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Click to view picture gallery“Audi’s first Allroad
  was a stylish and
  luxurious multi-tasker.
  The all-new Allroad is
  more of the same.
  Only better!

AUDI'S STRATEGY for growing overall new vehicle sales is not just to go on building more vehicles of a limited range of vehicles, but to add more and more models to compete in an ever-widening range of segments. Not only has this worked exceptionally well for Audi, but it has also strongly benefited their customers.

Ten years ago they had just five models: the A3, A4, A4 Avant, A4 Cabriolet and A6. As of July's UK launch of the all-new A6 Allroad, they will have 21 different model ranges. In the same period, Audi's share of the UK's new car market has more than doubled, going from 1.3 to 3.8 per cent. And they're not finished yet, because they have a raft of other new models scheduled for launch this year.

The big three premium brands are BMW (with a 4.25 per cent share of the UK market) followed by Audi (at 3.8 per cent) and Mercedes with 2.73 per cent. Volvo is next, with 1.44 per cent.

Although Audi have long offered their superb quattro four-wheel drive systems for road going models, it has had to rely on the previous Allroad — launched in July 2000 — to dip its toe into the SUV or marginal off-road sector. That was until the very recent launch of the vast Audi Q7 SUV 4x4.

The all-new A6 Allroad, with its estate car body, sits between the A6 Avant quattro and the Q7. Audi says it is the only premium manufact-urer to offer an 'all-road' estate car alongside a full SUV and that these two types of vehicles will appeal to very different customers.

Although both sets of customers will come from the same 40-50 age group — each with an average salary of 50-60k — Audi says that Allroad drivers are more restrained and seek less attention, whilst SUV owners — who might buy their Q7 — like to flaunt their flamboyance.

Audi's UK research shows 6 out of 10 of Allroad customers will be private buyers and 93 per cent will be male. They will have above average income, be self-employed or managers, senior employees and most likely they will be self-made. They have high expectations and a strong affinity for technology but do not like the compromises required by traditional 4x4 vehicles. Sailing, golf and horse riding are listed as favourite pastimes.

Initially, in July, Audi UK will be delivering to customers two versions of the new Audi A6 Allroad five-door estate. The main selling model will be the 2.7 TDI model. Fitted with a turbocharged 178bhp V6 Euro 4 compliant common-rail direct-injection diesel with piezo injectors, intercooler and diesel particulate filter, it generates a hefty 281lb ft of torque and is priced at 33,530. The second launch model will be the 36,380 3.0-litre TDI version with 230bhp and 332lb ft of torque.

Both will have a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission with Sport programme. A six-speed manual version of the 3.0 TDI is expected to be introduced later this summer, followed early next year by 3.2 and 4.2-litre FSI direct injection petrol derivatives.

The 2.7 TDI model shows an 8 per cent price increase over the outgoing 2.5 TDI Allroad, due mainly to the cost of new engine technology. Petrol versions, says Audi, are likely to cost in the region of 4.6 per cent more than the Allroads they replace.

Now for the sales numbers. Audi really sees the new Allroad as an exclusive niche vehicle, with the vast majority of customers buying the 2.7 TDI Tiptronic model. For the remainder of this year they only expect to deliver 700 units in total, with 545 of those being the 2.7 TDI variant; 120 of the 3.0 TDI version and only 35 units of the 3.0 TDI manual transmission vehicles. In 2007, with the addition of petrol versions, Audi expects the UK market to receive a total of 900 units of which 855 will be diesel with just 45 petrol units. And looking further ahead, to 2008, sales are expected to be around 800 units, with all but 40 of them being diesel models.

Audi says that although there is no direct competitor to the new A6 Allroad in the D segment, it will compete for sales against such models as the Volvo XC90, BMW X5, VW Touareg, Land Rover Discovery, Mercedes-Benz M- and R-Classes and the Range Rover Sport.

The new A6 Allroad quattro takes on a visibly 'harder' styling edge than the A6 Avant on which it is based, using an exclusive design of grille and front and rear bumpers from the A6 Avant. Enhancing its 'go anywhere' looks are flared wheelarches, extended sills and stainless steel underbody protection panels.

