The new allroad quattro may not be a full-fledged sport utility vehicle, but Audi says it performs like one.
Audi is the luxury division of Volkswagen, which wont introduce its first sport utility vehicle until the 2002 model year. With sales of luxury SUVs booming, Audi decided to blaze its own trail instead of waiting for a version of VWs SUV.
Copying the idea pioneered by Subaru with the Legacy-based Outback, Audi is suiting up its all-wheel-drive A6 Avant wagon to look and perform like an SUV and compete with the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz M-Class, Lexus RX 300 and Volvo V70/XC (also an AWD wagon).
Unlike the car-based RX 300 and V70/XC, Audi says the allroad quattro matches the offroad capability of truck-based SUVs, while providing superior on-road ride and handling.
If you cant build a true SUV, you can make a wagon look like one. That is what Audi did in creating the allroad quattro, starting with an A6 Avant wagon and adding larger gray bumpers, wheel-arch trim and side cladding.
The allroad quattro is more than paint and plastic, however. Audi says the tread design of the 17-inch tires is suited for offroad travel. An electronic air suspension adjusts from a maximum of 8.2 inches of ground clearance for offroad excursions more than some truck-based SUVs and lowers to a minimum of 5.6 inches for highway cruising.
Leather-trimmed sport front bucket seats and a three-place folding, split rear bench are standard, along with walnut trim and an eight-speaker sound system with cassette and CD players.
A two-place, rear-facing third seat is optional. The third seat is designed for children up to 50 inches tall and 80 pounds, and it folds into the cargo floor when not in use and is removable. Other options include a Bose sound system, hands-free cellular phone, GPS navigation system, and heated front and rear seats.
Under the Hood
A 250-horsepower 2.7-liter V-6 engine with twin turbochargers comes with either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission and Audis permanently engaged Quattro all-wheel-drive system, which distributes power among the four wheels as needed for best traction.
Side-impact airbags for the front seats, curtain-type airbags that protect front and rear passengers, and antilock brakes are standard. Side airbags for the rear seats are optional.