GENEVA - The Audi allroad quattro goes on sale in May in Europe and will arrive in the USA late this year - but don't call it a sport-utility.
'We will position it as a leading crossover,' said Len Hunt, president of Audi of America and ex-boss of Audi in the UK. 'It's not an SUV.'
It will reside on the periphery of the sport-utility segment, he said.
Audi will focus on the allroad quattro's four-level air suspension, a feature that will set it apart from typical sport-utilities, Hunt said.
Both axles have air spring struts controlled by separate height sensors. The ride height of the allroad quattro is automatically changed depending on the speed of the vehicle. The driver can change the ride height manually as well.
For optimum aerodynamics when driving at high speeds, the ride height is set in its lowest position, Hunt said. For optimum ground clearance during off-road driving, it is set in the highest ride position.
This pneumatic system provides ground clearance of between 142mm and 208mm.
'This is the system that will separate the allroad from the pack,' said Marc Trahan, product management leader at Audi of America.
Since it takes 15 seconds to go from one height setting to the next, the change will be virtually imperceptible to the driver, Trahan said.
The allroad quattro brings together the performance of a luxury passenger car with an off-road capability that can compete against the typical sport-utility, said Franz-Josef Paefgen, chairman of Audi AG.
The allroad quattro will be equipped with a 2.7-liter biturbo V-6 engine that generates 250hp. It is the engine that is used in the Audi S4 and A6 2.7T sedan, and it is the only engine that will be offered in the USA. A 2.5-liter V-6 TDI engine will also be offered in Europe.
The allroad quattro is based on the Audi A6 Avant station wagon, but it will be marketed as a separate model, not a derivative, Hunt said. It will make its US debut at the New York auto show in April.
The USA is expected to be the largest single market for the allroad quattro, said Walter Hanek, director of marketing at Audi of America.