Complementing the Allroad's torque-rich engines is Audi's quattro permanent four-wheel drive system incorporating a self-locking centre differential, electronic differential lock and traction control. In addition, the automatic/manual adjustable air suspension has five ride-height positions giving a maximum ground clearance of up to 185mm.

The manufacturer says the benefits of owning one of the rare new Audi A6 Allroad quattros is that they combine luxurious off-road ability with estate car performance and economy. And all without appearing to be conspicuous or anti-social. It's a unique vehicle in the premium sector, and while the Allroad and Q7 complement each other, they are desired by very different customers.

Last week's UK media introduction to the all-new Allroad range was held at The Guards Polo Club in Windsor Great Park, just the sort of location that fits well with the celebrity status Audi has nurtured for the cars, and just the sort of place you expect to see four-wheel drive premium vehicles.

The Allroad has long been a favourite for well-off people who, in their line of business, cover great distances travelling but whom generally live in the country. They need to get from place to place in all weathers and part of their life will include driving off-road. They do not find it necessary to have a big, unwieldy heavyweight 4x4 but prefer something which is fast and more suitable for motorways, yet retains the ability to cope with mud, snow, sand and rough tracks as work or leisure dictates.

I live in the country and I see a growing band of well-heeled people driving these vehicles. The sort of people are well known horse trainers and racing stable owners, on the gallops, watching their horses in the early morning and then going to a racecourse probably at the other end of the country for the start of racing by lunchtime. I use this group of people only as an example, but it does typify the sort of person who — I know from first-hand experience — chooses vehicles such as the Allroad. They could equally be surveyors, architects, landed gentry, the 'Royals' and all high-profile professional people needing to do their job or get from A to B whatever the weather.

The qualities of the Audi A6, the Avant and the quattro four-wheel drive systems have been well documented by the motoring media with barely a negative word to say, other than perhaps price. Audi interiors are now widely acknowledged as being the best in the business in the premium segment both for design, application and quality. The estate area is large (although not the largest) and the quattro system sharpens up the handling of all Audi models where it is offered as an option.

With the added adjustable air suspension you get the best of all worlds. Limpet-like road adhesion, a smooth, flat computer-controlled ride with good handling feedback to the driver and the ability to increase the ground clearance only when needed are all elements which combine to give the Allroad a serious advantage over traditional off-roaders unless, of course, really bad off-road terrain is likely to be encountered.

Snow, mud and rutted tracks will not stop the Allroad. But because it has a car-type suspension, it will not absorb the worst of impacts encountered dropping into very deep off-road tracks created by tractors and 4x4s. So it really is a case of knowing what the Allroad can do in reality and that, of course, means that for 99 per cent of the time it does everything you might need very well indeed.

Audi is quite right to say that the majority of customers will choose the 2.7-litre TDI, 178bhp diesel engine. However, for just a little more money and virtually the same fuel consumption, the 3.0-litre 230bhp TDI unit gives you noticeably more 'grunt'. It feels more responsive and more able to effortlessly cope with high on-road speeds.

And the big increase in torque when the going is tough through thick sticky mud is also a real benefit. This unit is also more in keeping with the performance from similar-sized new diesel engines being used by BMW and Mercedes as well. It would be my optimum choice of Allroad model, but I could happily live with the smaller 2.7-litre unit.

The new Allroad has a great deal going for it. It's a desirable brand, has impeccable interior design and quality and is only available in limited numbers. Furthermore, it delivers good on- and off-road per-formance to make it a luxury estate and posh workhorse all-in-one. Against? Nothing — apart from a long list of high-cost options, some of which really ought to be standard fit in this market sector. — David Miles

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Audi A6 Allroad 2.7 V6 TDI quattro
Maximum speed: 133mph | 0-62mph: 9.3 seconds
Overall test MPG: 32.4mpg | Power: 178
bhp | Torque: 281lb ft
Visit Audi's website Click to go there now

-------------------------------------------------------- Audi A6 Allroad quattro