V8 to add around five sales per month to the 17.4 monthly average it achieved last year. In contrast, the X5’s 2003 monthly average was 208.8.

The Allroad was announced in Australia in early 2001, after a protracted introduction following its 1998 Detroit motor show debut as a concept car.

However the Allroad’s DNA dates back further, to the current C5-series A6 Avant range released here in October 1998.

The all-new C6-series A6 model is imminent, but Mr Hardy insists Audi in Germany will keep producing the Allroad for another two to three years in its current C5 guise.

It is believed Audi will eventually replace the A6 Allroad with a full-sized 4WD wagon based on the Volkswagen Touareg/Porsche Cayenne twins, but with a bespoke body and interior.

That car has already been previewed in concept guise as the Audi Pikes Peak. Both it and the Allroad are expected to run concurrently for a while.

An Allroad version of the current A4 Avant wagon may also surface during 2005, although Audi is hesitant to comment at this stage.

The 2004 Audi C5 A6 Allroad quattro range:
Audi Allroad quattro 2.5 TDI V6 auto: $82,900
Audi Allroad quattro 2.7T V6 auto: $89,900
Ayudi Allroad quattro 4.2 V8 auto: $108,900

DRIVE IMPRESSIONS:

THE Audi Allroad quattro has always deserved to be on all premium 4WD wagon buyers’ radar simply because it is an intelligent and thoughtful alternative to its more glamourous but gluttonous petrol-powered compatriots.

Point of fact: the Allroad is at least around 250kg lighter than the rival BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz ML-class. Potentially, then, it has pummelled the pavements, pedestrians and petrol pumps with slightly less punch as a result.

And among the Toorak and Double Bay set in their ML-class liners and X5s, there is no denying the individualistic appeal of the all-paw Audi.

The 4.2 V8, however, is an altogether less altruistic proposition. Its official 13.7L/100km overall fuel consumption figure proves that. But it does elevate the Allroad to a higher level of smoothness, refinement and performance than before.

Drivers can revel in the addictive and rorty rasp of the irresistibly revvy 220kW 4.2-litre V8, as well as the excellent on-road acceleration and overtaking power it provides.

7 center image Inside, the surprisingly spacious cabin and expected luxury accoutrements like leather upholstery, a CD stacker, trip computer and dual-zone air-conditioning are presented.

But satellite navigation and parking radar – two hip features in a school-run special like this – are expensive options.

It may not be the newest or freshest interior around, but there is still a level of restrained style and perceived quality to this Audi’s interior that owners of most current Mercedes models or the new BMW 5-series could only wish for.

The ride is a little on the firm side for something that is air-suspended, but came into its own on irregular and rutted road surfaces, cushioning its occupants from the worst of it.

And while it is hard to disguise the hefty 1860kg weight when thrown around corners or high-speed curves, the Allroad never felt ponderous or out of its element – something you could never say about the 2200kg-plus Mercedes ML500.

But the weighty steering still felt reluctant to transmit the type of feedback and steering sensitivity an X5 driver takes for granted.

So while it tops the range, whether the 4.2 V8 is the ultimate Allroad is another matter.

Sure, advanced electronic aids like traction and stability controls contain any impending slipping or sliding the big Audi might come across on wet or unmade roads.

And on rough tracks, the interruption and/or redistribution of drive to the appropriate wheels for maximum grip in the name of smooth progress is seamless, with only a gentle ‘fading’ of power underfoot rather than a shocking or jolting cut-out some such devices develop.

But the low profile 245/45 R 18 Y tyres shod on lovely alloy wheels proved unsuitable on the rough terrain the launch drive route led the 4.2 V8 through. In a nutshell, they were far too vulnerable to tyre-shredding punctures.

If these are the conditions the Allroad is aimed at, perhaps the more regularly tyred 132kW 2.5 TDI is the go, particularly as its 370Nm maximum torque occurs at a lowly and very handy 1500-2500rpm.

Now that the woefully neglected six-speed manual 2.7T Allroad with its low-range gearbox has hit the highway to heaven, the diesel is probably the ultimate Allroad experience.

And it better adheres to the Allroad’s traditional altruism than the V8 as well.

Although whether that’s enough for the Allroad to cut it against the bigger and fresher BMW X5 and Volvo XC90 is highly unlikely, no matter how good it is.

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