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2001 Audi Allroad - Backcountry Tested

Posted in Features on December 1, 2000 Comment (0)
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When it was originally introduced in 1980, the Audi quattro took the racing crowd by storm. In fact, the quattro system was considered such an unfair advantage by so many that it was banned from most types of racing. Fortunately, the advantages are still available to those of us who drive off the track. With the introduction of the allroad quattro, and its fourth-generation quattro system, it is now practical for those who spend some time off the pavement too.

The two parts of the automotive market that have grown in the past few years is the luxury sports car and the SUV segments. This means that buyers are interested in either going fast or going anywhere. With the allroad quattro, Audi is saying that maybe some folks are interested in both. The Audi allroad is poised to take advantage of this growth in both segments by being a superb crossover vehicle. The Audi allroad is great for car owners who want more mobility and versatility as well as SUV owners who want more comfort. The Audi allroad also makes a great choice as a second car for the backcountry family. You can have a fine road car that you can still use to explore the road less traveled on the spur of the moment. Sure it's not a trail rig, but if you like the looks of a trail, you can use the allroad's superior street manners to zoom home and get you basher.

U.S. versions of the allroad will be equipped with the 2.7L Biturbo V-6, 30-valve gas motor. This twin intercooled, twin-turbo motor produces 250 hp at 5,800 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque. Even better, the broad torque cure is virtually flat from 1,800 to 4,500 rpm. This translates into the ability to pull, and pull hard, in the corners or on a hill. The 2.7L will be mated to a Tip-tronic five-speed auto or six-speed manual transmission, which means 0-60 times of 7.3 seconds. Compare this to the competition: 7.4 seconds for the BMW X5; 8.8 seconds for the RX300; and 9.0 seconds for the ML 320. All this with an expected 27 city and 22 highway mpg.

Another unique and surprising feature of the Audi allroad quattro is the active suspension. This suspension has four different height settings. The first is the low-clearance, or high-speed setting, which places the body at a ride height of 5.6 inches. This setting is used for high- speed driving to improve fuel economy by reducing wind drag and increasing vehicle stability. The second setting is the standard used for most driving situations. In this mode, the ride height is 6.6 inches. The next mode is High #1 and provides 7.6 inches of ride height. This is the first setting for mildly rough roads. The suspension will rise to this height for better step-in when in the auto mode. The final setting is High #2. Here you get 8.2 inches of clearance for rougher terrain. This is very comparable to the competition: the M-class and the Infiniti QX4 are 8.3 inches; the Lexus RX300 is 7.7 inches; the BMW X5 is 7.1 inches; and Grand Cherokee at its lowest point is 8.3 inches. The settings all can be controlled automatically or manually. To keep the vehicle dynamics as stable as possible, the system regulates the height by speed in both modes. This means that you can't raise the suspension and drive fast. The speed limitations are: 0-20 km, you can use any position; from 20-50 km mode, High #1 is max; 50-80 std is max; and more than 80 km lowers it to Autobahn mode. With its unibody construction, the air suspension lifts the entire body for maximum ground clearance gain. The air spring struts are found at both axles and are coupled with Audi's outstanding four-link front suspension and double-wishbone rear suspension for maximum ride comfort and directional stability. Just think, maximum ground clearance on rough terrain and optimum aerodynamics and handling at high speed. In addition, all the allroads get an underbody protection treatment.

The allroad quattros uses the Audi EDL, or electronic differential lock, that is standard in all quattro systems. All quattro vehicles also have a center torsion-differential between front and rear. This means that the vehicle remains in front drive until slip is sensed, and then its power is automatically transferred to the rear. The torque transfer ratio allows as much as 2/3 of the engine torque to be diverted to one axle or the other as needed. Another plus is the electronic stabilization program (ESP) that measures wheelspin, vehicle yaw rate, and lateral acceleration. If you begin to slip and slide, the ESP computer automatically reacts to bring the car back on course before things gets out of control. We tested this and it really works. With ESP turned on, it is virtually impossible to make the allroad spin out, even on gravel roads.

The Audi allroad quattro offers five-passenger comfort, and with third row seating, you can expand things to seven if you're carrying children. Cargo capacity is great for this wagon. The Audi allroad quattro offers 36.4 cubic feet of space, and with the rear seats folded down, that goes to 73.2 cubic feet - very comparable to the other vehicle in its class.

The body for the allroad is much the same as the A-6 Avant, but has stone- guard body panels and larger wheel openings. This gives the allroad a much more muscular silhouette. The interior is ergonomic. This stylish interior sports special high bolster seats for better driver stability in rough terrain. They can be ordered with heaters too. The allroad also get a new tire size - 225/55R17. These tires were developed for improved traction on and off pavement by Goodyear or Pirelli.

The one item we won't see in the U.S. on the allroad is the Low range package. This is is available in European cars and provides a 1.54:1 reduction. This lack of a Low range is because it only fits on the manual tranny. The U.S. sales of manuals are expected to be 15 percent of the total market, and Low range would be only a portion of this. We can see the economic reason for not bringing it into the States.

In our testing, we found the Audi allroad quattro was as at home off the pavement as it is on it. This is perhaps the best all-around, all-wheel-drive car to date. Why not consider one to fill the second slot in your garage?

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