Audi A6 Allroad 2021 review – one might never need any other car
A classic recipe executed brilliantly. The A6 Allroad is the ultimate daily, if you’ve already got some tastier performance cars on hand
Audi may well be in the midst of an explosion of new models, chief among which are its electric cars and yet more SUV derivatives, but for those of a more traditional disposition the Audi A6 Allroad is still around to show its fresh stablemates a thing or two about what a versatile premium car can and should be.
The appeal lies in the addition of rugged capability to what is already a highly polished and rounded package. But while the Allroad does still exist, its variants remain limited, keeping to three engine options in two trim levels. Yet its key elements remain focused on the application of pseudo off-roading kit such as subtle wheelarch extensions, more rugged bumpers front and rear and a retuned chassis, inclusive of some bespoke options not otherwise available on run-of-the-mill A6 Avants.
These start with the Allroad’s standard-fit air suspension system, which in reality is the main differentiating factor between it and normal A6 Avants. The system is adaptive, adjusting its specific ride height depending on speed, but in ‘Offroad’ mode the body will rise by as much as 45mm when travelling at under 22mph. The body cladding and extended bumpers are more for show, though, as the Allroad’s true off-roading capability is more suited to a grassy school car park than the Rubicon Trail.
In the UK the A6 Allroad is available with three engine options – all six-cylinder and all smooth operators. The two more popular options are diesels, which despite being a dirty word today, remain the more suitable choice on account of their impressive efficiency and refinement.
Available in 242bhp 45TDI and 283bhp 50TDI specs, both are paired to quattro all-wheel drive, but the lesser variant features a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox compared to the 50’s eight-speed torque-converter. This change in transmission is due to the higher torque rating of the latter option, which sits at 457lb ft on a broad spread of torque spanning 1750rpm to 3400rpm. There’s also a 334bhp turbocharged V6 petrol option, which is actually the quickest variant, reaching 62mph in 5.5sec, while the diesels do the deed in 6.2sec and 5.8sec for the 45TDI and 50TDI respectively.
If you’ve had the (mis)fortune of driving a rushed-to-production EV, or one of those SUVs brought to market to fill one of many, many tiny niches, you’ll instantly notice the A6 Allroad feels like its development has been worked on over a sustained period. Every aspect of it, from its almost impossibly wide-reaching suspension travel to the gear selector’s precise movement, feels honed, considered and superbly calibrated.
This feeling of supreme quality is reflected in the Allroad’s ride, as over all terrain its long-reach travel and isolation from bumps is brilliant, yet not to the detriment of body control. All versions include standard adaptive dampers, which gives it an impressive spread of variability, easily finding a good balance between comfort and control. There is one caveat to the ride quality, mind, as Vorsprung models run on standard 21-inch wheels so do suffer some brittleness, but not to the point of being a deal-breaker. More importantly, up the speeds and the body doesn’t start to go all at sea like most SUVs, as it retains a sense of total control.
The steering is well weighted and very accurate, if lacking in ultimate feel, and far more reassuring than the overly light racks found in rival Mercs and BMWs. Vorsprung models also include rear-axle steering, which itself feels well calibrated and helps with manoeuvrability at low speeds.
On the move the diesels start up with a hushed thrum, rather than a clatter, and are near silent on the move thanks to a combination of impressive powertrain isolation and sound deadening inside the cabin. The higher-powered diesel is particularly impressive, with the torque-converter delivering punch after the briefest of pauses as the turbos wake up. Acceleration is effortless rather than properly rapid though, with Audi keeping the sledgehammer bi-turbo diesel for overseas markets.
The upside to this is the 50TDI’s relatively relaxed turbos yield some really very impressive economy figures, the diesel making brisk work of motorway speeds while still closing in on 50mpg. Around town the figure isn’t nearly as impressive, but if your driving is largely city based, then a diesel estate probably isn’t the best solution anyway.
All of which adds up to a brilliantly considered premium family car. The Allroad is spacious, versatile, luxurious and backed up with some superbly executed engineering. It drives significantly better than most SUVs, it’s not overwhelmingly large and it has the right image. EVs might be capturing most of the headlines, but right now the Allroad’s appeal still runs deep.
Prices and rivals
An Allroad is not an inexpensive proposition, with prices starting at just over £55,000 for the entry-level 45TDI. The more powerful diesel is an extra £3000, with the 55TFSI petrol costing a further £3000 again.
As with most Audi models in the UK there are few individual options, rather packages and separate trim levels. In the Allroad’s case entry-level Sport models are still very well equipped, with leather trim, Matrix LED headlights and 19-inch wheels just to name a few, but Vorsprung models (not pictured) include pretty much every option, plus a more sinister look with the blacked-out detailing, glossy black arch extensions and 21-inch wheels. It’ll cost you, though, with a near £16,500 premium over the Sport models.
As for rivals, Mercedes will sell you an E-class All-Terrain, which takes a similar path with the standard E-class estate in its execution. The Merc’s in-line six diesel is even more impressive, but the rest of the package isn’t quite so rounded, with a chintzy interior and a less polished driving experience. Typical SUV alternatives are numerous and cost much the same, with the current crop headlined by the BMW X5, Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg.