GENEVA - When its 2002 S6 Avant goes on sale this fall in the United States, Audi of America Inc. will have a trio of what it calls performance wagons. These are not the boxy, wood-paneled station wagons of yesteryear.
Audi has developed a performance wagon strategy to attract existing sport-utility owners ready for an alternative, said Len Hunt, vice president of Audi of America.
'There is definitely a group of American buyers who have had two or three successive sport-utilities and now are ready for something different,' Hunt said. 'We're trying to get to those people who want more versatility.'
Audi already has the S4 Avant, a performance wagon that went on sale late last year with a 265-hp, 2.7-liter V-6 with dual turbochargers. It also has the allroad quattro, also with the 2.7-liter V-6. A four-level air suspension system allows the driver to change the ground clearance for off-road driving.
The S6 Avant will be the final piece of this performance-wagon strategy. It will have a 340-hp, 4.2-liter V-8 engine. The S wagons and the allroad quattro are in addition to Audi's core wagon lineup: the A4 Avant and A6 Avant.
At the Geneva auto show this month, parent company Audi AG displayed the A8 6.0 L, the latest version of the Audi flagship sedan. The aluminum 6.0-liter V-12 engine generates 420 hp. But Audi of America has no plans to bring it to the United States, Hunt said. Audi offers the A8, A8 L long-wheel-base and the S8 here.
The redesigned A4 sedan, which will make its U.S. debut at the New York auto show in April, will go on sale in the United States in late October or early November, Hunt said. It will arrive with two engine choices : the turbocharged 170-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, and a 220-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 that replaces Audi's staple 2.8-liter V-6. The wagon will follow in 2002.
Key marketing points of the new A4 will be the additional room for rear-seat passengers, an independent rear suspension and the new 3.0-liter engine, Hunt said. The new A4 has not been priced for the U.S. market, he said.
The A4 is Audi of America's top-selling model.