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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Audi Allroad

Crossover vehicles are now the family norm; yet not every family who needs wagon-like carrying capacity and all-wheel drive wants a tall, truck-like vehicle. The Audi Allroad, a well-regarded model resurrected for the 2013 model year, is essentially an A4 Avant wagon with slightly more ground clearance, more rugged trim details, and a more aggressive personality.

This ruggedized wagon neatly complements the Q5 and Q7 crossovers in Audi's lineup, in the same vein as the equally luxurious Volvo XC70 or the more basic (and less pricey) Subaru Outback that pretty much invented the segment in the mid-1990s.

The first 2001-2006 Audi Allroad paired the A6 Avant wagon with Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system, along with adjustable ride height, tougher-looking body trim and cladding, and some distinct luxury features. Pricing started around $42,000--a substantial sticker a decade ago--which got you a 250-horsepower, 2.7-liter, turbocharged V-6 for its first four model years, paired with automatic or (unusually) manual transmissions. For the last two years, the Allroad gained a 4.2-liter V-8 producing 300 horsepower. The suspension could be raised to provide more than 8 inches of ground clearance, the all-wheel-drive system provided solid road holding and cornering capabilities over a wide range of road and weather conditions. Luxury features included Bose audio and navigation; safety features included parking sensors, stability control, and rear side airbags.

The new 2013 Allroad is clearly the Avant wagon model of the A4 luxury sport sedan--but the styling changes to its grille and the addition of skid plates, aluminum side sills and other details give it more presence. And while the first Audi Allroad, sold from 2001 to 2006, was derived from the A6 sedan of those years, the new Allroad turns out to be 2.3 inches taller and 0.6 inches wider, ride on a longer wheelbase, and provide more leg room and head room, than the earlier version. Cargo space rivals the best compact luxury crossovers at 27.6 cubic feet, and as you might expect, the five-passenger Allroad's rear seats fold and flip for expandable storage space.

The sole engine offering is not a V-6 or V-8, but Volkswagen Group's 211-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, again mated to a manual or automatic transmission. The manual gearbox offers six speeds, and the automatic is a new eight-speed design with with sport-shift mode and standard all-wheel drive. Handling is firm and steering is direct, with quick automatic-transmission responses. The optional dynamic steering and Drive Select systems tailors the Allroad's electric power steering, transmission, throttle and shock settings for sporty or soft driving.

Among luxury features, the Allroad's standard equipment list includes leather upholstery; a choice of wood or aluminum trim; 19-inch wheels and tires; satellite radio; MMI, Audi's multi-media interface, complete with iPod/USB connectivity; a power tailgate; adaptive headlights; a panoramic sunroof; Bluetooth; Bang & Olufsen audio; and a navigation system.

The Audi Allroad offers the usual standard safety features and has options for adaptive cruise control that can stop the car completely from speeds up to 19 mph. A rearview camera and blind-spot monitors are available, as are rear-seat airbags. Pricing starts at just under $40,000, although a well-equipped Allroad will soar well past $50,000.

The Allroad is one of several 2013 Audi vehicles to adopt the brand's Connect suite of telematics. With a monthly subscription, Audi Connect customers can tap into a built-in 3G connection that turns the Allroad into a rolling wireless hotspot for up to 8 devices, and to enable Google local searches via MMI. The connection also feeds input to the navigation system to render maps from Google Earth and Google Street View in stunning, crisp detail. Other links to satellite data bring in real-time traffic and weather information.

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