March 4, 2000
International Geneva Auto Show
Ever been at a concert or sporting event and tried to exit quickly afterwards? Throngs of people are pushing in every direction and you can barely see where you are headed. This may seem like a strange way to start an article about an auto show, but there is a reason why I bring it up. Simply put, the autoshow in Geneva was a madhouse. I've been to many auto shows in my time, but nothing prepared me for the sheer numbers of people that I was about to encounter. The reason for the high attendance is pretty straightforward -- Geneva is the first auto show of the year in Europe and as such it gets more than its fair share of new car introductions. Also, with its central location and natural beauty, Geneva is a great destination in general. The moral to my story is that if you have press credentials you should use them; I unfortunately (due to scheduling conflicts) did not use mine. As such I was just an average show-goer in a crowd of thousands.
Don't be disappointed though. I still saw Audi's newest offerings.
The allroad quattro was, in my opinion, the most interesting new vehicle at the show. Shown as a concept in Detroit a few years back, the allroad is in production today at Audi's Neckarsulm plant. I was in Detroit when the concept debuted and I seem to remember that Audi's engine choice at the time was going to be either the 2.8 liter V6 or a V8 variant. With the overwhelming success of the 2.7T powerplant, Audi will now offer this car configured with the bi-turbo or as a 2.5 liter TDI model. Both of the production engines are logical choices, however. The 2.7T engine produces incredible torque for a turbo engine and has more than enough output to move the good-sized allroad swiftly. The 2.5 TDI, on the other hand, will be a reasonable choice for towing applications and fuel economy considerations. It is not clear if the TDI will be offered in the U.S.
The avant body style appeals to me in general, so it's not surprise that I would be a big fan of the allroad's body styling. Based on the A6 platform, yet beefed up, the car has the unique ability to look both ready for offroad use and luxurious at the same time. I believe that this is probably what manufacturers like BMW and Lexus were going for with their SUV offerings. The allroad is much more interesting, however, because it discards the "been-there, done-that" SUV body and instead adopts an aggressive car "look".
Both the 2.7T and 2.5 TDI models were on display in Geneva. The 2.7T was the more eloquently appointed of the two with two-tone leather and polished aluminum accent pieces on the exterior. On both models the exterior of the allroad mixes both painted metal exterior sections with contrasting plastic sections (particularly in the front and back). Flared fenders enclose 17-inch, 5-spoke wheels which appear to incorporate sytling cues from the Avus "S" car wheels. The show car wheels were shod in a 225/55 R 17 tire from Pirelli called the Cinturato P6 allroad. The rear of car is made unique, at least in relation to the rest of the Audi lineup, by a dual exhaust. The tailpipes are separated by another polished aluminum accent piece.
The interior gauges and buttons are Audi-familiar in style. Immediate differences that I noticed were the low-range button on the side of the shifter and the raise/lower buttons on the dash. The low-range button (manual transmission only) allows the driver to adjust the transmission to move across particularly tough terrain or navigate up a steep uphill grade. The raise/lower buttons are the manual controls for Audi's industry-unique 4 level air suspension system. Under non-extreme conditions the car controls this sytem automatically; the car is raised at low speeds (in order to offer maximum clearance over terrain) and lowered at high speeds (to promote aerodynamics). The driver can adjust ride height manually when driving over frequently changing terrain.
Audi allroad A6, John Neville Cohen