Road Test: Audi Allroad Quattro
Blazing new trails
It was a genuine stunner in concept form at the 1998 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Now, fresh from our first encounter with a Euro-spec production version of Audi's luxuriously appointed and eminently capable all-terrain tourer, we're even more impressed with the new Allroad Quattro.
Blending the best elements of the A6 Avant with Audi's renowned Quattro all-wheel-drive system, the Allroad also brings a host of unique cosmetic and functional items to the mix. Save for hood and rear hatch, all of its main body panels are bespoke. So, too, is the supplemental reinforcing beneath that slick sheetmetal. Further accenting its multifaceted personality are matte-finish fascias and fender flares, stainless steel skidplates, and custom five-spoke cast-alloy wheels shod with 225/55HR17 rubber. As a final touch, the Allroad's ribbed roof panel gets a contrasting flat finish.
Inside, this function-feeds-form motif carries on smartly. U.S. models will be lavishly appointed, boasting standard leather and wood trim, special high-support bucket seats, and front/front-side airbags teamed with inflatable side curtains for starters. There's also keyless remote locking, AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo, dual-zone auto climate control, and a full range of power amenities. Option packages for Luxury (heated seats/wheel, retained seat/mirror memories, HomeLink, Xenon headlamps, Bose stereo upgrade), Warm Weather (solar sunroof, rear/side window shades), and Guidance (GPS system, rear-sonar distance ranging) can be augmented with rear-side airbags, third-row/rear-facing child seat, hands-free phone, and six-disc CD changer.
In Europe, the Allroad comes with either a 2.7-liter/250-horsepowerDOHC biturbo V-6 or a 2.5-liter/180-horse turbodiesel. Here in America, we'll get only the former. Making a stout 250 pound-feet of torque from 1800-4500 revs, it can be paired with either a six-speed manual transmission or five-speed Tiptronic automatic--with F1-style button-shift feature. Our autoshifted Euro model hit 60 mph in 8.1 seconds and toured the quarter mile in 16.0 seconds at 86.3 mph. Audi says the U.S. version should be slightly quicker.
One other difference: The dual-range transfer case--a European option on manual-transmission models--is not slated to come here. Audi contends the torque converter in the Tiptronic largely eliminates the need for this costly extra gearset; and with about 90 percent of the 6000 Allroads headed to the U.S. expected to be Tip-equipped, it's an understandable decision. Our vehicles also will be speed limited to 130 mph, while unrestrained Euro models should see the far side of 140. That, too, is a tradeoff most potential buyers probably can live with.
Supplementing its basic Quattro hardware, the Allroad also gets standard traction control and stability systems. Ample stopping power is ensured by four-wheel ABS-abetted disc brakes that halted our 4023-pound tester 60-0 mph in just 126 feet.
One final key element in the Allroad mix is a four-level, driver-selectable/electronically variable air suspension (ground clearance ranges from 5.6 inches at high-speed cruise to a lofty 8.2 inches for max-effort off-roading). Subframe mounted and working in consort with fully independent underpinnings--Audi's signature split wishbones up front and conventional double A-arms in the rear--it excelled in delivering a comfortable, controlled ride over any and all road surfaces. Further enhancing stability are deeper wheel offsets that slightly increase both front and rear tracks.
Our driving route through western Austria encompassed everything from high-speed autobahns to two-lane mountain twisties to dirt and mud trails. Even with its somewhat elevated center of gravity, the Allroad's well-sorted underpinnings helped minimize body roll and maximize forward progress under virtually all conditions. Easy to maneuver and responsive to driver inputs, this stellar new Audi represents a seriously sporting option for customers who demand far more than a mere AWD wagon but have no use for a conventional SUV.
Price of entry for the Allroad Quattro will start around $45,000 when it goes on sale here in early November. If you can handle that tariff, the newest member of Audi's burgeoning lineup should more than do its part to make sure that any journey is an enjoyable one.