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|Audi A6 Allroad
Understated Workhorse For The Discreet Rich
Understated? You Mean Like Posh Beckham?
Estate Car Almost Matches SUVs, With Better Economy, Handling
Will VW Sell Off Audi? Allterrain beats Allroad
**** out of 5 EurotaxGlass 45%
ASCOT, Berkshire You have to hand it to Audi. It is deadly serious about being top dog in the luxury car world. The A6 Allroad is the latest wrinkle in the master plan which seems to want to fill every gap in the market, and when that’s done, winkle out a few nooks and crannies that nobody thought existed in the first place.
You would have thought that with the A6 estate car with four-wheel drive the A6 Avant Quattro in Audi-speak followed by the brand new Audi Q7 SUV, that no gap existed. But Audi maintains that there is market for an estate car with beefed up off-road ability that’s not an SUV.
Innocents abroad, like motoring writers, would have assumed that buyers of the latest Allroad would have considered the bigger Q7 SUV, but turned it down in favour of the slightly smaller, cheaper estate car. Not so, says Audi, and its marketing types have expended some treasure justifying their plans. Audi Allroad buyers are apparently more restrained and seek less attention than potential Q7 SUV owners, who want to demonstrate their extrovert aspirations.
“More A6 Allroad quattros will be sold to business customers than Q7(s) because of their design relationship to (the) A6 Avant which makes them less conspicuous than (the) Q7,” says Audi.
“The vast majority of Q7 customers will buy this type of vehicle because of its conspicuous nature and prestige effect,” it says.
And this is where Audi loses me. First take a look at the pictures of the Allroad. There is the huge in-yer-face grille, with a protruding steel lower lip to protect the crucial bits while driving to the local point-to-point. There are the aluminium roof rails, the flared wheel arches and extended, built-up door sills covered with more shiny stuff. Pretty much says “look at me”, wouldn’t you say? You could almost label it an exercise in bling.
Audi certainly is doing something right. According to investment banker Morgan Stanley, the Audi operation, if floated on stock markets, would account for almost all of the value of the Volkswagen group. (VW owns Audi). In other words, the chronically unprofitable VW group including the likes of Seat and Skoda and the VW brand itself, is valued at next to nothing by investors. Whatever worth the VW group has, is almost totally accounted for by Audi.
This has led to speculation that investors might seek to float off the Audi operation, but this is unlikely, not least because of the political ramifications and obstacles in Germany, where unions hold a veto over corporate policy, and the Federal State of Lower Saxony, which holds a big stake.
“Audi remains remarkably independent from the VW group in terms of manufacturing, engineering and distribution. Aside from the FAW joint venture in Changchun (China) and limited A3 assembly in Belgium and Q7 production in Bratislava, there are no other instances of VW and Audi making cars in the same factory.”
“VW offers Audi cost advantages, but brings revenue and strategic disadvantages. The benefits of platform sharing, common development and engine technology could easily be worth many hundred million euros per annum. However, from a revenue perspective, the association with Volkswagen has often bought conflict in the commercial market. Indeed, some of Audi’s most significant model competitors include versions of other VW branded products,” said Jonas in a report earlier this year.
In reply to recent questions, Jonas said the question of an independent Audi was still alive.
“I think Audi could exist as a standalone company, with a continuing supply relationship with VW, it wouldn’t have to unwind everything. But VW-Audi is in a position that Renault-Nissan can only dream about being in 10 years from now. You could sell off part of it,” said Jonas.
That’s for the future.
It is a rugged beast, which will almost certainly go anywhere, within reason. Its standard four-wheel-drive incorporates a self-locking differential, plus air suspension which gives five different levels of ground clearance of up to 185 mm (just over 7 inches).
At launch, you can choose either a 2.7 litre 180 bhp diesel, or a 3.0 litre 233 bhp oil-burner, with six-speed automatic transmission. A six speed manual on the 3.0 litre version will be available by September, followed by a 3.2 litre 255 bhp and 4.2 litre 350 bhp direct injection petrol engines early in 2007.
Prices start at £33,530 (€48,700). Of the 900 customers expected in the peak year of sales in Britain in 2007, I would expect a grand total of zero opting for the manual version. Probably about the same number of the 11,000 global customers expected next year will make a similar decision, even though the car won’t be sold in America.
Prices are on the steep side, but standard equipment is impressive including air suspension, electromechanical parking brake, twin-zone air conditioning, the full acronym soup of computer safety aids, halogen headlights, permanent four-wheel drive, roof rails “in (understated!) aluminium double-bar design”, and under body protection in stainless steel.
The quality of the interior is top flight. The dials and switches were designed by somebody who knew what they were doing. Even the functions of the automatic gearbox are brought to life on the instrument panel. There is almost too much space; I’ve noted before that the A6 has so much width that you almost feel too far away from the arm rest in the door. Cubby holes and power points abound.
Audi says that the car’s name Allroad sums up its capability. On the contrary, as Audi suggests that this is really a go-anywhere car, Allterrain would have made more sense. Most cars to my knowledge can handle all roads, can they not? But I mustn’t look for negatives where none really exist. This is a terrific car which does a range of serious jobs, almost matching an SUV without whipping up so much envy, or belching out as many CO2s.
Neil Winton June 13, 2006
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