It’s fair to say premium European soft-road estates such as Audi’s allroad haven’t resonated much with Aussie buyers. Ingostadt’s take on the slightly jacked-up, pumped-arched luxo-wagon – now two decades young – remains as much an anomaly on local sealed or broken roads now as it has ever been.
But why? Is it not off-road capable enough? Or as practical as SUV alternative? Or just not wallet-friendly enough compared with the Japanese-bred stuff touting much friendlier price tags?
Indeed, it’s not difficult to consider the Audi A6 allroad from afar as being only a moderately adept jack of a few trades that doesn’t specialise enough in any areas fit to confidently hang its hat.
It hasn’t helped that, bar late-C7 generation examples, the allroad has hardly stood out as being pretty, ruggedly handsome or appealing characterful in design. Does it lack of stylistic confidence, perhaps?
This new C8 generation, though, is something else. Eye, beholder, etcetera, but to this scribe’s eyes the newie is a knockout, especially in its fetching metallic green and brown leather combination as tested. It certainly makes an entrance grander and more upmarket than a Toyota LandCruiser, or a Subaru Outback, or even the Audi Q7.
Now Audi’s “ultimate all-rounder” looks more special than ever, could it be that there’s some serious substance to had beyond the richly priced, moderately talented stigma it’s long been burdened with? And is it a worthy choice as a shrewd and inspired left-field ownership prospect?
Strictly speaking, there’s only one version of the A6 allroad offered in Australia, the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6-powered ‘45 TDI‘, which clocks on at $109,500 before on-roads.
Yes, the A6 allroad lobs with a lower price than any version in the past decade. Better yet, Australia’s spec is healthier than that offered in other markets.
For instance, the British ‘Sport 45 TDI’ sits on 19-inch wheels and has a 170kW/500Nm engine tune, where our version rides on 20s and gets 183kW/600Nm, to name two differences.
Further, local standard equipment is so fulsome (more shortly) Audi Australia claims it packs $15,000 of equipment over its C7 predecessor. Ostensibly, though, adding a $8900 Premium Plus Package adds enough features in enough areas (including 21-inch wheels) to consider it a higher-grade variant.
Our tester gets that package as well as fetching green metallic paintwork ($2200), black headlining ($750) and rear window blinds ($450) as cost options, bumping as-tested pricing up to $121,800 before on-roads.
To call the A6 allroad ‘niche’ is an understatement, but you can cross-shop it. Realistically, the Mercedes-Benz E220d All-Terrain ($114,890) and the price-busting if properly premium Volvo V90 Cross Country ($80,990) occupy the same soft-road wagon pigeonhole, but both rivals fit modest 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesels.
Porsche’s Panamera Sport Turismo 4 AWD is a six-cylinder, but that’s petrol and (at $236,300) over twice the price.
Closer to home, the no-brainer cross-shop is the seven-seat Q7 (from $101,900)… but you’ll need the 50 TDI grade (from $112,900 list) to match the A6 allroad’s 6.5-second 0-100km/h performance. It also lacks some of the allroad’s spec, such as ride height adjustment for its air suspension.
Other Audis? The petrol A6 55 TFSI sedan ($115,636) ups performance but lacks the practicality. Meanwhile, the more practical petrol A7 Sportback 45 TFSI fits a two-litre petrol four easily out-punched by allroad’s large-capacity oiler. There’s the smaller A4 allroad at a much more fetching price ($74,800 list) but the mid-sizer doesn’t measure up to the A6 version anywhere you look beyond badge cachet.
Verdict? The A6 allroad appears expensive at a glance, but starts to look good value when you consider how it’s positioned and what equipment is standard…
I recently reviewed Audi’s S7 Sportback and wrote nice things about what equipment it packs in for its circa-$160,000 list price. So it’s a little surprising just how similarly fit the A6 allroad’s features list is, given it’s just 70 per cent of its sportier stable mate’s asking price.
Outside, the A6 allroad has 20-inch wheels in a choice of two styles, adaptive and height-adjustable air suspension, Matrix LED headlights and full LED exterior lighting, dynamic indicators, heated/power-folding/dimming mirrors, heated washer jets, front and rear parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, a powered tailgate with foot gesture control, keyless entry, and a bit of soft-roading appearance accoutrement.
Inside, the wagon features fully electric sports seats in Valcona leather with heating, memory and four-way lumbar adjustment, a steering wheel with paddle shifters, 12.3-inch digital instrumentation, a head-up display, four USB ports, and haptic touchscreens for the three-zone climate control (8.6in) and infotainment (10.1in).
Speaking of which, the A6 allroad has Audi’s high-grade MMI navigation plus featuring 3D-mapped satellite navigation, DAB+, 180-watt 10-speaker sound, handwriting recognition, wireless CarPlay and wired Android Auto, and inductive charging for Qi standard phones.
