Review and road test of the Audi A6 allroad (2006 - 2012)
BY ANDY ENRIGHT
On the face of it, the Audi A6 allroad seems an idea that's unlikely to fly. A good proportion of buyers of 4x4s want the highly elevated seating position but aren't particularly bothered whether the vehicle in question is all-wheel drive or not as it's rarely, if ever, about to venture off road. Therefore you'd think that a relatively low-riding estate car fitted with four-wheel drive might not be a sales winner. The allroad, now in its second generation, has disproved that and has sold well to a specific niche of buyers who want civilised driving manners on road and the capability for the occasional foray off it. It's a template that has spawned a host of imitators but the Audi remains the prime exponent. Here's how to find a used example.
(allroad 4x4 estate: 2.7, 3.0 turbodiesel)
The previous generation allroad had a very good run at the market, being sold from 2000 to 2006, so Audi had quite some time to engineer a thoroughly developed successor. When that car appeared in 2006, the first impressions were that perhaps it had had too long, that the allroad's rugged looks had been smoothed, polished and chamfered a little too much. Then we drove the car and realised that we needn't have worried.
One significant change was that the focus was firmly put on diesel engines with the 2006 allroad. Buyers chose either a 178bhp 2.7-litre TDI or a 229bhp 3.0-litre TDI unit but there were a pair of petrol engines offered, in this case a 3.2-litre FSI powerplant good for 252bhp and a 4.2-litre V8 FSI that generated 347bhp.
What You Get
The genius in the allroad is that it offers the capability of a 4x4 with the stealthy appearance of a standard estate model. The old allroad played up to the 4x4 crowd with its plastic body cladding but the latest car is, if anything, even more low key.
The body cladding has been ditched and the styling is understated, with subtle wheelarch spats and stainless steel under-ride plates offering some protection to the car's vital organs. The number plate has been repositioned higher up on to the grille to prevent it being ripped away by sharp inclines. Other design features include chrome strips on the grille bars, beefier bumpers and bigger door mirrors. The sill extensions and wheelarch trims help prevent gravel damage to the car's paintwork. Aluminium roof rails are also standard.
It's underneath that the A6 allroad really gets clever. The adaptive air suspension of the old model was a masterstroke, allowing the allroad to handle like a normal estate car when in tarmac mode and then giving it the ride height to do some quite respectable clambering when fully raised. The latest allroad reprises that theme, but remember that this is a much bigger car all round. The wheelbase is fully 76mm longer than the old allroad, so it may not be quite as manoeuvrable in situations at the extremes of what the car can tackle. The car is wider too with a front track up by 22mm to 1,596mm while the rear has been increased by 2mm to 1587mm. The good news is that weight distribution between front and rear axles has been optimised.
What to Look For
Audi would probably be mortified had a car with this much development budget behind it developed any significant faults. It's all been quiet so far with no major recalls to report either. When buying, look for cars with leather and metallic paint and don't pay over the odds for optional extras such as satellite navigation. Also look for damage caused by overenthusiastic off-roading and make sure the lifting mechanism works properly. The ride on the allroad is surprisingly firm, so watch out for this if the car you're looking at has the optional larger alloy wheels.
The complexity of the car should be enough to ensure you insist on an allroad with a cast-iron service history and, at this stage, Audi dealers are still likely to have the best examples. The premium they charge may be well worth your peace of mind. Interiors are hard wearing and well designed, much like the rest of the car. As for corrosion, with an Audi you're pretty safe and there's a lengthy anti-perforation warranty to reassure you (ensure any conditions have not been breached by previous owners).
(based on a 2007 allroad 2.7 TDI SE - ex Vat) A clutch assembly is around £150. Front and rear brake pads should be about £65 a set. A radiator is about £140, an alternator about £235 and a starter motor £160.
On the Road
The aluminium suspension system is a combination of A6 and A8 parts with a few unique allroad touches. The air system allows the driver to trim the ride height of the body by as much as 61mm both automatically - depending on speed - or manually via the multimedia interface. Five driving modes are offered - dynamic, automatic, comfort, allroad and lift. The dynamic mode is much like a sports suspension setting and lowers the car, reduces drag and promotes better fuel economy. In automatic mode, the body is raised by 15mm but reverts to the dynamic level if the electronics detect that the car has been driven for some distance at speeds of over 120km/h. In comfort mode, the body lowering is suppressed.
The allroad mode offers ground clearance of 175mm, although at 80km/h the body is lowered by 15mm and drops a further 20mm at over 120km/h. In the manually-selected lift mode, the body sis a full 185mm off the ground to negotiate rough terrain at low speeds. Should a speed of 35km/h be exceeded, the system will switch to allroad mode. For buyers who are really looking to stretch the capabilities of their A6 allroad, Audi also offer 245/45 R18 all-terrain tyres together with a reinforced engine underguard.
The ESP stability control system, now in its eighth generation, has also been tuned to cope with the specific demands of all-terrain driving. An off road mode can be activated by pressing the ESP button in the cabin and this raises the threshold for ESP intervention, the system putting a priority on forward propulsion rather than keeping the car within a few degrees of straight ahead.
No one is pretending this to be the world's ultimate off roader but for the one day in a hundred when you need to go where you've never gone before, it will do 80% of everything a huge, heavy mud plugger will manage. What you need to ask yourself is whether the expense and complexity of the allroad mechanicals warrants this. Would it be easier to buy a stock A6 Avant and rent a 4x4 for that one day in a hundred? Those are sums that you need to establish. If the maths come down in favour of a used allroad, an early 3.0TDI looks to be the plum pick.
Audi A6 allroad (2006 - 2012) review by ANDY ENRIGHT