SEE ALSO: Audi Buyer's Guide
Vehicular categories are being rearranged. Blame it on American SUV mania, for automakers from around the globe, and in all price categories, feel the need for an SUV-like offering in their product lines. For non-truck makers, this means a "crossover" vehicle, something that combines popular features of both a car and a truck. The idea is to combine the comfort of a car with the versatility and all-weather traction of an SUV.
The Audi allroad (the name is not capitalized) is one of the most interesting of these new vehicles. It is a very Audi interpretation of a crossover vehicle. Audi and its predecessors have never really been civilian truck makers. The NSU Munga and Audi-NSU Iltis, small four-wheel drive utility vehicles built primarily for the German military, were as close as Audi has ever came to making a traditional SUV. (And, parenthetically, the four- wheel drive system developed for the Iltis in the late 1970s indirectly gave rise to Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive system.) But Audi has been a leader in all-wheel drive technology since the development of the first Quattro over twenty years ago, and is well- known for luxury wagons like the A6 Avant. So, what could be a more logical entry into the SUV field for Audi than a crossover vehicle derived from an all-wheel drive wagon?
But the allroad is more than an A6 Avant with body cladding and a raised suspension. Although based on the same platform and superficially similar in style to the A6 Avant, the two cars share few body panels. Power, 250 horses worth, is from the 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 also found in the A6 2.7t and S4 driving all four wheels through the latest version of Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive system. And a very sophisticated pneumatic and electronically-controlled suspension has adjustable ride height, for maximum performance, safety, and comfort on all kinds of road. For, as I discovered during my week of driving and at the press introduction in Vail, Colorado, last Fall, the Audi allroad is truly a car for all roads and all seasons. In Colorado, I was able to drive an allroad on pavement in rain and snow, and on some rather marginal dirt roads. At home, I had an allroad during the last serious rain storm of the season, and the first blooming of Spring. In rain, shine, snow, heat, at sea level or 11,000 feet the allroad is comfortably luxurious and seriously capable.
APPEARANCE: In hands other than those of the Audi styling department, the basic lightly-rounded Avant shape with added dark plastic bumpers, fender flares, and lower side cladding could too easily look tasteless. A credit to Audi's designers, the allroad is an assertive vehicle in the crossover-SUV mold. Distinctly Audi touches include aluminum door sill trim that makes the car look taller than it really is, more aluminum on the roof rack and at the tailgate lip, and stainless steel front and rear skid plates. Rugged, competition-look alloy wheels and specially-made "allroad" tires complete the look.
COMFORT: Inside, the allroad is pure luxury, Audi style. Like outside, it is similar to the A6 Avant, but not identical. It has the conservative elegance of the boardroom, with leather upholstery and walnut trim on the instrument panel and shift knob. Go for the "convenience package," it includes six-position (off to keep-a- pizza-warm) seat heaters for the front and outboard rear seats and a heated steering wheel, which add greatly to comfort on cool days.
SAFETY: All seating positions have three-point safety harnesses. Dual front airbags are supplemented by front side airbags, "sideguard" curtain airbags, and optional rear seat side airbags.
ROADABILITY: The allroad's four-level electronically-controlled pneumatic suspension is designed to give it the ability to travel on anything remotely resembling a road, from semi-improved dirt to a superhighway. At its lowest, with 5.6 inches of clearance, it's no different than any street-only sport wagon, and has the expected Quattro all-wheel drive grip on wet or dry pavement - far superior to any SUV, or any other crossover vehicle. Notch it up to 6.6 inches for better clearance over urban hazards like curbs, potholes, and the odd muffler in the roadway, or to 7.6 inches for moderate rough-road driving. Fully extended, the allroad boasts 8.2 inches of clearance, more than many SUVs. During the press intro, I was able to drive an allroad on a steep, rocky, semi-washed-out Colorado dirt road. Careful attention to sharp rocks kept the tires intact, and the allroad's undersides emerged unscathed. Few people spending upwards of $40,000 are likely to do anything as silly, but it can be done (with care, of course!) Rain and moderate snow on pavement present few challenges to the allroad.
PERFORMANCE: At one point in Colorado, I got out of the allroad to take photos of the beautiful Rocky Mountain scenery. Wheeze, wheeze...oops, I'm at 11,000 feet, the air's a little thin, and I'm not acclimated. Didn't bother the allroad's 2.7-liter 30-valve V6, though. Thanks to its twin water-cooled turbochargers, it was making a goodly percentage of its maximum 250 horsepower even at altitude. And, with maximum torque of 258 lb-ft from 1850 through 4000 rpm, it is wonderfully flexible. Transmission choices are a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic with "Tiptronic"(r) manual shift mode. Driven sedately, the allroad is every bit as quiet and refined as any luxury car. With more gusto, its Quattro race and rally car heritage starts to show.
CONCLUSIONS: You can have it all with the Audi allroad, the only all-road, all-season premium luxury sport-touring vehicle currently made.
SPECIFICATIONS 2001 Audi Allroad Base Price $ 41,900 Price As Tested $ 47,850 Engine Type dual overhead cam twin-turbocharged 30-valve V6 Engine Size 2.7 liters / 163 cu. in. Horsepower 250 @ 5800 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 258 @ 1850-4000 rpm Transmission 5-speed automatic with Tiptronic(r) manual shift mode Wheelbase / Length 108.5 in. / 189.4 in. Curb Weight 4233 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 16.9 Fuel Capacity 18.5 gal. Fuel Requirement unleaded regular (87 octane) or premium (92 octane) Tires P225/55 HR17 Pirelli P6 Allroad Brakes, front/rear vented disc / vented disc, antilock standard Suspension, front/rear four-link independent with air springs/ independent double wishbone with air springs Ground clearance adjustable to 5.6, 6.6, 7.6, and 8.2 inches Drivetrain front engine, all-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 15 / 21 / 18 0 to 60 mph 7.3 sec (mfg) Towing capacity 3300 lbs OPTIONS AND CHARGES 5-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic(r) $ 1,000 Glass power tilt and slide sunroof $ 1,000 17" 5-spoke alloy wheels with twin spoke design $ 950 Premium package - includes: xenon headlights, auto-dimming mirrors, power folding exterior mirrors, front seat and exterior mirror memory $ 900 Convenience package - includes: heated front and rear seats, Homelink(r) remote transmitter, heated multi-function steering wheel $ 800 Bose(r) premium sound system $ 750 Destination charge $ 550