WHAT a day. It’s tipping down. Nanny’s laid up with a bug. Pippa’s already late for the gymkhana and Pater’s gone orrf with the Range Rover. Still, it’s not all bad. The Quattro’s out there and raring to go so Pippa should make it in time to rendezvous with Penelope, Persephone, Peaches and Primrose, no matter how slippery the fields are.
It’s a stereotypical scene but one which Audi say is not that uncommon in these hard-pressed times. Apparently, there are plenty of people who’re enjoying a privileged lifestyle with money to spend on the sweet things in life. And that’s good news for Audi who have carved out a very nice living for themselves catering for the cash rich who’re happy to part with some of it in return for quality, luxury, reliability and value for every pound.
The world has changed dramatically over the past few years and in the car market, it’s the mid-range manufacturers who’ve lost out. As pursestrings tighten, the bargain basement brigade – the likes of Skoda, Kia and Hyundai – have enjoyed record sales. At the other end of the scale, premium brands like Mercedes, BMW and Jaguar/Land Rover have also been enjoying good times in the large car sector, which has been abandoned by the volume makers like Ford with their Granada or Vauxhall with their Omega who’re now in the highly competitive mid-range and stuck between two very strong and radically different markets.
Those at Audi have had big smiles on their faces in recent years and never more so than 2011 which was their best-ever year with sales of more than 1.3 million cars worldwide – up more than 19 per cent. In the UK they’re leading the premium market share with almost 60,000 cars taking to British roads so far this year.
Their latest arrival, the new A6 allroad quattro, in showrooms from tomorrow will hammer home that advantage. The standard A6 Avant, on which the allroad is based, has almost outsold the BMW 5 series Touring and the Mercedes E-class Estate combined over the last 12 years and the allroad holds a unique place with Audi’s legendary Quattro four-wheel drive system which gives it a huge appeal over the competition.
Audi claim to have appeal as an all-rounder, perhaps with it lacking only in sporty appearance but as in the case of the three-litre bi-turbo version – powering up to 62mph in only five and a half seconds – certainly not in performance. Breathtaking, you could say, but the same term could be applied to the price. The range starts at £43,150, rising to just under £50,000 for the Bi-Turbo – but that’s only the start. Audi are good at the add-ons which can bump up the price at an alarming rate. The test car, the 245 PS 3.0 TDI with 7-speed S-tronic gearbox, will be by far the biggest seller, taking about 86 per cent of all sales. Its list price is £44,690 but there are no fewer than 22 options including the Technology package (£3,250), 20-inch alloys (£2,445), LED headlights (£2,175), and panoramic glass sunroof (£1,225). That’s on top of £655 for the paintjob and £1,165 for the front sports seats as well as the delivery charge (£590) – adding almost £21,000 to the original bill.
But, as the people from Audi, from the newly-appointed MD down , reminded me, the customers for this car are “affluent”, “opinion leaders”, “privileged” and “very special”. It’s a nice position to be in – a bit like the driver’s seat of this car where you’re in command of some of the finest technology you’ll find on the road. The new allroad has some extra touches over the previous model, such as the incline dimension display which comes on when the hill descent programme is activated and shows the angle of tilt of the car from both a side and rear view when off-roading. The adaptive air suspension raises the car for higher ground clearance and is always a useful piece of kit along with a whole host of extra safety features to keep you, Pippa and her pals safe both on and off-road. But the one I liked best is the sound actuator in the exhaust system, designed specifically to make the whole experience a growling audible delight.
CAR Audi A6 Allroad 3.0 TDI Quattro (245PS) S Tronic
PRICE £44,690 (£65,555 as tested)
PERFORMANCE Max speed 147 mph; 0-62 mph 6.6 secs
MPG 44.8 combined
CO2 EMISSIONS 165g/km
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South west