The Audi Allroad product has somehow survived alongside the uprise of SUVs. Clearly, it has managed to make its voice heard, being adopted by enough people globally for it to continue to be allocated a fair share of research and development money.
The first Allroad came to market in 1999, so it has a 21-year legacy to live up to. Interestingly, the history of the Allroad predates Audi's first SUV attempt by six years.
I’d argue that you don't need to draw a long bow to see that it was the brand's attempt at countering the whole SUV thing, in its own very Germanic way. Audi is a brand that sees itself selling automobiles packed with dynamism – cars with great driving prowess.
Which is why I’m a fan of the Allroad saga. Choosing to initially create a high-riding wagon, instead of an SUV, demonstrates Audi’s ethos in full. Personally, I wholeheartedly align with this mantra.
But is it still relevant, given that its SUVs have now, thanks to technological development, also been bestowed with comparable on-road dynamics?
Straight off the bat, the Audi A6 Allroad is divisive in terms of styling.
The regular Audi A6 Avant certainly maintains a level of svelteness about it. Audi is a master of carving sharp, scored creases and deep-cut lines into bodywork. The interplay of shadows, and the way in which these defined lines reduce the tension of long planes, is all signature stuff from this brand. It’s a huge reason why you opt in to pay more for the product.
So, the Allroad's genes, being from that of an Audi A6, are already rock-solid. But there’s something about the big cladding, lifted ride height, and more pronounced roof rails that makes the Allroad’s aesthetic appear seemingly more rational.
With that dose of rationality, you do lose some of the inherited upper-crust styling. Gone is the illusion of a long, low swoopy roof line perched on top of something that’s generally close to the ground. The Allroad doesn’t quite exude fanciness as well as its regular, low-riding siblings.
I’m sure those who are pondering an Allroad are likely drawn to its function-over-form approach, but at $121,800 as tested, before on-roads, I’m sure those same folk also want something that is styled to do its price tag justice. It’s here where I think the Allroad model falls down a little, personally.
As the name suggests, it is designed with a dash of versatility in mind. It rides on air suspension, which in its highest setting sets overall ground clearance to 184mm. An Audi Q7 offers 210mm, so consider that the better option if you’re concerned about the semi-treacherous entry to your hobby farm or weekender away.
The ride is certainly smooth, delicate and precise. I generally spent most of my time behind the wheel in comfort, which allows for enough play in the air suspension to soak up the varying degrees of surfaces that I’d chosen to traverse.
Flicking to dynamic induces sensitivity to the ride and firms up body control, but as with many cars like this, you seldom find a reason to apply it. I had zero qualms with punting the near-on two-tonne Allroad through sections of outer Sydney tourist roads, in comfort mode, at pace.
Its demeanour makes it both a great companion over longer drives, as well as through busy, built-up suburban areas, too.
The 2020 Audi A6 Allroad range is singular at present, with a 45TDI model the only choice in the range. It’s also the only regular Avant version of A6 offered in Australia, too, without going all-in on an RS6. So, if you’re set on a mid-sized wagon with four rings, it really is your only choice. Given how good the new facelifted Q7 is, this remains a smart move.
A lack of diversity here means making the choice to go against the grain is easy. That's instead of treading into uncharted territory to only then be met with choice paralysis via multiple Avant models, alongside an Allroad, all with varying configurations.
If you value marching to the beat of your own drum, and like the idea of an SUV alternative within the brand, here it is – one model with plenty of gear and one driveline. I sincerely hope that Audi’s continued acceptance of its niche-ness will hopefully do wonders in ensuring its survival in our market.
The 45TDI six-cylinder engine is strong. It generates 183kW of power, but as expected, a solid 600Nm of torque from 2750rpm. Effortless, smooth and quiet are all traits you’ll find in this engine, despite it being a vee-arranged diesel.
Interestingly, despite being a new model, the A6 Allroad does not have any of the 48-volt mild-hybrid trickery that the Q7 models feature, despite being equipped with the consumption-minimising tech overseas. One would assume that Audi's latest and greatest wagon would also benefit from the rollout of a 48-volt hybrid system, as the entire Q7 range did.
