you didnt know
there were places
AT HEART THE AUDI ALLROAD QUATTRO is a fast and luxurious all-terrain 4x4 estate that, true to its name, is masterfully at home on what by any stretch of the imagination one might choose to call a road from Pall Mall to a treacherous trail through the jungle.
In fact, last year a privately-owned Audi allroad quattro successfully completed a hazardous 15,500-mile trek through South America in just 55 days with no major mechanical problems. The only thing that needed replacing was a broken cup-holder!
The trip, as a celebration of a 25th wedding anniversary, earned Jonathan and Anna Pelly-Fry a Gold Medal for their tremendous feat on the INCA Trail, visiting Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Uruguay. Temperatures ranged from freezing point to 35°C and the often scarcely visible tracks through the perilous terrain proved too daunting for over a quarter of the field of serious off-road vehicles competing. But that didnt stop the Audi allroad quattro.
The key to the allroad's off-road abilities is a fully height adjustable, self-levelling air suspension. This advanced suspension system features specially designed axle assemblies with air spring struts controlled by separate height sensors that vary the ride height at every wheel to ensure ample ground clearance on uneven off-road surfaces, and provide optimum aerodynamics and a low centre of gravity when driving at high speeds. An integrated ride height control automatically keeps the selected level constant, regardless of changes in the payload or weight distribution.
As road speed increases, this intelligent system lowers the body in
four stages, varying the allroad quattro's class-leading ground clearance from a maximum 208 millimetres to a minimum 142 millimetres. The driver can manually override the system, selecting the various
ride heights at the touch of a button on the dash a useful feature
if the surface under the wheels varies frequently.
Audi has reinterpreted the sporting lines of the A6 Avant bodyshell in an entirely new way. Marking out the allroad quattro from its purely road-going A6 Avant counterpart are rugged reinforced front and rear bumpers, a unique radiator grille design, pronounced wheel arches, contrasting ribbed roof, and ribbed stainless steel undertrays front and rear for underbody protection.
A wide track and an increased ride height also add to the allroad's visual impact, as does an exhaust system with clearly visible separate large-bore tailpipes to the left and right of the rear bumper, and sturdy silver metallic 5-arm 17-inch alloy wheels.
Further highlights include the polished 'aluminium look' to the roof rails, window surrounds and tailgate trim strip. Stainless steel is used for the twin exhaust pipes, while a matt finish on the roof, bumpers and wheel arch extensions hints further at the allroad's rugged under-the-skin capabilities.
Two engines are currently available, although this summer the allroad gets a 300bhp 4.2-litre V8. Until then it's a choice between the 180bhp 2.5-litre V6 turbo-diesel and the 2.7-litre V6 twin-turbocharged biturbo unit with five valves per cylinder (the same engine as powers the S4 and A6 models, where it develops 265bhp and 230bhp respectively).
A six-speed manual gearbox is standard with an optional low ratio transmission that reduces in-gear speed by 50 per cent and provides useful engine braking off-road. We tested the 2.7 biturbo fitted with the optional five-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox with 250bhp and 253lb ft of torque it packs a real performance punch.
The auto option gets you a slick, five-speed autobox with Tiptronic override meaning manual or fully automatic changes depending on your driving mood at any given moment.
The allroad drives like a normal car perhaps because it is one making good use of the best bits of the A6 Avant quattro and adding smart air suspension. The driver enjoys a commanding view and passengers ride better on tarmac than in the regular A6.
Road behaviour and comfort is comparable to that of a luxury class vehicle, and on tarmac the quattro underpinnings instil instant trust with their confidence-inspiring stability.
This is an Audi so the well-appointed cabin is, of course, a great place to live. Quiet and comfortable, with faultless ergonomics matched to impeccable built integrity. The interior is colour-keyed to the exterior colour, so that everything from the headlining to the top quality carpeting matches. The comfortable, sports-style front seats, upholstered in soft two-tone leather, were specially developed for the allroad and provide good side location and support during fast manoeuvring while providing ample reserves of comfort when travelling cross-country. Highly polished Walnut trim to the doors and central console adds a touch of luxury and emphasises the fact that materials and fit and finish are all of top quality.
