Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Its official nameplate is the Audi A6 Allroad quattro – and if there were ever a vehicle that more aptly fits the description ‘the ultimate crossover’ it would be this clever piece of German kit.
As such, the A6 Allroad isn’t an easy car to position. It combines the practicality of a large station wagon with an arsenal of go-anywhere add-ons and technology in a premium package.
It’s lower than a conventional SUV, but armed with standard four-wheel drive, variable height suspension and hill decent control that set this car head and shoulders above the vast majority of other wagons on the road.
The A6 Allroad has always been a bit of a rare breed, as a step up from the regular A6 Avant, this third-generation model is even more special – at least in Australia, where only 150 examples filled the initial allocation back in October 2012.
We like allroad’s bespoke styling, the centrepiece being the oversize single-frame grille with specific vertical slats, tastefully finished off with a unique stainless steel cover with integrated quad air vents.
Additional bodywork for the A6 Allroad that denotes its off-road intentions includes bumpers and flared guards painted in a contrasting colour, but these are more aesthetic than proper four-wheel drive aids.
For all its uniqueness, though, there’s a hefty premium to be paid for the range-topping A6 Allroad over the standard A6 Avant model. Priced from 117,900 – before on-road costs, means there’s a significant gap between it, and the next-in-line $82,900 2.0-litre TDI A6 Avant.
It’s also priced well above the larger Audi Q7 3.0S quattro ($95,200), and stratospherically higher than it’s Volkswagen badged cousin the $47,790 Passat Alltrack.
However, in accordance with its place as the top-shelf A6 wagon, there’s an exceptionally fine interior loaded up with a raft of standard kit.
All the switches, levers and control knobs are metallic-look or chrome-rimmed, accompanied by a high-gloss piano-black surface and various metallic inlays positioned throughout the trim.
Luxury inventory includes keyless entry, stop/start technology, four-zone automatic climate control, satellite navigation, rear-view camera with front and rear parking sensors.
Also standard on the Audi A6 Allroad is Bluetooth phone and music streaming, 10-speaker audio system, automatic lights and wipers, Xenon headlamps, power tailgate and 20-inch alloy wheels.
The centrepiece, though, is the beautifully designed large screen display that automatically slides out and up above the centre stack once the start button has been pressed.
While most information and entertainment functions can be controlled through this principle monitor, there’s an equally big LCD display inside the main instrument cluster, which also serves as a convenient turn-by-turn Satnav display.
There’s a tonne of room inside the A6 Allroad – rear seat legroom is just shy of limo class and headroom is just as generous – unaffected by the sharply sloping roofline.
Luggage space is similarly capacious, with the boot capable of swallowing 565 litres of gear – expanding to 1680 litres with the rear seatbacks folded (not quite flat).
There’s also a clever rail system that supports adjustable tie-down hooks and a sliding divider to keep those runaway grocery bags in-check.
While space and practicality are certainly well sorted with the A6 Allroad, it’s by no means the car’s highlight feature; that space is reserved for its engine and subsequent on-road performance.
The variable geometry turbo 3.0 TDI is a cracker. Producing 180kW and serving up a stomping 580Nm – enough to take you from 0-100km/h in 6.6 seconds, and this, from a near two tonne semi-SUV.
But acceleration performance alone doesn’t do this engine nearly enough justice – more useable still is the relentless wave of torque and effortless momentum together with a total absence of turbo lag from the get-go.
Only a trained ear will pick this as a diesel even on start up. Above 1750rpm it sounds more like a tuned-up V6 petrol engine, albeit with a quiet purr and little or no vibration.
The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission makes for quick and seamless shifts, even when you’re having a solid punt – something you’ll be keen to indulge more often than not in the A6 Allroad.
Around town, you’re best bet is to use the fully automatic Drive mode, which will kick up to top gear from as low as 50km/h for maximum fuel efficiency. For more spirited driving, try the Sport setting for more manic shifts higher up the rpm range.
There’s also steering wheel mounted paddleshifters for those lonely mountain roads.
It doesn’t all go to pot in the corners, either. In fact, it’s astonishingly agile and remarkably composed for a big, high-riding wagon.
Thanks to the techno-wizardry of the A6 Allroad’s adaptive air suspension, which lowers the ride height by 15mm from normal at continuously higher speeds, you can soundly belt this thing through tight, windy sections without any nasty side effects whatsoever from the chassis.
Grip levels on turn-in are understandably high – a combination of the A6 Allroad’s permanent all-wheel drive and five-link front suspension with aluminium-forged links. These can handle longitudinal and lateral forces separately and offer remarkable composure, particularly under heavy loads.
While the electro-mechanical steering is quick- it’s also slightly numb, but there is a certain amount of feedback despite the weighting being inconsistent.
The ride quality, though, is exceptional.
Even over horrendously fractured roads (tested) and shod with low-profile 40 series tyres, large compressions and undulations are totally ironed out – even in the more focused Dynamic setting.
With the adaptive suspension set in Allroad setting, which raises the ride height by 35mm, crossing a waterlogged trough proved effortless, as did the gravel laden track we used on the test route, all with exceptional ride comfort.
As a limited edition model in Australia the latest Audi A6 Allroad has not been crash tested in Australia, but does boast a full five-star safety rating from EuroNCAP.
Safety features include eight airbags, stability control with traction control and electronic differential lock, anti-locking brakes with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, as well as a tyre pressure monitoring display.
Certainly, if you want a premium 4WD vehicle, there are far cheaper options even in Audi’s own extensive stable. But then, the A6 Allroad is something of a statement with a broad range of capabilities that set it above other conventional luxury wagons.
There’s no doubt that the Audi A6 Allroad is an impressive car, with soft-roader capability that doesn’t compromise its on-road performance.
Its high price and limited numbers will only ensure its premium positioning and exclusivity are retained.