It’s not quite an SUV. It’s not your everyday station wagon. It’s the 2015 Audi A6 Allroad – a rugged all-wheel drive wagon that has proved so popular with buyers that the German brand has axed all the other Avant models in the regular A6 range.
The just-updated Audi A6 line-up sees the A6 Allroad stand alone as the wagon version among the standard models (the RS6 Avant remains for performance car buyers). The new-look version gets some changes to its standard equipment inclusions and its pricing – now $111,900 plus on-road costs, down $6000 but still considerably more expensive than the current Audi Q7 3.0 TDI ($91,500).
See the 2015 Audi A6 Allroad pricing and specifications breakdown here.
Styling is one of the key drivers of purchases of the Audi A6 Allroad, and the 2015 update gets a number of design changes compared to its predecessor while still managing to keep the chunky crossover stance we’ve seen in the past.
The exterior changes include a new grille and front bumper with sharply styled LED headlights and new-look daytime running lights. At the rear there’s a revised bumper and exhaust outlets, and new LED tail-lights with Audi’s funky dynamic indicators.
Of course there’s body cladding all around the car, including wheel arch extensions and underbody bash plates. And, being the Allroad model, there’s the requisite adjustable air suspension, which can raise or lower the car automatically when driving, or by demand by using a number of preset drive modes.
The modes are accessed through the media system, with six settings to choose from – allroad, comfort, auto, efficiency, dynamic and individual.
Those drive modes alter the engine and transmission response, as well as the steering and the ride height and firmness of the dampers. The heights available range from dynamic, at 125mm of ground clearance (almost as low as some sports cars!) through to allroad at 175mm, which can be lifted to 185mm for particularly challenging sections (you need to stop the car to choose this height). For reference, the Audi Q5 SUV has 200mm of ride height.
Our drive outside Darwin in the Northern Territory saw us sample a number of the drive modes, with on-road and off-road stints giving us some idea of how the wagon-cum-crossover stacks up. First, what’s powering the thing.
Under the bonnet is a revised version of the 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel which now produces 160kW and 500Nm – down 20kW and 80Nm on the car that came before it. Those are sizeable drops, but thankfully the diesel V6 engine remains a corker.
It is smooth, refined, punchy and reasonably efficient, too – the new engine is claimed to drink just 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres thanks in part to a revised stop-start system and new coasting function that disengages the drivetrain when no throttle is being applied.
We did mainly country road and highway speeds during our time in the car, but with a few intersections thrown in the mix it was clear to note a touch of low-rev lag upon take off. Once things are moving, though, the progress is swift and, impressively for a diesel, almost silent.
Gearshifts are taken care of by a seven-speed dual-clutch S tronic transmission that does exacerbate the low speed lag from a standstill, but which otherwise operates smoothly and intelligently. There are steering wheel-mounted paddleshifters, too, but we found no real need to use them, such is the smartness of the gearbox in full automatic mode.
With the brand’s quattro all-wheel drive system, there’s plenty of assured progress to be had, even on slippery, sandy surfaces. The system can apportion up to 70 per cent of the engine’s torque to the front wheels or 85 per cent to the rear, and depending on the surface you can feel it doing its thing to keep things in shape.
It does so with ease, and there’s plenty of grip available through corners, even over dish-board corrugations. In fact, the control of the suspension over some of the torrid surfaces we sampled was highly impressive: where other SUVs might judder and shake themselves silly, the Allroad – in allroad mode – coasted over the bumpy stuff comfortably. Brake response is also a strong point.
That said, all of the off-roading we encountered on the launch event was on the flat, so we didn’t get a chance to sample the car’s off-road hill descent control system which is active below 30km/h and capable of guiding the car down gradients of between 10-50 per cent. The system also has a tilt angle display that comes up on the MMI media screen. We’d be keen to see how that stuff fares on a proper off-road course.
On the road we switched between comfort and dynamic modes, and found the lower ride height and slightly firmer damping settings meant some of the bumps on the rough NT tarmac were more noticeable, undoubtedly in part due to the car’s optional 20-inch rims with low-profile (40-aspect) Goodyear tyres. The coarse-chip surface also throws quite a bit of road noise in the cabin, but we were impressed with how quiet the car seemed off-road.
The plus side of the adaptive suspension and lower cruising ride height in these modes is there’s not as much body roll as you’ll find in larger, more top-heavy SUV. That said, we didn’t get much chance to push the car through corners.
Inside, there’s not a huge amount of change between this A6 Allroad and the one that came before it – not that that’s a bad thing, because it remains a classy and luxurious place to be.
The MMI interface is a generation older than the clever rotary dial touch-pad unit seen in some newer Audi models – instead, it keeps the rectangular touchpad which isn’t quite as ergonomically friendly.
Still, the big 8.0-inch pop-up media screen with satellite navigation and reverse-view camera display is a good thing and easy to operate, and in the car we tested – which had the Technik Package – the 360-degree camera was quite handy. If you option the Technik pack you get Audi Connect, which includes a car-based 4G SIM card with its own WiFi hotspot - handy for keeping the kids busy.
Audi has also updated the information screen on the dashboard to run faster and look clearer. The updated display sees Google maps illustrations displayed on screen, and switching between the different modes on the information unit is quicker than ever.
Interior space is perfectly adequate for, say, a family of four. There is good head and leg room on offer in both rows, and for buyers with younger children there are outboard ISOFIX points and three top-tether restraint points. Kiddies will also appreciate the quad-zone climate control that allows four individual temperature zones to be set up.
We found the front seats were a little bit flat, in particular lacking some side bolster support. On top of that, buyers who are after the high driving position of an SUV will need to look elsewhere, as the A6 feels very much like a car rather than a high-riding SUV from the pilot’s chair.
Storage through the cabin is decent, with big door pockets all around and cupholders fore and aft. The centre console is a little shallow, but thankfully there is an auxiliary jack and twin USB inputs, including one USB that runs at higher amperage to make recharging smartphones or devices a little quicker.
The boot space is excellent, with 565 litres of cargo capacity with the rear seats in place. That increases to 1680L with them folded down (they go nearly flat), and the boot-lid is electronically operated.
Our drive suggested that as an alternative to the premium SUV crowd, the 2015 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.