By Kris Hansen
Audis are well known for their foul weather abilities, which makes them ideal cars to take to the mountains in winter for a little skiing. Even if the weather is fine and the roads are clear, we’d choose an Audi over any other option (obviously) when taking any kind of trip. Of course, with ski trips comes a huge amount of stuff you’ll need to bring along, which means you’ll want a good rack system to carry it all.
As with our long term allroad project, we contacted Thule North America to see what they recommended. We were sent a base rack system consisting of Thule’s elegant Aeroblade load bars, and the Rapid Traverse Foot Pack 480R with the correct fit kit for the cars (KIT1651 for the A6, and KIT1625 for the A7)
Upon opening the boxes these kits appear to be slightly complicated to assemble, but in reality once you slide the feet into the Aeroblade bars, decide which is to be the front and which is to be the rear, left and right become obvious, and its just a matter of reading the easy to follow instruction manual to figure out which of the 2 rubber feet from the fit kit goes in the relevant position. The 2 kits we used for our trips contained 4 rubber pads (2 slightly different pairs), and 4 metal hook pieces. The rubber pads went left right/right rear, right front/left rear. The 4 metal hooks are all the same. The foot kit also comes with 4 pieces of transparent self adhesive plastic, to be applied to the area of the car where the rubber pads would sit on the paint. Since we were not dealing with our own cars, and the racks were not on the cars for all that long, we did not apply these pieces, but we’d think this would help minimize paint damage caused by a moving foot. It is important to very thoroughly clean the rubber feet, and the area on the roof where they sit.
Once assembled, fitting the racks to the car is relatively easy. On the A6 there are plugs inserted into the inner door frame trim which need to be removed, using the tool that Thule provide in the kit. With the plugs removed, the post on the metal hook inserts into the hole. On the A7, you use the included plastic card to peel back the rubber doorframe trim to allow you to insert the metal hook. Once fine tuned for fitment, all it takes is cranking down on the integrated allen tools in each foot till the built in torque indicators tell you to stop.
The very first time you fit the rack to the car, you’ll want to play around with the feet and get everything lined up just right. Once you lock the feet onto the bars, from that point forward, mounting and dismounting is a piece of cake.
When these bars are fitted to the car, they are incredibly secure and very strong. We’ve had people ask us about the strength of these kits compared to the ones available from Audi’s accessory catalog, and while we don’t have experience with the Audi racks, we know based on what we have seen with the Thule racks, these kits are built to exacting tolerances, are beautifully made, and very secure.
Once we mounted up the base rack system, we mounted the Hyper XL 612 box. This box is very similar in size to the Sonic XL box we used on our allroad, easily swallowing many pairs of skis, snowboards, luggage, or unruly passengers. The Hyper XL is finished with an automotive style finish, giving it a much more upscale appearance. It is also a bit lighter weight than the Sonic XL, but no less robust.
The Hyper XL features:
- Patented AeroNose Design reduces drag and noise making it the most aerodynamic box available.
- Reinforced Ultra-Thick Lid and Base for maximum durability.
- Patented Rear-Angled Base and expanded vehicle mounting points help maximize trunk and hatch clearance.
- AcuTight Mounting “clicks” when you reach optimal hold to ensure your box is secured to the rack.
- Integrated Light for nighttime loading and unloading.
- Fits Thule rack systems, round bars and most factory racks
- Dual-Side opening for easier loading and unloading from either side of the vehicle
- Two-tone, high-gloss automotive finish combines style and durability
We found that it was possible for one burly person to mount the box to the racks, though it was much easier with two. Thanks to the AcuTight system, aligning the clamps, and tightening the box to the rails was incredibly easy.
This box comes with a small light on the inside, which comes in surprisingly handy when unloading skis at night, or loading things early in the morning.
The Hyper XL is designed with an upturned bottom at the rear end of the box, for maximum hatch clearance. On the A7, with its very long sloping rear end, to ensure that we didn’t have clearance problems, we opened the hatch, then slid the box towards the rear as much as possible, till there was a comfortable gap between the box and the hatch.
Mounted on the A6 and A7, we detected next to no wind noise from these racks, even with the Hyper XL mounted. Other than the sunroof being blocked out by the box, it was almost impossible to tell it was there, even when loaded. We’re completely sold on the concept of using a roof box for ski trips. It is a great way to keep skis and other long or dirty things out of the interior of the car.