Even more so when you take on board the commonality of driveline hardware that the A6 Allroad shares with the Q7. This point is a bit of a shame, as I found when testing the Q7 that its mild-hybrid system does do its part to reduce emissions and overall fuel consumption.
Regardless of that fact, it still is a great powertrain. Power and torque are managed well through the eight-speed, torque-converter-equipped automatic. Its calibration remains smart when adjusted via the drive-mode select button, and is responsive to initial input, especially when either re-engaging from freewheeling mode while moving, or from a standstill, with stop-start functioning.
Given the brawny nature of what’s going on under the car, the Allroad will also tow 2.5 tonnes. On test it returned 8.6 litres per 100km versus an official claim of 6.6L/100km on a combined cycle.
Another area in which wagons usually excel is their cargo-carrying capacity. At 565L, the Allroad is certainly sizeable and well suited to lugging young family paraphernalia or empty-nester projects and bric-à-brac.
However, it’s here where I'll reinforce that the cheaper Q7 45TDI, or the ever so slightly more expensive Q7 50TDI, trumps the Allroad by a huge 175L once the 740L with the third-row seats are stowed.
It feels erroneous to weave a narrative of an SUV being the better option to a wagon, but in all critical areas it’s sadly stacking up that way for the Allroad.
The remainder of the A6 Allroad’s cabin is, as expected, a masterclass in how to balance decoration and ergonomics with a car’s cabin. You’re treated to its wonderful digital instrument cluster, and equally stunning twin-screen infotainment system complete with acoustic and haptic feedback.
Using this system shows you what modern in-car technology can be. It's a seamless blending of tactile switch operation into what is a smooth touchscreen. It remains high-tech yet minimalist and pared back, with both intuitive operation and user-personalisation at its heart.
This theme of high technology also flows through to the various driver-assistance systems on board the Allroad.
There’s pretty much every complex safety system as standard: adaptive cruise, various forms of autonomous emergency braking systems, intersection assist, side assist, loose wheel detection, and even illuminated seatbelt clips. As for an official safety rating, the A6 Allroad is rated five stars by ANCAP.
Everywhere else in the cabin struck me as expected. The second row is decent, featuring a bench that allows enough room for an infant seat as well as two adults to fit. USB ports are plenty, with two located on the rear of the centre console, just aside the controls for the second-row climate-control system.
There are also window blinds integrated into the doors – a feature so handy that every family-themed car, or SUV, should have them. As a $450 option, ensure you tick this box if you have children.
Other options on our car are quite sparse, thankfully. The rather gorgeous off-green metallic paint costs $2200, a black headlining $750.
Sitting pretty at the bottom of the list is the premium plus package, which sets you back a frightening $8900. This does include a bunch of must-haves in my book, such as Audi’s incredible Matrix LED headlights, an equally excellent Bang and Olufsen 16-speaker sound system, twin-section electric sunroof, amongst others.
The total bill for our example came in at $121,800 before on-roads, up $12,300 from its base list price of $109,500. Which brings me to my ultimate point about this car – it’s expensive.
On the record, I do prefer wagons to SUVs. However, I also understand an SUV’s time and place, and always recommend them to those who I know are already seeking one. To ice the cake, my CarAdvice long-term vehicle is in fact an SUV, too, which has been in my possession now for around three months.
But none of that changes the fact that I still get off on a fast long-bodied sedan, just with a hatchback.
I’m a bit of an anorak by nature, too, unorthodox in many ways. So all of my own traits, or flaws depending who you talk to, instantly make me the right candidate to have weird fantasies over cars such as the A6 Allroad.
But, you’d be hypocritical to ignore rationality when considering a car like this that’s built from a foundation of sensibility. For less money, you can jump into an Audi Q7 with more space overall, a much larger boot, better ground clearance if you want to get fussy, and even superior driveline technology.
Although, that doesn’t make the A6 Allroad bad. It’s a fantastic grand tourer that’ll easily double as the nine-to-five family bus, while not looking too out of place in the fancier parts of town.
The 200-odd-kilo mass reduction and lower centre of gravity do instill it with superior dynamics when compared to the Audi Q7, but you have to search deeply, with a magnifying glass, in order to find said improvements.