Lord of the rings
Bringing more grace to the multi-purpose category, the Audi Allroad is the luxury car that can take you anywhere, finds Mihai Alexandrescu
In the past, Audi was seen as a compromise between the comfort of a Mercedes and BMW’s sportiness.
But with its new generation of products, Audi has struck gold and detached itself from the competition by becoming more exclusive.
The new A6 won ‘World car of the year’ and ‘Most beautiful car of the year’ in 2004 when it was launched.
The new A8 was declared ‘Best luxury car’ two years in a row. Audi also dominates the toughest competition in motor sport - the 24 hour Le Mans race since 1997. This helped Audi improve its sport models, such as the under-appreciated RS4 and enabled the car maker to come up with the Le Mans, special edition super car, based on the Lamborghini Gallardo, that will compete with the Porsche 911.
So, by manufacturing great products and an aggressive marketing strategy, Audi has made bold steps forward and moved the goal-posts. Everything is new about Audi these days; the design, the engines, the performance, everything. And that’s a good thing.
The most recent product Audi came up with is the new Allroad. What Audi specialists did, was take a regular A6 estate and mount an air suspension and off-road tech on it. Of course there are a lot more specifications but this is the short way to describe it when you first see it.
Because it looks very similar to the A6, it is a very pretty car but with bigger wheels, enlarged side wings and a big inverted trapezoid chromed grille at the front (the new design signature of all new Audis). It looks like a body-builder in a Versace suit.
When you open the door the first thing your senses detect is the smell. Audi employed a team of professional smellers (an awkward profession) to be sure that every part of the car has the correct aroma and the mixture of materials will not conflict to create a bad odour.
In reviewing its aroma, I would have to say the interior of the Allroad smells similar to new bank notes.
When you step into the car, leather, wood, aluminium and top quality plastic materials combine to create one of the best interiors in a car. The dashboard is oriented towards the driver for perfect ergonomy. When I put on the contact and the displays started, my pupils dilated and my eyes feasted on the clear red and white lights. It is like being in an art gallery where the best artists are displaying their masterpieces. There is no sign of human error or bad taste.
The car we tested was equipped with a 223 horsepower three-litre diesel engine with quattro all wheel drive and a triptronic automatic transmission.
When you start the engine the V6 diesel will give a slight trepidation in the interior but then it will settle down becoming smooth and quiet. It has the massive torque characteristics of a diesel but the smoothness and sound of a petrol engine.
The air suspension of the new Allroad is made from aluminium and has five settings: dynamic, automatic, comfort, allroad and lift. By a simple modification in the menu, it can increase the ground clearance depending on the driver’s needs. So when a normal A6 driver has to stop when the road closes, the Allroad quattro driver can continue because of the off-road features. When the road gets tough, the tough gets quattro.
In the allroad suspension setting that we tried, the road becomes a fluffy cloud and the ride is similar to flying on the magic carpet. It is comfortable but fun at the same time, dynamic and sporty but gentle and civilized. You enjoy every part of it: the handling, the ride, the steering and the performance of the engine. The gear changes are smooth and the engine noise is just right so you can still hear the stereo.
Because right now there are no other competitors for the Allroad it becomes the perfect choice between a versatile estate luxury saloon with off road capabilities and a proper SUV model. The car actually fills the gap between sporty and elegant road cars and massive SUVs.
The standard equipment on the Allroad is also very impressive - with completely galvanized body, permanent quattro all wheel drive system, adaptable air suspension, 17 inch alloy rims, safety equipment like ESP, electronic differential blocking system, traction control, breaking assist program and the list goes on.
All these come for a price though.
The model we drove is 58,000 Euro, much more expensive then a similar A6 and far too close to the Q7.
The price is the only problem I see in this car because it is dangerously close to the Q7. But if you think SUVs are just big, heavy piles of ugly steel, with no aerodynamics and huge consumption, the new Allroad fits perfectly your needs.