The Audi A6 Allroad is essentially a rough and ready version of the load-lugging Avant that traverses the middle ground between an estate and an SUV, and the Volkswagen Group`s burgeoning range which includes the A4 Allroad, Golf Alltrack, Passat Alltrack, and Skoda Octavia Scout.
The Inglostadt off-roader-cum-estate we are trying here is the entry-level 201bhp 3.0-litre diesel, which is effectively a detuned version of the 268bhp version which is expected to represent the overwhelming majority of sales. Despite reduced running costs and a lower sticker price, the car we`re testing here will make up around seven per cent of all A6 Allroad sales. There is also a range-topping twin-turbo version producing 316bhp.
That`s surprising, because thanks to weight being reduced by around 20 per cent over the old car through the extensive use of aluminium, on-paper performance is impressive. It`ll reach 62mph in 7.5sec and reach a 139mph maximum while returning 46.3mpg on the combined cycle and emitting 159g/km of CO2.
The 3.0-litre V6 is mated to a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission. No manual option is offered. The A6 Allroad uses the same quattro all-wheel drive system as the standard A6, which splits torque 40/60 front to rear.
Standard air suspension with controlled damping allows the body to rise through 60mm from its lowest to highest setting and will adjust its ride height depending on speed.
The rough-and-tumble looks of the previous car have been toned down and the look is sleeker, which may or may not please customers. Part of the old car`s appeal was that it looked like it was capable of towing a horse box across a field (Audi says the equestrian market is a key one), while not having the controversial trappings of a proper SUV. Even so, in neither old nor new Allroad is the cladding likely to stand up to too much abuse from regular green-laning.
Certainly the versatility will suit the outdoor enthusiast markets; there`s 565 litres of boot space, growing to 1680 litres with the rear seats down, and the roof rails will carry up to 120kg. The 2500kg towing capacity is identical regardless of the powertrain. The new car is both wider and longer than the car it replaces.
There are also two trim levels to choose from - the Allroad and the Allroad Sport. The entry-level trim equips the rugged A6 with enough equipment to please with bi-xenon headlights, front and rear parking sensors, hill descent control, cruise control and a powered tailgate are all standard, while inside the Allroad gets Audi`s MMI infotainment system with a 6.5in display, sat nav, DAB radio and a multimedia interface. There is also four-zone climate control, leather upholstery and heated front seats too.
Upgrade to the Allroad Sport trim and folding mirrors, electrically adjustable front seats and LED headlights are thrown into the package.
The power deficit over other models certainly doesn`t reduce driver enjoyment.
The engine is refined and flexible and offers plenty of punch. Peak torque of 332lb ft arrives between 1250 and 3000rpm, so rarely is it left wanting when a burst of acceleration is required. Accelerating hard out of tight bends on our Dartmoor test route revealed a well matched set of gear ratios, and the fast-shifting S-tronic dual-clutch gearbox is decisive.
Over rough roads, sliced and diced by wear and poor repairs, the Allroad rides exceptionally well, and superb body control allows faster progress than would be possible in a tall SUV or a low-slung executive estate. On muddy, wet or poor roads, few cars are as able at speed. It is here where the standard air suspension earns its corn. In comfort or automatic settings, there is a superb balance of ride and precision; only the sportiest of the settings begins to upset the ride.
There is no less steering feel than the standard A6 Avant, either. Audi Drive Select is standard fit - now featuring an Efficiency mode to reduce power consumption of ancillary equipment - and works in conjunction with Dynamic Steering and Sports Differential.
Unsurprisingly, the 215bhp Allroad is the efficiency champion. Headline figures of 159g/km and 46.3mpg are 10g/km and 1.5mpg less than the 268bhp model. Audi claims it has best in class running costs.
If you do, you`ll be in the minority, but that`s not to say you shouldn`t. Running costs are impressive for a car this talented, but given the affluence of A6 Allroad buyers, the price differential isn`t enough to pull buyers from the more potent models.