First Drive: Audi A6 allroad
Key features: Weight-saving aluminium body, new engines, air suspension
Our view: Most in the motoring world when presented with a car described as a ‘halo model’ would expect it to be big-engined, mega-powered, unlikely to be very efficient. Yet in many ways Audi’s A6 allroad is just such a halo model, and very important to the brand.
Why? Quite simply because this car is bought by Audi’s most affluent customers. Nine out of 10 of them are male, with “well above average” income, who need a car capable of driving across a muddy field (especially, for example, to tow horseboxes), but who don’t like the compromises of a full-house SUV.
Since launching the first allroad in 1999, Audi has carved itself quite a niche for off-road estates and today only the Volvo XC70 is considered a direct rival to the new Audi.
This is the third generation A6 allroad, based on the recently-launched A6 Avant. So it gets all of the advances of that model, notably the aluminium/steel composite bodyshell – with a surface area of 20 per cent aluminium. This cuts weight, by up to 70 kilos impacting fuel economy and emissions, while the composite design adds rigidity, improving handling.
Exterior touches to distinguish the allroad from a stock Avant are mainly concerned with the mud-plugging image – though to be honest that muddy field is likely the only challenge most owners would likely pitch the allroad against. Perhaps that’s why this latest incarnation looks less muscled-up than its predecessor.
There are new front and rear bumpers, wheelarch extensions contrasting with the body colour, stainless steel guards protecting the underside front and rear, and a natty set of aluminium roof rails.
The wheels grow in size, to 18 inches, while one of the more useful additions is Audi’s adaptive air suspension system, fitted as standard on all allroads and with four settings including increased ground clearance – up to 60mm – when needed.
The new allroad is a longer (plus 98mm), wider (plus 35mm) car than its predecessor, with a wheelbase stretched by 90mm, translating to more room within.
Mind you, some of the latest trim options leave a bit to be desired – the first test model we tried on the launch was fitted with wood inlays supposedly representing a yacht deck – we thought they looked somewhat cheap…
All of the four currently-available engines are 3-litre V6 units and as is becoming an industry-standard they all get eco measures such as start-stop and brake recuperation.
Dieselphobes are still catered for, with a supercharged petrol unit of 305bhp expected to take a whole two per cent of sales. The overwhelming majority, 86 per cent, will choose the middle diesel, of 241bhp.
However at the launch event CarandVanNews got to try the diesel bookends, the entry-level car of 201bhp, and the 308bhp bi-turbo.
It’s hard to see why the smallest diesel will only take a predicted seven per cent of sales. It’s basically the same engine as the 241bhp, the detuning boosting mpg a little and shaving the emissions (though not enough to drop into a lower band).
Power drops too of course, but this is still a car that will pass the 62mph marker in 7.5 seconds which is swift by anyone’s standards. The 241 unit, as a comparison, does it in 6.6. And, as a testing route across the twisty-turny uppy and downy roads of Dartmoor proved, the least-powerful version is still great fun to drive.
All allroads come with quattro all-wheel-drive as standard and all bar the bi-turbo get the seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch gearbox with its rapid auto changes.
Audi’s Drive Select driver aid is standard with seven modes ranging from the most economic to the most sporty.
The result is a car that makes highly confident progress, especially on wet or greasy roads when there is little to match it. Ride quality is up to the mark too – an area where Audi has been criticized in the past.
The bi-turbo is a breed apart, a 308bhp power packer with as its name suggests two turbochargers, of different sizes mounted one after the other, with the larger one only doing any serious work under high revs.
It is of course, a storming machine to drive, especially as it’s matched to the top-line eight-speed Tiptronic transmission. But it’s also feels like a ‘Show and go’ car – we’re told there’s even a specific speaker system in the exhaust to “enhance the engine note”. Personally we prefer meaty engine notes created by good old cylinders and valves…
All allroads come with a pleasing list of standard equipment, including Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, parking sensors and a highly efficient navigation system.
Of course there’s also an options list that can easily add several thousand pounds to the bill, from panoramic sunroofs to more impressive wheels, power tailgates to DAB radio and TV, or an all singing and dancing navigation system that gives you Google Earth images on the screen and turns the car into a mobile hotspot to run your Internet devices from.
The A6 allroad is an impressive update on the concept of a more versatile premium estate. If it was us, we’d defy convention and go for the entry-level model – especially if we were company motorists. It’s around £1,500 cheaper, comes with 25 per cent Benefit-in-Kind tax rather than the 27 of its big-selling sister, and you can go a little bit further in it.
Okay the smallest diesel is slightly slower, but not as much as to notice, and it is a fun machine to drive. What more could one ask for?
Model Tested: Audi A6 Allroad (3.0 TDI 204PS, V6 BiTDI)
On Sale: Now, first deliveries 7th July
Engine: Petrol 3.0 V6 TFSI. Diesel 3.0 V6 TDI (2), 3.0 V6 BiTDI
Power (bhp): 305. 201/241, 308.
Torque (lb/ft): 325. 332/428, 479
0-62mph (sec): 5.9. 7.5/6.6, 5.6
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 31.7. 46.3/44.8, 42.2
CO2 emissions (g/km): 206. 159/165, 176
Key rivals: Volvo XC70
Test date: June 2012
Words by: Andrew Charman