AUDI ALLROAD QUATTRO
Audi calls it a crossover vehicle, a combination sedan/wagon/SUV. Whatever the name, it's a station wagon. Get used to the look, b ause every automaker either is offering or is preparing to offer a vehicle like this. The Allroad has two basic strengths, its twin turbocharged 2.7-liter, 250-horsepower V-6 teamed with 5-speed automatic with Tiptronic clutchless manual shifting, and its all-wheel-drive Quattro system. With the twin turbos, the Allroad is a bullet. You pay the price in mileage--15 m.p.g. city/21 m.p.g. highway--for the performance of a sports coupe or sedan. With Quattro, you travel at ease. Whether roads are clean or cluttered with snow and rain, Allroad sits flat in the sharpest corner and the tightest turn. This thing stays glued to the road. When the offramp starts twisting sharply right, rather than ease off the accelerator or gently apply the brake pedal, you nudge that accelerator and gain momentum for your merge ahead. If you want off-road adventure or if the snow is piled real deep, the variable-height pneumatic suspension allows you to push a button to raise the suspension up to 2.6 inches. At any speed more than 50 m.p.h., the suspension automatically adjusts to its lowest setting. As an added benefit, Electronic Stabilization Program, or ESP, is standard. Similar to Cadillac's StabiliTrak, ESP is a lateral-movement stability-control system that monitors vehicle dynamics and employs the ABS or regulates fuel flow to the engine when it senses the vehicle is starting to slide or moving from the path dictated by the direction of the steering wheel. Difficult to find any spot in this vehicle that doesn't hold a storage compartment, including the driver's door. Though this idea is very sound, the execution is poor. If you just touch the door with your foot when exiting, which isn't hard to do, the storage pouch pops open. More than just an annoyance. Notable Allroad features include side air-bag curtains; pinch-protection power windows that retract when an object is detected in their path; tool and first-aid kits; puddle lamps under the outside mirrors to light up your exit at night; rear parking assist (sensors spot and warn of objects behind when backing up); and an array of cupholders and power plugs. Base price: $41,900. All the power goodies are standard.
LAND ROVER DISCOVERY II
When the going gets tough, the tough run down to the third stall in the garage and pull out the Discovery. The worse the conditions, the better the Discovery II responds; it's just that you won't find many mountain streams blocking your way on the Edens Expressway or many sand dunes in your path on the Kennedy Expressway. Discovery is an odd-looking box with a short wheelbase yet high center of gravity that allows for body lean and sway in turns. You sit high for a command of the road, as well as to keep adequate distance between you and the snow, sand or water when taking an off-road adventure. The Discovery II is powe red by a 4-liter, 188-h.p. V-8 designed to provide optimum power to get going regardless of the conditions but not necessarily to race the guy in the sedan next to you. The 13-m.p.g. city/17-m.p.g. highway rating is evidence that Discovery II is best suited for stall three in the garage rather than as your everyday, all-season commuter. Base price: $34,350. Add $1,500 for dual electric sunroofs that provide ventilation for occupants in front or rear cabin. Standard equipment includes full-time 4WD with a transfer case for 4WD low when the going gets tough; electronic traction control; four-wheel ABS; front and rear fog lights; dual-zone climate control; power windows/locks/seats/mirrors (heated); and AM/FM stereo with cassette.