The Audi A6 Allroad Quattro Bi-turbo might be a bit of a mouthful but the head of Audi’s UK PR team claims that it is the best car in the Audi range. That’s quite a statement given the breadth and depth of the cars sold alongside it.
Before I delve any deeper I should probably explain what the nomenclature means: allroad is Audi-speak for a car that can cope with moderately rough ground; quattro means four-wheel-drive; and bi-turbo signifies that the diesel engine breathes through a pair of turbos. So, that must make it a diesel-powered off-roader then?
No, not in the slightest.
The A6 (can we agree on this abbreviation for the rest of the article as I’m not being paid by the word?) is possibly the finest high-speed, all-weather road-rocket in existence, shrinking time and distance in a way that is positively otherworldly.
Nothing I’ve driven in the last year comes even close to possessing the same level of competence across such a wide range of areas.
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Acceleration and torque impress
The twin-turbo engine develops a whisker under 320bhp, which entitles it to be quick. Which it is, reaching 62mph from rest in 5.5 seconds on its way to an artificially limited top speed of 155mph.
But it’s not the acceleration from rest that astonishes, it’s the 479 lb ft of torque that warps the space/time continuum and shrinks journey times so effectively.
Essentially, if there is a gap in the traffic then it’s big enough to overtake at least one more car than you first thought, the all-round disc brakes effortlessly hauling you back down to mortal speeds without complaint. It does this time and time again, which is very useful on short journeys and beguiling on long ones.
It also does this no matter what the road conditions, thanks to a four-wheel-drive system that gives outstanding traction no matter how clumsy the inputs.
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Steady handling and intelligent suspension
Sure, the handling isn’t as interesting as that of some of its rear-wheel-drive competitors, but given that ‘interesting’ handling is often a euphemism for scary, that’s no bad thing.
Nor should you worry about the raised suspension because the standard air suspension raises the car only when needed, leaving it with a conventional road-hugging stance of the ‘normal’ A6 in everyday use. Higher ride heights can be selected if the conditions underfoot warrant it but this is a utility car not a full-blown off-roader, so if you’re traversing mountains on a regular basis you’ll need to call into your local Land Rover dealer.
There is a Sport mode that tautens things up a little and it is easy to switch between gearbox modes too, enabling to switch between waft and maximum attack in a split-second.
When you aren’t in a hurry the eight-speed tiptronic automatic gear change is as close to seamless as I’ve ever experienced.
But let’s step back, and look at the stuff that doesn’t involve stamping on the accelerator, shall we?
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The interior is sublime; no one does interiors like Audi, no matter what the price, and the A6 is up there with the best of them.
Bauhaus-chic and ultra-modern, it looks beautiful, fits perfectly, and is utterly free of squeaks and rattles.
It is a lovely place to be, although the transmission tunnel does make it more of a four-seater than a five.
Its boot – the allroad is only available as an estate – isn’t just huge, it’s as well trimmed as the rest of the car. These things matter.
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Not a car for paupers
No car is perfect and the A6 is no exception. I am not a huge fan of the sat-nav and infotainment screen that is perched on top of the dashboard, looking forlorn and distinctly aftermarket and the automatic handbrake didn’t always release as it should.
The fuel consumption could be eye-wateringly heavy for a diesel too; my average for the week was in the low thirties, some way short of the 43.5mpg that Audi optimistically suggests is possible.
However, no one ever suggested the A6 is a car for paupers: my car cost almost £62,000 with a sprinkling of extras (although a sprinkling of extras is often all it needs to turn a reasonably priced Audi into an expensive one…) pushing the £56,000 list price into uncomfortably high territory.
However, there are two things you need to bear in mind if you are in the market for one.
The first is that you might be pleasantly surprised how keen dealers are to do a deal, with savings of £5-8,000 being reported.
The second is that more high-net-worth customers buy the A6 allroad than any other in the Audi range – and people like that don’t amass that much money by throwing it around unnecessarily.
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A cheaper alternative?
Yet what else can compete, even at nearly £62,000?
The new Volvo XC90 is a viable alternative: it is slower and less rewarding to drive but it does seat up to seven people in a gloriously rounded package and it is usefully cheaper than its German rival, even if showroom discounts are likely to be smaller, which might even things up a little in the final reckoning. I was hugely impressed by the XC90, awarding it 2015’s second score of 10/10.
So while the Volvo might tempt me away if I needed to be able to seat more people, nothing else could.
The A6 is unique in what it does, which makes it good value no matter how expensive it might be to buy and run. This means the man from the PR department was right, and I hate it when that happens…
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Best-in-class – Audi A6 allroad: If you only need four seats then it’s all the car you’ll ever need.
The best of the rest – Volvo XC90: It isn’t quite as good overall as the Audi A6 allroad, but it’s even more versatile and comes with a feeling of invincibility built in. If you’ve got a large family, then go Swedish.
Left-field alternative – The Range Rover Sport was the best seven-seat car in the world until Volvo built the XC90. Now it seems strangely redundant unless you need it’s awesome off-road ability and huge 3.5t towing capacity.
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