Sure you need that SUV?
The Audi A6 Allroad is a bit of an anomaly. While SUVs continue to spread their influence as far and as wide as the wind will carry them, these capable, higher-riding estate cars have sort of just faded into the background without really disappearing. It’s much the same story for the A6 Allroad’s competitors like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class AllTerrain and to a lesser extent, the Subaru Outback, all extolling a body style that is neither in-fashion or out of fashion.
Maybe that’s the appeal, as these cars have remained pretty solid in their appeal and strong in their following, with enough buyers across the globe buying into the ‘I don’t need an SUV’ thinking and keeping these cars in production. On the surface, they make a lot of sense: Take the practicality of an estate body, add two drops of off-road capability and raise the ride height, and you have the perfect all-season all-weather car without the rolly-polly characteristics that come with something much taller.
But an SUV is a lot more of a lifestyle statement than a mobility tool, where it can be argued that the all-terrain estate is more about utility than its sports-utility cousins. Available in only one guise, we take a look at the Audi A6 Allroad to see how it sizes up against the competition, both traditional and otherwise.
“Mildly facelifted for 2015, but the formula remained the same: slightly higher ride-height, beefier body styling, tough wheelarch protectors and plenty of understated refinement for those who need an SUV but don’t want one.” - Top Gear
Largely, buyers will prioritise the look of SUVs when considering purchasing them, and it’s much the same case with the A6 Allroad. Facelifted in 2015, the Allroad still strikes an imposing presence today, with its sharp features and imposing grille. The full-LED lights front and rear (the latter coming with snazzy dynamic indicators) might be shared with lesser variants in the A6 range, but they come together with the body cladding and wheel-arch extensions on the Allroad rather well. It doesn’t look like a rush job, cobbled together to fill a niche. It looks purposeful, and handsome as a result.
Air suspension is standard on this model, meaning that its stance and standing can be altered based on the terrain underfoot (or in this case, under-wheel). With it in its lowest setting, the Allroad still sits a little higher than a regular A6, though it does appear to hug the surface beneath it with the sort of poise that would befit a tarmac-only kind of car. In off-road mode, the suspension rises, and shows off the kind of capability the A6 Allroad has beneath its svelte skin. That said, the considerable overhangs front and rear will render this car a soft-roader in most books, with a pretty poorly departure- and break-over angle on offer. Good enough for unsealed roads and a spot of mud though, so don’t relegate this to the ‘poseur’ box just yet.
Engine & Drivetrain
“… thankfully the diesel V6 engine remains a corker. It is smooth, refined, punchy and reasonably efficient, too.” - CarAdvice
Like its competitors from Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, the A6 Allroad is offered in one trimline with one engine. Under the bonnet you’ll find a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6, capable of an impressive 160kW/500Nm. It’s worth mentioning that pre-facelift Allroads packed more power and torque, though the revised numbers have hardly rendered the car impotent.
With lower power and torque figures come improved fuel consumption, rated to a miserly 5.6L/100km over the combined cycle. That’s impressive for something this big, especially with six-cylinders under the bonnet rather than just four (like the Volvo V90 CrossCountry, which packs a smaller 2.0-litre engine). Of course, a V6 means greater refinement, with the creamy smoothness of six-cylinders there for all to savour.
“As befits a premium product, the Allroad comes well equipped.” - WhatCar?
Audi has always won great praise for its cabins, and it’s no different for the A6 Allroad. It’s well-built and ergonomic, and dripping in ‘premium-ness’ at every touch point. There’s little difference in here than in a normal A6, though that’s no bad thing. Everything looks and feels great, with the only fly in the ointment being that the Audi MMI infotainment system is now outdated, and navigates via a rectangular touch-pad rather than a more intuitive rotary controller as seen in more modern models.
The four outer seats are very comfortable, though somewhat lacking in under thigh support (but only slightly). The mid-rear seat is a bit of a perch with a large transmission tunnel accommodating the related all-wheel drive gubbins, but the footwells are plenty spacious enough to put everyone’s feet. Cargo space is not bad either, with the 565L of space on offer (with the rear bench in place) besting the Volvo V90 XC, which is accessible via an electric tailgate.
Behind the Wheel
“Indeed the Allroad drives more like a regular passenger car, which is a huge part of its appeal. Body control over less than perfect surfaces is excellent and the Allroad feels surprisingly athletic for its heft.” - Drive
The benefits of a lower ride-height is best enjoyed from the drivers’ seat, with a more connected and sure-footed feel on offer through the controls. Large SUVs tend to feel a tad floaty, a sensation you certainly won’t suffer from here. The standard-fit air suspension works a treat, offering up the right sort of ride and handling based on the drive mode selected.
The engine, though down on power versus the pre-facelift model, is still a great performer. While there’s still a degree of turbo lag evident at low revs, we’d argue that you shouldn’t be doing light-to-light races in one of these anyway. Where it matters is mid-range punch, where the 3.0-litre V6 has still got it. Roll-on acceleration is impressive, as is refinement, with the six-cylinder powerplant exhibiting the kind of quiet smoothness that you wouldn’t expect of an oiler.
With all-paw grip on offer, it’s easy to get a little carried away with the A6 Allroad on backroads. The A6 is a pretty decent handler on its own, and while the Allroad sits higher, it doesn't appear to have lost anything by way of agility and dynamism. It’s still a pretty good steer, though you ought to temper your expectations somewhat by the reality that this is still a family car first. If performance is more your bag, you ought to be considering an S6 or RS6, perhaps.
Safety & Technology
“The quattro four-wheel-drive system isn't all about tackling muddy paths and rutted lanes, it provides more stable and secure handling on the road in bad weather conditions too.” - AutoExpress
The Audi A6 Allroad’s positioning as a swift, swish family estate is further emphasised by its list of standard safety kit. Things like automatic headlights, brake assistance, lane departure and change warning are all standard, though we can’t help but notice the omission of things like active cruise control and full autonomous emergency braking. That said, the A6 Allroad is based on an older-generation car, which explains why it isn’t packing the very latest safety tech.
Infotainment tech is also on the back foot to some degree too. For starters, there’s an outdated Audi MMI system in the dash which feels a little clunky to use, especially besides the very latest and greatest from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo. That said, DAB digital radio, quad-zone climate control, satellite navigation and auto-dimming exterior mirrors go some way to fixing the situation somewhat.
It’s worth mentioning that the adaptive, adjustable air-suspension is standard fit on the A6 Allroad, and the varying degrees of comfort and sportiness that can be dialled in with the drive mode selector. While on some cars this feature merely adds more artificial weight to the steering wheel, in the A6 Allroad, it really does change the way the car handles itself.
While the Allroad has never been tested by any safety regulation bodies specifically, it shares the same five-star safety rating that applies to the greater A6 range.
The Audi A6 Allroad is a niche offering only because of the insurgency of SUVs. The A6 Allroad is very much a crossover, crossing over the divide between the traditional SUV and the traditional estate, and it actually offers the sort of capability both on- and off-road to the degree they’re needed. They’re not over-the-top off-roaders that compromise on-road ability, though it packs enough capability off-road that you won’t be left red-faced when you park on a grassy slope on a slippery day.
When you pair that usability with the comfortable, quiet progress that the A6 Allroad makes at motorway speeds on sealed surfaces, it makes an even stronger case for itself. All in all, it’s hard not to consider the Audi A6 Allroad, or indeed its competitors as real alternatives to SUVs, which can be considered as ‘a bit much’ when considered with a level head and sensibility.
The only chink in the armour here is the price: six-figures for an estate car, no matter how capable, is not an easy sell. You will have to resist the urge to move into a full-size SUV that’ll likely cost less, and will easily appeal to those with larger families who might benefit from the extra two seats in the rear. However, if the only extra member of your family is a dog and you refuse to buy the same car your neighbour has, the Audi A6 Allroad is certainly worth a look.
AutoExpress – 4.0/5.0 – “The Audi A6 Allroad is a rugged estate car that offers something different to the traditional SUV.”
CarAdvice – 8.0/10 – “Our drive suggested that as an alternative to the premium SUV crowd, the Audi A6 Allroad is a worthy option. It isn’t cheap – but it is well equipped, comfortable, capable, and, given the additional practicality benefits of the air suspension and the wagon body, it could be the pick of the regular A6 range ... and it has to be, particularly if you want a wagon that isn't the RS6.”
Drive – 6.0/10 – “For many the Allroad will be an acquired taste; not as expressive or practical as a larger SUV, despite offering similar five-seat accommodation. But for those who can live with five seats and plan to keep their vehicle predominantly to sealed surfaces it's a flavour worth trying.”
Autocar – 3.0/5.0 – “As an every day ownership proposition, and in isolation, the entry-level A6 Allroad is all the car you could ever need.”
TopGear – 7.0/10 – “The perfect car for people who need an SUV, but don't want one. Last refreshed for 2015, the A6 Allroad blends decent on-road ability with more off-road prowess than you might expect.”