Equipment is comprehensive, with lots of must-have gear including electric, multi-setting heated front seats, electric lumbar support, electric windows, heated electric mirrors with power fold-back, SatNav, driver's information system, adjustable steering column, leather upholstery, CD, cruise control, electronic dual-zone climate control, electric sunroof, leather-rim sports steering wheel, power steering, heat insulating tinted glass, etc.
Safety has been well addressed with driver and front passenger airbags along with front side airbags plus belt force limiters and pyrotechnic-action pre-tensioners on all lap and shoulder belts as standard. Rear side airbags and Audi's Sideguard head-level airbag curtain system are optional extras. Unlike the front airbags, the head-level side airbag system remains inflated for approximately five seconds, to provide protection against a subsequent roll-over or secondary impact. Active safety is amply covered by ABS, an electronic stability program (ESP) with an off-road mode, electronic differential lock (EDL), traction control (ASR), and electronic brake-force distribution (EBD). And, of course, quattro permanent four-wheel drive.
Also playing its part in safety is the air suspension. As road speed increases, this intelligent system lowers the body in four distinct stages and provides between 208 and 142 millimetres of ground clearance. The driver can choose to have this done fully automatically, or do it himself manually via a push-button control on the dash. Electronic interlocks prevent the driver accidentally selecting
an unsuitable setting for the conditions i.e. too high when the vehicle is being driven fast. A four-bar, green LED display indicates what setting is operating, or if an adjustment is still in progress.
The allroad will do off-road whenever you ask it to, although I suspect that many owners will be perfectly content to use it as a clever, stylish and sporty road car that's one-up on the regular-bodied A6 Avant. Adept at long-distance cruising, the surprise is how well it copes with the rough stuff the fully-fledged off-road capabilities allow it to go places where you never knew there were places.
In addition to all four wheels being permanently driven, there's a Torsen centre differential and electronic diff lock that give the allroad the ability to pull away even when only one wheel has traction.
Off-road the allroad makes use of the two highest settings, which must be selected manually. These give a ground clearance of, respectively, 192mm and 208mm. At its highest level it can negotiate terrain that would be challenging to a conventional off-roader. Grip on unmetalled roads is impressive, while wheel articulation (essential for effective
off-road ability and progress) and traction are both impressive over rough ground. Easy to see green LEDs indicate the level selected, while a blinking red light warns when a ride height adjustment is in progress.
Park and the allroad adjusts itself to the standard position (level two) to make easy work of entry and exit. On the move it rides at level two to give a ground clearance of 167mm (a similar ride height to a regular A6) until it reaches 75mph when, after 30 seconds, it drops to level one (142mm) for enhanced stability, reduced resistance and improved economy.
Steering is pleasantly responsive and, back on the black stuff, the allroad's low centre of gravity ensures good poise through the bends, while the air-sprung chassis prevents pitch and dive under acceleration and braking together they make for satisfying on-road dynamics and fast, refined progress.
Even at three-figure speeds the 2.7 T biturbo is smooth and stable, thanks in no small part to the specially developed 225/55 tyres that cope as easily with mud and rocks as they do with a top speed
of 145mph. Quattro four-wheel drive helps the allroad to get to 62mph from standstill in just 7.7 seconds. Considering that, and its go-
almost-anywhere abilities, the 22mpg we saw overall should satisfy most owners.
When not ferrying up to five people around, the allroad can accommodate a vast load of 1,590 litres. However, if towing rather than 'toeing' is important, the allroad can safely pull weights of up
to 2,300 kilograms.
Unlike the majority of bulky, in-your-face 4x4s, the allroad conceals its considerable talent under a stylish set of designer-label clothes. An iron fist in a velvet glove that is exceedingly desirable.
Audi allroad quattro 2.7T | £33,080
Maximum speed: 145mph | 0-62mph: 7.7 seconds
Overall test MPG: 22mpg | Power: 250bhp | Torque: 253lb ft
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