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Audi A6 Allroad on long-term test: is this really all the car you'll ever need?

James Foxall
As a large estate with a modicum of off-road ability, the A6 Allroad would seem a great alternative to a modish SUV - Christopher Pledger

This raised version of the A6 estate has long been the answer for people who can’t decide between an SUV and a regular estate. We’re interested to discover whether it’s the perfect antidote to the never-ending slew of SUVs and will be updating this report every couple of weeks.

Our car:A6 Allroad quattro 45 TDI 231PS Sport Tiptronic

List price when new: £54,555 OTR

Price as tested: £60,485

Official fuel economy: 37.7mpg (WLTP Combined)

Whether you understand Audi’s new naming convention or not (I don’t), all you need to know about the 45 is that it’s the entry-level model in the UK. Like all A6 Allroads our version has a 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine. This version kicks out 231 horsepower which on paper should be more than enough. 

That said, the Allroad is a hefty beast, tipping the scales at 1,945kg without anyone on board. But the 0-60mph time is 6.7 seconds and it’ll do 155mph so its performance certainly isn’t too shabby. And official fuel economy in the new era of Worldwide harmonised Light vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) is 37.7mpg with 153g/km of CO2 emissions.

The version we’re testing is the Sport model with an eight-speed Tiptronic gearbox. That’s a conventional torque converter automatic rather than the Volkswagen Group’s DSG double clutch Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG).

The sleek, modern interior is a treat Credit: Christopher Pledger

All models come with a mild hybrid system which employs a lithium-ion battery pack to eke out a few more miles per gallon. Our car has been specified with £5,930-worth of options which include the £1,495 technology pack, electrically adjustable heated and folding mirrors are a hefty £1,525, along with four-zone air-conditioning for £825. 

Another option is the £685 Floret Silver paintwork which although not the most exciting colour in the world is smart and suits the design well, particularly with the chrome accents around the window and the chrome roof bars.

I’m not so convinced by the body cladding around the wheel arches, however. It suits the rough tough image Audi wants for the car but doesn’t look like it’ll stand up to much abuse. 

And that is sort of the point of the A6 Allroad. It’s a luxury estate car (and believe me, the interior really is luxurious) that has some SUV capability. For me, that talent must include extra ride height. Although not underwater yet, the lanes around my house have been known to flood, usually around the Christmas/New Year period.

We’ll have to see whether the Allroad’s air suspension that raises it 60mm from its lowest position is enough. 

Looks and appeal

Of course the Audi badge has an appeal all of its own. On top of that, the A6 Allroad is a handsome beast. At 4.9m long and just 1.49m high in its lowest position it has a sporty stance, too. This is heightened by the suspension which when dropped the 15mm from standard gives the Allroad a positively racy look. 

The more three-dimensional appearance of the grille is a definite improvement over the previous A6. And the LED daytime running lights frame it nicely. I’m not convinced the dark plastic wheel arch surrounds are entirely necessary but they ensure you can instantly tell this is an Allroad rather than a regular A6 Avant.

The latest iteration of Audi's six-cornered grille is a great improvement of the previous version's  Credit: Christopher Pledger

Audi is frequently lauded for the beauty of its cabins and this car is no different. The attention to detail is stunning. Our model features the black glass-look control buttons (a £325 option) which means the sizeable infotainment screen is seamlessly integrated into the dashboard. The downside is that when the car is turned off, the finger marks on the touchscreen will irritate anyone who’s even been lightly brushed with the OCD stick.

But for me (and I suspect many others) the real appeal of the A6 Allroad comes from the fact that this is a brilliant all-rounder. With Quattro four-wheel drive and the ability to raise and lower the ground clearance, it has many of the skills of an SUV.

The interior is spacious with room for four in luxury, five in comfort, and a healthy 565-litre boot before you’ve folded the seats down. And all this is clad in the Savile Row suit of a sleek and sporty estate car.

On country roads, the ability to raise the ride height doesn’t quite enable you to see over hedges but it certainly helps navigate rutted off-road tracks Credit: Christopher Pledger

On the motorway the Audi is a fast and efficient mile-muncher. On country roads, the ability to raise the ride height doesn’t quite enable you to see over hedges but it certainly helps navigate rutted off-road tracks. 

So this car is an attractive prospect in many ways. The standard specification doesn’t add to that, however. Being charitable, it’s stingy. Our car’s standard price is £54,555. But let’s be realistic: no one in their right mind is going to buy a car like this without something as fundamental as folding and heated door mirrors.

Equally, you’d expect the highest level of connectivity and a wireless mobile phone charging plate as standard in such a premium car. These two features cost an extra £3,020. 

It’s clearly a strategy that works for Audi. But I can’t imagine it’s one that warms buyers to the brand.

The drive

You only have to look at the figures to realise that the A6 Allroad’s 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel is more than up to the job. Although this is the entry-level model, its 369lb ft of torque allied to the quattro four-wheel drive is enough to ensure that acceleration feels very brisk indeed.

Put your foot down and the aural response from the engine is pleasing too. The engine’s smooth exhaust note sounds as powerful as it feels. I wouldn’t call it sporty but it’s very satisfying.

Getting things moving isn’t quite so agreeable. As with other modern motors, the A6 Allroad features a ‘fly by wire’ throttle, where the traditional cable between accelerator pedal and engine has been replaced. The result is when you’re at a standstill you press the throttle and then wait a beat, perhaps a second and a half, before anything happens. It’s annoying and takes some getting used to.

This is the least powerful version of the 3.0-litre V6 diesel that's offered in the UK but it offers more than sufficient punch - eventually Credit: Christopher Pledger

It might take some of the sheen off driving the Allroad but this remains a mightily impressive car. The eight-speed torque converter gearbox shifts smoothly enough to make any thoughts of the VW Group’s Direct Shift Gearbox redundant. This, after all, is no sportscar. It doesn’t need whip crack DSG gearchanges. And this gearbox makes you realise that a decent traditional auto with modern software is still more than up to the job.

On the road, the ride is beautifully cosseting. Part of the reason for this might be that I’ve switched the Allroad to winter tyres. I haven’t really noticed any increase in noise. But in doing the swap, it’s gone down a wheel size, from 19-inch to 18s, which may have benefited the ride.

The air suspension that jacks the car’s ride height up features modes including Comfort and Auto, both of which are incredibly adept at isolating the cabin from the lumps and bumps of Britain’s roads. Sport mode takes the soft edge off things which somehow jars with what this car is about.

Quattro permanent four-wheel drive is useful when the going gets slippery Credit: Christopher Pledger

The electromechanical steering isn’t brilliantly endowed with feel but again, this is no sports car; it’s a long-distance cruiser with some off-road capability. It doesn’t need razor-sharp responses.

The quattro system means permanent all-wheel drive with a self-locking centre differential when required. This can divert up to 60 per cent of the power to the front tyres, up to 80 per cent of the power rearwards if required. I haven’t had cause to use it yet but I’m sure when the time comes it’ll work just fine.

In the meantime, the Allroad feels perfectly at home cruising along the motorway. There’s minimal road and wind noise, when it’s in eighth gear the engine ticks over noiselessly, and the cabin is a feel-good place to spend time. It even seems quite economical. So far, the computer is telling me I’m averaging about 43mpg. And that’s just fine by me.

 

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