Three years of Audi’s ‘connect plus’ Navigation & Infotainment and Security & Assistance services are standard, as are adaptive cruise control, 360-degree camera viewing, and ‘parking system plus’ forward and reverse camera perspectives.
The $8900 Premium plus pack adds 21-inch wheels, higher-grade HD LED headlights, four-zone climate control, LED ambient lighting, rear privacy glass, a panoramic glass roof, Bang & Olufsen 16-speaker 3D sound, and electric steering column adjustment. Hardly essential additions, but clearly the A6 allroad is more about indulgence than merely covering bases.
Like a whole slew of model variants spun off the A6 format, the allroad version gets a five-star ANCAP rating from assessment conducted in 2018.
Adult occupant protection in particular scored a high 93 per cent, while child occupant protection (85 per cent) suffered a little for A7/S7’s slightly inflexible ISOFIX arrangement, specifically issues with affixing rearward facing capsules.
The Audi scored 81 per cent for vulnerable road users, where its all-speed AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection shone, while safety assist returned an average 78 per cent result where it got pinged specifically in speed assistance and a lack of roadside recognition smarts.
The ‘front pre-sense’ all-speed AEB is joined by rear pre-sense with reversing AEB, while blind spot, active lane keeping, rear cross-traffic, side approach and intersection assistance are all standard.
I’ve lost count of how many vehicles – including quite a few Audis – I’ve crawled into and out of lately but the A6 allroad is something of a standout. It’s as rich, opulent, techy, comfy and conspicuously upmarket as anything I’ve recently sampled, S7 Sportback included.
But what makes it so damn impressive is that it’s perhaps the most complete and well-rounded cabin, dash to tailgate, with so few shortcomings to nitpick. It just really delivers well in every area.
The material choice, variety, tactility and sense of integrity are what you’d expect from Audi’s nicer crop – it creams an A4 – but the quality of the leather and extensiveness of the double stitching, for instance, are lovely. Execution is more like you’d expect from an ‘S’ or ‘RS’ than a model starting with ‘A’.
Audi has done a great job giving the A6 allroad a spacious, comfortable and luxurious cabin
So you get a primo touches such as a configurable high-grade Virtual Cockpit, rear passenger air vents in the B-pillars and a console fascia with dedicated touchscreen controls, illuminated belt buckles to find them easily in the dark, adjustable track tether points for the luggage net – lots of neat stuff that compound a sense of luxury that feels generous even at its $110,000 price point.
It’s the sort of ‘bonus’ stuff as a dangling carrot to lure you away from the more practical if a little less opulent-feeling Q7 50 TDI wanting for similar money. Bar the paddle shifters, there’s absolutely no sporting pretension to the allroad and, frankly, it’s all the better for it.
The seats are fantastically comfy and look a treat in their chocolate brown finish and, bar the prominent tail-shaft tunnel in the middle rear position hampering legroom a bit, it’s properly limousine-like in spaciousness and ambience for both seating rows. It’s no stretch to conclude that, on balance, the A6 allroad is hard to top as Audi’s go-to machine for grand touring comfort and convenience – if you cap occupancy at four adults.
Perfect? No. The dynamic driver’s display skin has the world’s strangest rev counter and speedo. They look like a pair of pulsating ears although you can opt for a classic dial design if you go deep enough into MMI. The only notable bugbear is that, from time to time, there are near-blinding sunlight reflections off the horizontal metallic surfaces along the dash fascia and centre console. Otherwise, this is a real class act in premium luxury execution.
At 565 litres, the boot space is only 30 litres larger than the (frankly huge) Sportback luggage area and 170 litres shy of a Q7 with its third row stowed but so what? On singular merit there’s plenty of useable space that expands, via levers in the cargo walls, to a fulsome 1680L with the 40:20:40 rear seatbacks stowed.
The only negative to mention is that the cargo shelf and partition scrims are two separate assemblies that need to be removed and stored (somewhere) to liberate maximum luggage space.
While only the ‘45 TDI’ version is offered in Oz and foreign markets can opt for a higher-output 50 TDI variety, what’s rarely mentioned anywhere is that ‘their 45’ has lower outputs than the Aussie version.
For instance, in the UK the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 fitted to their 45 TDI comes with 170kW and 500Nm. Our Aussie 45 TDI spec ups power to 183kW (at a slightly lower 2750-4500rpm band) and offers a much more potent 600Nm (at 1500-3000rpm), which is also just 20Nm shy of the 50 TDI spec not offered in Oz.
Unsurprisingly, the local 45 TDI ‘tune’ is 0.2 seconds quicker than the overseas version at 6.5 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint. Think of our version as more like a 47.5 TDI.
As is the trend in Audi’s performance lines, the old dual-clutch transmission has been ditched in favour of an eight-speed torque converter automatic that’s perhaps more befitting the A6 allroad’s luxury leanings. The all-wheel drive system integrates a self-locking centre differential and braked towing is rated to 2.5 tonnes.
