Audi A6 allroad review
by Richard Dredge (19 July 2012)
Images by Magic Car Pics
The breadth of Audi's range is nothing short of a marvel. Nowhere else will you find a range of cars that spans from the A1 at the bottom to the A8 and R8 at the top.
But of all the cars this German powerhouse offers, it's the A6 allroad that sells to its most affluent customers. That's right; the A8, R8 and various S/RS models might be more costly, but it's this A6 on steroids that the well-heeled go for. And while a starting price of £43,000 means this new third-generation A6 Allroad isn't a car for the cash-strapped, it's relatively attainable, and proof that money can buy you taste.
It's not hard to see why the A6 allroad is so appealing. According to Audi it's the most versatile premium estate car on sale, combining elements of just about every sector aside from the supercar.
It's a luxury car, off-roader and capacious estate all rolled into one, and while you can't really tackle seriously rough terrain, the standard four-wheel drive and adjustable air suspension mean the allroad won't automatically be stranded on anything more than a muddy slipway.
There was a time, back in the 1980s, when it looked as though four-wheel drive was going to become much more commonplace, but most car makers bailed out. Aside from marques like Jeep and Land Rover, only Audi continued to offer a wide array of 4WD-equipped models, giving it an edge that rivals have been eyeing with envy.
Recent harsh winters have led to BMW and Mercedes both looking at introducing all-wheel drive saloons and estates to the UK – and it's about time. When you've got lots of power and torque, the safest way to deploy it is to channel it to all four corners of the car, not just one end.
When you buy an A6 allroad, there's plenty of power and torque. All versions feature a turbocharged six-cylinder engine, the focus being on diesel units, but there's a petrol variant too, which will account for just 2% of sales.
The petrol engine is Audi's 3.0 TFSi unit (priced from £45,020), while there are three diesel options, all based on the fabulous 3.0 TDi powerplant. Cheapest is the 201bhp lump (£43,150), with a 242bhp model next in line (£44,690); the range-topper is a 309bhp twin-turbo unit, badged BiTDi and priced at £49,445.
We got to sample the entry-level A6 allroad and the BiTDi too. Unsurprisingly, the latter is nothing more than a faster version of the former - it's meant to sound noticeably sportier, but you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference. However, while the 201bhp edition is plenty quick enough for anything you're likely to ask of it, the much torquier 242bhp A6 allroad carries a premium of just £1540, which is why it's likely to account for over 80% of sales.
There's no manual option for any of the powerplants; instead there's a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission throughout. That's with the exception of the BiTDi, which comes with an eight-speed Tiptronic auto instead.
While Audi has a reputation for building cars with inert handling, it's unlikely that any A6 allroad buyers will be disappointed by the driving experience. Its bulk means it'll never satisfy enthusiast drivers, but the ride/handling balance is fine, helped by the standard fitment of adaptive air suspension.
With a ride height already above a regular A6 Avant's by 6cm, the air suspension allows the driver to move skywards by up to a further 18.5cm while also firming up – or softening – the ride. Crucially though, none of the settings make the ride uncomfortable.
If the mechanicals are convincing, so too are the interior and exterior designs. Sure there are no surprises, but that's not such a bad thing. After all, Audi does some of the best cabins in the business, and at the price you'll struggle to find anything else that's as easy to use, attractive and solidly crafted.
Of course the allroad's cabin is essentially A6 Avant throughout, so it's got all the space you'll need (565 litres with the seats up, and 1680 litres with them folded down). Rear seat space is ample for two but not great for three, thanks to the transmission tunnel, and the seats are brilliantly comfortable, whichever row you're sat in.
As with previous iterations, the allroad's exterior is distinguished from lesser A6 Avants with unique bumpers, a bespoke grille, stainless steel underbody guards front and rear plus black wheelarch extensions, although these can be painted body colour.
Unusually, there are no trim level choices, but all cars come extremely well-equipped. Standard kit includes front and rear parking sensors, leather trim, 18" alloy wheels, tyre pressure monitoring, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, automatic lights and wipers and a multi-function steering wheel.
However, if you need even more you can spend further cash on various option packs, such as the £3250 Technology Pack Advanced. This adds adaptive cruise control, an upgraded multimedia system, lane assist and electrically folding door mirrors. Other optional extras include LED headlights, DAB radio and TV, a head-up display, glass roof, night vision assist and massaging front seats.
For some, the A6 allroad won't tick a crucial box – that of a truly elevated seating position. Those buyers will opt for an SUV instead. But for those who want the security of four-wheel drive without the necessarily compromised dynamics of a conventional off-roader, the allroad is perfect. The fact that it's also beautifully built, capacious, comfortable and looks stylish without being flash make it all the more enticing.