Car reviews - Audi - A6 - Allroad
Cracking engine, spacious and quality cabin, adjustable suspension, quattro grip, fuel economy, handles better than most SUVs
Room for improvement
Price premium over a Q7, expensive options, ‘S’ mode in dual-clutch transmission holds gears for too long
12 Oct 2012
BACK in 2001, before the current craze for SUVs of every stripe had started in earnest, Audi Australia launched the first-generation A6-based Allroad – a conceptually similar but more premium take on the formula used by Volvo with the XC70 and Subaru with the Outback.
Sales were never high, but Audi now describes Allroad buyers as among its most loyal.
The original formula remains fundamentally the same today: take an A6 Avant diesel and add flared wheelarches, underbody protection and a tricky adjustable air suspension system to create a crossover that sits roughly mid-way between passenger wagons and proper SUVs.
Of course, the market today is very different to what it was in 2001. Back then, SUVs accounted for only 18 per cent of new vehicle sales, while this year that figure is around 35 per cent.
In the interim, Audi has released orthodox SUVs such as the Q3, Q5 and Q7, which account for more than one-third of its total sales here.
Don’t expect A6 Allroad sales to match the big boys, though, since it is pitched as a more exclusive and left-of-centre choice for a select few who steer clear of the norm (Audi is only bringing 150 units here, anyway).
Those rare few who tick the box will have to shell out the big bucks to get it – just shy of $120k before on-road costs are factored in – but what they will get is a well-balanced and relatively dynamic all-rounder that’s sure to get the attention of the SUV-driving neighbours.
Our first drive took place on a section of winding Queensland roads, coupled with some muddy trails and even the occasional creek crossing. Torrential rains proved a blessing in disguise because the slippery surfaces were perfect for displaying the quattro system’s grip.
The rear-biased 60:40 driveline lent the big wagon an easy, loping grace on the blacktop that gave us the confidence to progressively dial up the power delivery mid-corner, while bodyroll was kept below typical SUV standards thanks to the lower ride height.
The adaptive suspension hunkers the car down at speeds, and as a result feels stable at speeds on both road and gravel – and presumably ice – while the ability to add extra height helps with an occasional venture off the beaten path, not that the typical Allroad driver is likely to test this.
As with most Audis, the steering was a little light and bereft of feel for our tastes – the newer electric steering system in the A4 Allroad is better than the A6 – but it’s still a more dynamic proposition than the typical wallowing large SUV.
We were equally impressed with the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine, which is the same as the one used in the Q7 but has an extra 80Nm of torque. It’s a punchy unit with plenty of flexible power from down low, and a penchant for revving out towards 5000rpm in manual mode.
This would make a great towing vehicle – a capacity of 2500kg braked is nothing to be sneezed at.
As with any modern European diesel engine worth its stripes, the TDI is quiet and refined beyond a muted growl under load, while sound-deadening keeps the din out of the cabin.
The S tronic dual-clutch transmission is a good match when left to its own devices, but the sportier ‘S’ mode is prone to holding onto gears for too long at low speeds, hindering refinement. This is typical of VW Group transmissions.
The interior is typical Audi A6, meaning a beautifully made and logical instrument fascia, comfortable seats, sporty steering wheel and a spacious rear row. It lacks sparkle, but there are few ergonomic complaints to be made beyond the fiddly air-conditioning dials.
Still, the suite of extra-cost options that should really come as standard features is disappointing. An extra $2980 for a sunroof? How about $6140 for lane assist and adaptive cruise control? Many cheaper cars already have these features as standard.
Flipping the rear seats down (unable to fold perfectly flat) yields a respectable 1680 litres of cargo space and enough length for an Ikea cabinet, while the standard loading rails and electric tailgate are nice touches – and, considering the $120k price, nice touches are exactly what the Allroad needs.
The load area – 565 litres/1680 litres – still falls well short of the $90,000 Q7, however, which accommodates 775L/2035L (and can also tow an extra tonne at 3500kg).
At the end of the day, the A6 Allroad is a compromise – a car that straddles the line between stylish Euro wagon and capable off-roader. By and large, it achieves the task with gusto, although the starting price is sure to give some people pause for thought.
Then again, with only 150 set to arrive here, you’re certainly buying an exclusive experience.
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