Mountain Wheels: Audi’s larger A6 Allroad offers a sophisticated SUV alternative
It has been well over a year since I’ve been in a new Audi product and while today’s feature is not about the revolutionary e-tron electric models the company is spearheading, you can see that the future is not too far away in these expressive German vehicles.
The Audi A6 Allroad I sampled was, in a way, also a blast from the past, as the company has once again offered North American drivers a more rugged and somewhat off-road-ready version of its mid-sized A6 sedan platform, or more correctly, its wagon version, which they call the Avant.
The first A6 Allroads date back to 1999. The newer, A4-based version is still one of my favorite cars, but I was excited for the opportunity to see how the larger, more powerful and luxurious rendition of the all-season automobile might stack up to other higher-end choices like the Volvo V90 Cross Country.
Quite simply, this is the car a Subaru Outback wishes it could be when it grows up. It’s wide, comfortable, solid, with a lower-to-the-ground and more car-like feeling than those newer wagons, and it also goes like hell.
A 3.0-liter V-6 engine produces a healthy 335 horsepower and a solid 369 pound-feet of torque. With an efficient seven-speed transmission and, of course, Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system, it’s a versatile, powerful and impressive automobile. The off-road part is aided by a 1.8-inch suspension lift that comes with a flick of the switch for the built-in adaptive air suspension.
It’s also in a very different league from Outbacks, even their new, chunkier Wilderness editions, with a starting price of $65,900. Mine was just under $72,000, with the comprehensive Prestige option package added, but its look, behavior and demeanor definitely puts things in a higher class. And it will still get you to campsites or blaze through snowstorms like any of Audi’s expansive SUV family. I also had one stretch of mixed driving that said I was getting 35 mpg; 26 is the official highway rating.
The ride quality, smoothness of acceleration and generally larger-vehicle dynamics are magnificent, ideal for cruising, and maybe a little big for careening. It’s big with a 115.2-inch wheelbase, 194.9 inches of total length and 83.1 inches in width, including mirrors.
That creates a substantial, lane-filling automobile with a gigantic, nearly SUV-sized cargo hold (30 cubic feet, and mine featured a gigantic weatherproof utility tray) and exceptionally comfortable seating for five. And the amenities reflect the class upgrade: a slightly over-engineered power-sliding rear tonneau cover, massive retractable window screens in the back and even a rear compartment sunroof. I even liked the lock-in cargo area screen, which produced even more driving privacy.
The best part is the ride height, however: You get in and out of the Allroad like a regular vehicle, not a tall SUV, and you feel infinitely more connected to the road. Large, Allroad-specific 20-inch wheels also help with the look and the road-hugging feel.
Cabin electronics have been both simplified from more recent years and can be a tad overwhelming. Luckily, most systems can be managed for ease of use. In addition to a navigation and entertainment screen, there’s now a second touchscreen below, which integrates air conditioning functions, hill descent control and other functions as well as serving as an input screen for navigation and other utilities. A few hard buttons sit on its lower edge, controlling drive modes, and then — well — that’s about it for buttons, besides a comprehensive electronic driver assistance system. In the digital instrument cluster, you can also minimize the overly wordy display to focus more on driving.
Driving is sublime in its smoothness, and if you opt to use the very present lane and safety systems appropriately for freeway drives and sharply defined country roads, you will not experience the somewhat jarring wheel-grab that I felt a little too much in other circumstances. Steering is pretty solid — not a one-handed affair, but that might make you a little more conscious of the sophistication
Selecting dynamic mode automatically kicks you into higher, sportier revs. The actual off-road setting lifts the chassis and adjusts the car’s considerable power output for more unpredictable road surfaces.
If you have money to burn, and cannot wait a year for the debut of the fully electric e-tron version of the A6, you will find yourself in rare company in the U.S. if you snag the RS 6 Avant — the ultra-high-performance version of the midsize wagon platform, which is powered by a brutal 591-horsepower 4.0-liter V-8 and starts at $109,000. It’s sexy competition to the Mercedes E63 wagon, if you’re that kind of individual.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Golden. Contact him at email@example.com.
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