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Article - Audi Allroad

Article from today's Sydney Morning Herald:

Audi for all-seasons takes some air

A clever pneumatic system gives the Allroad off-road ability without the
usual handicap of heavy hardware. Georg Kacher reports.

Audi's efficient and understated Allroad wagon, expected to go into production
late in 1999, delivers the off-road goods without taking the conventional 4WD
route of increased size, weight and fuel consumption.

Based on Audi's medium-sized A6 Avant quattro, the Allroad gains its clearance
in the rough stuff thanks to a pneumatic suspension which alters the ride height
- and which, on-road, cushions the bumps and counters the physical forces of
accelerating, braking and cornering.

Two weeks after its world premiere at the Detroit Auto Show, Audi's all-seasons
wagon was whisked into an impromptu car clinic set up by Audi of North America.
The vogue all-wheel-drive wagon passed with flying colours, potential customers
praising the design, the engineering concept and the up-market equipment - but
not the posted asking price.

Audi has gone back to the drawing board to pull cost (and some profit) out of
the car before production begins.

The pneumatic suspension, replacing steel springs, has conventional gas shock
absorbers integrated in the air bellows. The high-pressure closed-circuit system
relies on a small compressor mounted close to the rear axle.

Ride height is either adjusted automatically according to the car's speed or
selected by push-buttons in the centre console and the ignition key. There are
three ground clearances: highway 145 mm, byway 170 mm and off-road 195 mm. Press
the button, a warning light flashes and, in five seconds, the car rises or falls

Turn off the engine or unlock the car, and the suspension assumes the tallest
position for ease of access. Open the tailgate and the vehicle kneels to lower
the loading lip.

The show car pictured here is said to differ little from the proposed production
version. About two-thirds of the Allroad's price premium over the A6 covers the
cost of the clever Continental air suspension; the rest is spent on the
innovative roof treatment, restyled bumpers and new all-terrain tyres.

The bolt-on composite roof, painted in the same contrasting colour as the
bumpers, neatly incorporates the optional sunroof and the low, sleek modular
carrying system. Audi plans a full range of made-to-measure rooftop add-ons
for the outdoors crowd.

To keep costs at bay, the sheet metal changes are restricted to bigger wheel-
arch apertures and mildly modified rear guards. The three-piece aluminium
wheels look great - but are impossible to clean.

Even the tailor-made Michelin "twin-force" tyres are expected to get the nod.
The centre tread pattern is like that of a conventional road tyre, but the
contoured shoulders provide extra grip and traction.

Predictably, the Audi Allroad rides and handles much like an off-the-peg A6
Avant. Above 65 km/h, the body assumes a more slippery, ground-hugging stance.
But the air suspension not only makes height adjustments, it also helps to
reduce body roll and to suppress brake dive as well as acceleration squat.

The A6 Allroad is not exactly a born mud-wrestler, but it does meet the mobility
requirements of affluent outdoors buyers. "It gets you there, and it treads
lightly," promises company chairman Franz-Josef Paefgen. "The Allroad is an
environment-friendly and yet positively dynamic alternative [to established

If sales warrant, Audi will add a high-performance V8 version and an
aggressively priced model based on the A4.

Chris Palmer (1995.5 S6 Avant)              "Ashes to ashes,
Data General Corporation                     dust to dust,
chris_palmer@dg.com                          If Lillee don't get yer,
                                             Thommo must!"