2002 Audi allroad Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
allroad's a wonderful ride on all roads.
The Audi allroad quattro comes close to being all things to all people.
Need a sedan? The allroad is luxurious. Comfortable leather seats give it corner-office elegance thanks to the tone-on-tone interior with warm wood trim and aluminum accents. The bi-turbo V6 engine is quiet, smooth and responsive, and puts out 250 horsepower. A car of this quality provides a true touring experience.
Need a station wagon? The allroad carries a flexible mix of people and their effects. A lift-up back opens on the cargo space, netted to hold objects in place, with room left for five people.
Need an SUV? The allroad will transport you as the name suggests over anything that makes lines on maps and many that do not. Interstates, secondary highways, twisting country lanes, and backcountry dirt roads are no problem. Even rough, rocky routes to remote fishing spots or hunting blinds are within its capability. Its full-time all-wheel drive is the venerable and venerated Audi quattro system that maximizes traction potential on dry roads and slippery surfaces.
The foundation of the allroad's versatility in so many differing conditions is its variable ground clearance. A pneumatic suspension system, electronically controlled, allows a choice of four ride heights. Choose the one suitable for sports sedan handling on winding roads and straightaway security on high-speed highways. Or select the highest setting for deep snow or rock-strewn, rutted roads. There's also an automatic load leveling system that's handy when carrying as many as seven people.
One model is available; the allroad quattro wagon starts at $39,900.
Standard equipment includes a six-speed manual transmission. A $1050 option brings the five-speed automatic with Tiptronic, which permits a degree of manual control of the gears. (A second set of controls on the steering wheel allows fingertip shifting.)
Rear side airbags ($350) are an option.
A number of individual options are available, as are several option packages: a Premium Bose sound system ($750) for instance, a sunroof ($1000) and a removable rear-facing bench seat ($750) that locks into the cargo space for children. Heated front and rear seats ($550) are available as is the Audi Navigation System ($1350). But be aware that adding such options and option packages can be expensive. Our test version allroad was priced at nearly $50,000.
Audi's allroad certainly has a distinct presence. With its discreet bright work tracing the window area, with roof rails and optional smart five-spoke wheel with a unique dimensional design, this car quietly demands your attention. The allroad appears wind-shaped with its sleek lines, but the darker toned front bumper and wheel flares hint at another purpose than mere highway driving. Even in repose this appears to be a machine not easily dissuaded from its purpose.
Audi takes second to no one when it comes to interior design. The allroad shows its Audi A6 roots with the handsome tone-on-tone interior and the wrap-around wood trim running from the dash across the front and rear doors. The wood is a slightly lighter, more modern shade of walnut. Aluminum accents (the gear lever surround on the console for instance) are symbolic of Audi's advanced technology applied in elegant surroundings.
The two-tone seats (a light gray and a darker gray in the test car) are unique to the allroad and offer bolstering for comfort and lateral support. Legroom is ample both front and back without requiring drastic adjustment of the front seats to accommodate rear-seat passengers. The allroad is designated as a five-passenger vehicle but, truth be told, the fifth is a stepchild with a drive-train bump to straddle. It's best for just two to lounge in the back seat with the wide armrest pulled down between them. You'd expect to be offered champagne or orange juice before take off.
The interior is a flexible space-long items (such as skis or fishing rods too precious for the roof) can come in from the back and stretch out at the passengers' elbows. Seats can be folded in a variety of patterns to swallow a few people and lots of stuff or vice versa. Load height, thanks to the variable ground clearance, is kind to even bad backs.
Cup holders are at hand; an excellent sound system is at fingertip control.
The Audi allroad quattro is fudge smooth and just as rich. Like all Audis, this vehicle simply oozes down the highway, feeling somehow more in the road than on its surface.
The steering is easy but commensurate with the car's mass and speed. The allroad seems to like turns as much as the driver and its handling is close to that of an accomplished sports sedan.
On a mountain pass, not really pushing it, but purposeful cruising, the allroad seemed as comfortable with the terrain and the curves as a companion Audi S4 high-performance sedan. At higher highway speeds the allroad automatically hunkers down to its lowest ground clearance and loves the road. It is a most pleasurable vehicle for long-distance touring.
Ride height adjusts automatically, lowering the car at highway speeds. Ride height is also manually adjustable by depressing a button on the dashboard. Level One provides 5.6 inches of ground clearance and is designed to diminish aerodynamic drag and improve fuel economy for travel at speeds of 75 mph or more. Level Two raises the car an inch for driving on paved or 'well-established' road surfaces at speeds slower than 75 mph. Level Three puts 7.6 inches between the bottom of the allroad and the ground and can be used for rough urban roads, dirt roads and mild two-tracks. However, if you drive on any of those surfaces at more than 50 mph, the system automatically lowers the allroad to Level Two. Level Four boosts the car 8.2 inches above the ground, which Audi notes exceeds the BMW X5's ground clearance and equals that of the Land Rover Discovery. This serious off-road height is designed for use on rough terrain and at speeds of less than 22 mph.
Braking is equally impressive. All German cars need Autobahn brakes, the kind that can snug a really fast-moving car down to a truck-passing-truck-pace ASAP. The allroad complies.
In city driving the bi-turbo boost sometimes answers accelerator pressure with a little more brio than wanted at the moment. Practice should temper that. On the highway, the engine's torque is mapped to suit demands for quick passes or sudden decisions. Coupled with the fingertip controls of the Tiptronic, and the instant response, those opportune short periods of dotted lines among the solid yellow can be taken advantage of with alacrity. It's rather fun.
Meandering onto a rock-strewn dirt path on a mountainside demonstrates the versatility of the allroad. It is sure-footed with the quattro system; the ride smoothes ruts, and the range of four variable heights feeds confidence that the allroad can go anywhere.
Of course it can't.
Those craving the boulders and steepness of way off-road will trick out a Jeep Wrangler with locking diffs and a SEMA showroom of other stuff. The allroad isn't for these folks. It lacks a creeper gear, a low-low gear for those steep plunges that end in a cliff and demand a crawling descent to make the turn or else. And though the wheels are worn fairly close to the edges of the allroad, enough overhang remains to preclude some of the angles of attack found in the true wild.
And, too, for all the head-on answers to the compromises that matter to most drivers (high stance for clearance on the bad roads and low level for security in turns on the smooth ones) the allroad can wear only one set of tires at a time. Tires are the ultimate compromise. Off-road (or even awful bad roads) calls for an aggressive tread and thick side walls to resist cuts from sharp rocks. The highway calls for a much milder tread for grip on a dry road and thinner sidewalls to flex properly and keep the tread in contact with the road for traction.
The Audi allroad is a vibrant, attractive, comfortable vehicle that will get 99.9 percent of the people where they want to go 99.9 percent of the time. And it and its occupants will look and feel so good getting there.
On the road, it maintains Audi's traditional feeling of being stuck to the pavement like it's on rails.
allroad quattro wagon ($39,900).
Options As Tested
5-speed automatic transmission ($1,050); Premium Package ($1,250) includes Xenon headlamps, rear Parktronic system and heated steering wheel with touch controls and requires heated front and rear seats ($550); Convenience Package ($730) includes inside and outside automatic day/night mirrors, memory seats and HomeLink garage door opener; Warm Weather Package ($1750) includes solar moon roof and manual rear side window sun Bose Premium sound system ($750); rear-facing removable children's bench seat ($750); 17-inch dual spoke 3Dwheels ($950); rear side airbags ($350); integrated hands-free mobile telephone ($495).
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