15 November 2004

Audi – inventor of the stylish sports estate – is about to unleash a flood of sophisticated upmarket five-door vehicles, starting with the all-new A6 Avant. These first official pictures reveal a substantial and very stylish machine, and looks to be the best interpretation yet of Audi’s dramatic new styling direction. The sweeping roofline is a classy step forward from the previous-generation’s boxy load-lugger looks, and the long rear overhang should help minimise any negative impact on carrying ability, although the German company has yet to reveal full specifications.

The engine range should shadow that of the saloon, which means the line-up will kick off with the 177bhp 2.4-litre V6 petrol unit. The range is expected to start from £25,400 in SE form when it goes on sale in the UK next April. The launch of a more humble entry-level engine is in the pipeline, joining the three petrol and three diesel engines already offered in the saloon.

One neat new detail in the load-lugger is the aluminium ‘luggage bar’ which slides on D C tracks in the boot floor and keeps luggage from moving around when the boot isn’t full. The Avant will also need to employ tricks such as underfloor lockers and an electric tailgate to compete with the BMW 5-series Touring and Mercedes E-class wagon.

But even more important to Audi is its long-awaited entry into the booming SUV market.

Having originally decided not to join the project that spawned the Porsche Cayenne and VW Touareg, the company is putting the finishing touches to its own version, the Q7, previewed by last year’s Pikes Peak concept car.

To be unveiled at next September’s Frankfurt Motor Show, the Q7 is based heavily on the Touareg, but is 170mm longer to allow for a third row of seats – deemed essential for the US market.

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Underpinning the Q7 is a revised version of the Touareg’s double wishbone suspension, although without the detachable roll-bar system. The V6 models are likely to ride on conventional steel springs, but the others should receive air units.

The Q7 also forgoes a number of features to help keep its weight in check. Gone is VW’s low-range transfer case and locking differentials; the new Audi’s emphasis is clearly focused more on on-road dynamics than off-road ability. Drive is channelled permanently to each wheel with electronics keeping traction in check.

Kicking off the line-up in late 2005 will be 335bhp 4.2-litre V8 petrol and 222bhp 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel, joined in mid 2006 by a 253bhp 3.2-litre V6 petrol and 275bhp 4.0-litre V8 diesel.

Also on the drawing board, though not expected before early 2007, is a Q7 fitted with the silky-smooth 450bhp 6.0-litre W12 petrol engine – as seen in the Touareg Sport at September’s Paris Motor Show (Autocar, 28 September).

Significantly, Audi has also registered the name QS7, potentially for a sporting version of its new off-roader, possibly powered by a 500bhp 5.2-litre V10.

The Q7 should start from around £35,000.

Audi chairman Martin Winterkorn has also given the go-ahead to a smaller SUV called Q5, likely to share a large percentage of components with the A4 saloon.

Planned for release in the latter half of 2007, the entry-level Q5 is expected to cost around £25,000.

Engines will range from a base 148bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder, through a 253bhp 3.2-litre V6 and possibly a 335bhp 4.2-litre V8. Buyers will also be able to choose a number of diesel engines, likely to include 138bhp 2.0-litre pumpe düse and 222bhp 3.0-litre common-rail units.

Greg Kable

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