Consumption wise, Audi advertises a 6.6L/100kms on the combined cycle. During our week with the A6 allroad we saw a range of between sixes and middle eights for a roughly even balance of highway and urban driving. Around town on shorter trips, it’ll hit double figures.
Audi markets the A6 allroad as the ultimate all-rounder and for certain situations and environments it’s a perfect fit. I once spent weeks trekking around Europe in an A4 allroad TDI, and for tackling anything from autobahns to snow-capped Alpine passes the format is utterly ideal – particularly in a continent where off-roading is generally a human-graded affair that’s only moderately challenging in 4×4 terms.
What separates the A6 allroad’s air suspension from, say, the regular Q7’s is that it not only offers adaptive damping but also automatically regulates damping and ride height depending on drive mode and conditions and integrates level control and manual lift functionality if required.
Drive modes include a dedicated Off-road mode as well as allroad, Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual modes, though the extent of its capabilities are obvious capped by its modest 184mm ground clearance (at the suspension’s maximum height setting) and thoroughly road-going 21-inch 40-series rubber.
The MMI system features its own dedicated Off-Road ride height control and telemetry screen.
Effortless performance and a plush air-sprung ride make the A6 allroad a fantastic family hauler
I’d certainly take A6 allroad places I wouldn’t dare an RS6 Avant, but wouldn’t dare in stick it across terrain better fit for a LandCruiser. The Audi much more home at a farm or the snowfields than it is axles deep in Kakadu.
Around town, it’s an utter joy, if mainly because the ride comfort from its whiz-bang air suspension system is sublime. Even on 245/40 R21s its ability to smother all manner of rough road is hugely impressive and this goes some way in underpinning its dignified sense of polished luxury.
It feels substantial and hefty, and doesn’t really tend to shrink around you, but not so large as to be too unwieldy or tricky to judge and park. While there’s six drive modes to choose from, Comfort is perhaps ideal for everyday driving – its supremely pliant ride not too flabby in body control and the powertrain’s responses adequate as it dulls off the throttle in the aim to extend fuel efficiency.
It’s quite a decent engine, smooth and quiet with a hint of diesel chatter at low speeds, never far from a nice surge of torque even when it’s merely ticking over. Its unstressed nature, like the allroad’s ride, reinforces those luxury vibes. The auto, too, is fuss free and slips cleanly between ratios, the only blot on the copybook being the powertrain’s tendency to pause its responses in tight corners, such as exiting side streets.
You can tune the slight lethargy out by fiddling with drive modes but this will impact fuel economy – it doesn’t take much enthusiasm to hit double-figure consumption.
Dynamic mode flexes the A6 allroad’s body control muscle a bit and alerts the response, but it’s not the sort of machine that relishes a bit of curved road action unless the surface is slippery. Again, its quattro smarts are only going to be fully called into action on gravel or icy conditions. On dry hotmix, the Audi mostly returns pleasing and planted competency as its default character.
The only real annoyance is the inconsistency of the driver assistance systems. It’s generally well calibrated and its systems not overly intrusive, only to become over-reactive in safety alerts and aggressive lane keeping almost at random.
It’s always sending in-dash messages to slow down, keep a wide berth or lift off the throttle to conserve fuel. At one point it asked me regain my attention to road for absolutely no warranted reason. In another, it fought (and lost) to keep itself in one lane after sensing a car in the blind spot two lanes over.
You can dig into sub-menus and switch some of the system off, or hit a button on the indicator stalk to turn off lane keeping, but it would be good to leave its systems on for safety’s sake, if they were only a little better calibrated for the Aussie urban confines.
Overall, the on-road experience packs serious substance, more so than the slew of Euro and Brit large passenger luxury cars for similar money that lumber their heft around with modest four-cylinder motivation.
Audi offers a fairly ordinary three years of unlimited-kilometre warranty from the date of first registration.
In terms of servicing costs, Audi offers upfront packages of $2170 for three years or $3300 for five years with intervals of 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first.
Disclosure: I’m much more of a wagon guy than an SUV guy (if you hadn’t already gathered). Audi makes a cracking large-sized wagon and I’ll be the first to admit that its head-kicking RS6 Avant take on the A6 estate format makes me weak at the knees.
Yet, somehow, I’m attracted to the A6 allroad just as much. Sure, the soft-roader spin is nowhere near as thrilling and emotional, but it is around half the price and in a good many ways no less special a machine.
As a 50-year-old father of three, it’s certainly right down my alley. And part of me realises you could enjoy more of the allroad’s goodness more often than you might tapping RS6 Avant’s best in a public Aussie forum.
It won’t fit as much of your life as a Q7 might or go places a Land Cruiser might venture but, again, so what?
None of this detracts from how nice, comfortable and accomplished the A6 allroad is – a premium luxury wagon that’s so well rounded and is wanting for so little.
MORE: Everything Audi A6