If you counted the all-wheel drive wagons on the market, you might not get past two or three fingers.

Japan's Subaru offers all-wheel drive wagons, and so does the German automaker Audi, which provided this week's test vehicle, the V-6 powered 100 CS Quattro Wagon.

The 100 CS Wagon sports an impressive array of equipment: anti-lock brakes, driver's side airbag, all-wheel drive and a luxury interior featuring leather seats and wood inlays.

Of all European automakers, few have worked harder than Audi to improve its lineup. However, despite its equipment, the 100 CS Wagon may be the automaker's weakest entry.

PERFORMANCE cargo, acceleration in the 100 CS Wagon is agonizingly slow. With the car unloaded, Audi quotes a zero-to-60-mph time of 11.4 seconds, which would make it one of the slowest accelerating vehicles on the market, according to a road-test list published in Road & Track magazine.

On a trip to the airport with 200 pounds of camping gear and two passengers weighing a total of 375 pounds, the 100 CS could do little more than lumber onto the busy interstate - an unnerving experience.

Under the hood, you'll find Audi's compact 172-horsepower 2.8-liter V-6. In many other cars this would be more than enough power to ensure adequate performance.

But the Audi wagon weighs nearly 2 tons - 3,892 pounds, to be exact- and the motor is working extra hard by driving all four wheels.

The 100 CS Wagon comes only with a four-speed automatic, which is connected to Audi's full-time Quattro all-wheel drive system.

Once you get going, the Quattro system sends power to the wheels that have the best traction. This prevents slipping on snowy or rainy roads.

As with other Audis equipped with automatic transmissions, this car is a nuisance to shift from park to drive or reverse. You have to step on the brake, press down on the shifter and then move it through a corrugated line.

Don't expect more muscle under the hood in the future. Audi has a 276-horsepower V-8 in its lineup, but a company spokesman said there are no plans to offer it in the wagon.


In handling, too, the 100 CS Wagon disappoints. It's fine on straight roads, but throw it into a curve and you'll hear a loud chorus of disapproval from the squealing tires.

The car appears front-heavy. Touching the brake pedal on a curve sends the front into a nosedive and the rear wheels get a bit twitchy.

Before this car, I hadn't driven any Audi that wasn't able to cope fully with aggressive driving. The suspension in the 100CS Wagon is a four-wheel independent affair, but its function is more to provide a smooth ride than to allow for sporting maneuvers.

Steering is light to the touch, making the wagon a breeze to drive around town.

The anti-lock power-assisted four-wheel disc brakes do a credible job of stopping the vehicle, but they require a bit of muscle before they bite.


Audi has long been admired for the way it assembles cars. The 100 CS Wagon upholds the Audi tradition of quality construction. The green metallic paint job had a deep and rich lustre to it.

Inside, a tan leather interior and planks of elm wood inlays on the dash and door panels conveyed understated luxury. The gauge package could have been lifted out of one of Audi's sportier models. The analog instruments are housed in a sweeping dash.

At first one is put off by the three levers protruding from the steering column. Lights, wipers and the cruise control, as well as the car's trip computer, are operated by these stalks.

It doesn't take long, however, to get used to them, even though the two on the left side are close together.

Seating for the driver, front passenger and three in the rear is excellent. The seats are firm. The bottom cushions are flat but comfortable.

The front seats are electronically controlled and have a memory feature. There is a fold-away jump seat in the rear tailgate area , but it would provide only a minimum amount of comfort for a small child or two. For average-size adults there is little head room in the jump seat, and knees are about chin high.

Audi apparently is not hoping to have a runaway best seller with its wagon. The company is importing just 400 for the 1992 model year. Audi spokesman Val Brown said the wagon sells best in the Northeast. And that makes sense, because the 100 CS Wagon probably won't slip up on snowy roads.

Brown said the wagon's competitors include the BMW 535i Touring, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz wagons. None of those, however, are available with all-wheel drive.