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Audi A6 Allroad 3.0 BiTDi (2012) long-term test review

By the CAR road test team

Long Term Tests

28 June 2013 09:30

Month 7 running an Audi A6 Allroad - final words as the A6 leaves CAR

As predicted last month, the Allroad has been subbed at half time, reluctantly rumbling off to the dressing room and refusing to shake the hand of its RS4 replacement on the way off the pitch.
The Allroad was one of those quietly brilliant cars. For whatever reason, no one seemed to expect great things from it, only snaffling the keys when something needed shifting or there was nothing flasher in the parking bays. But to a man, they came away smitten.

Certainly the engine had something to do with that, an incredible 309bhp bi-turbodiesel V6 that’ll take you to 62mph in 5.6sec and uses electronic fakery to produce a convincingly wicked V8-like rumble. Economy was good considering the performance and how often I indulged: mid-30s mpg on a run, and the chance to get into the 40s if you had the resolve to drive sensibly.

Some of the CAR team found the Allroad’s shiny detailing a little gauche. Call me crass, but I love the Allroad-specific grille and other details that help it stand out from other Audis. The Allroad showed the wallflower that is my new BMW 330d Touring just how cool a black estate car could look. The optional full-LED lights seemed to grab plenty of attention on the road, too.

Size-wise, it was perfect. Big enough to house the whole family’s holiday clobber and to keep kicking toddlers’ legs from daddy’s seatback, but nowhere near as dauntingly huge as the Q7, currently the closest SUV in Audi’s ever-expanding family. We managed a camping trip without resorting to strapping some kind of box to the roof, fitted full-size bikes in for days out on the trails, and the rail and divider system fitted to the boot floor proved handy on the rare occasions when we only had a couple of shopping bags to stash in the back.

None of which was lost on road test editor Ben Pulman who, terrified at the potential fuel bills resulting from taking his Panamera long-termer on a holiday to the south of France, swapped with me and took the Allroad instead. He returned impressed. Didn’t they always?

I didn’t get the chance to test its off-road potential, but I have tried its smaller A4 Allroad brother in some proper dirt, and it proved surprisingly capable given the obvious limitations of its conventional car shape.

If you were looking for faults, you could say that the A6 chassis doesn’t steer as sweetly as Jaguar’s XF, though that’s of little concern when you’re pounding down the motorway. Only when I swapped it for Pulman’s Panamera did the deficiency start to niggle. And the ride wasn’t as supple as my new BMW 330d’s, though the striking 20in wheels must probably shoulder some of the blame for that. Worth it for the stance, I’d inevitably argue.

But the standard equipment list is a bit mean. Yes, leather seats, a basic sat-nav and air suspension are free, but being asked to pay extra for a digital radio – the sort of thing you’d expect to find standard on a £15k Korean hatch – is unacceptable on a car costing three times as much. Though certain self-proclaimed experts disagree, the optional B&O hi-fi was superb company, but so it should be at £6300. And I’m sorry but a regular A6 Avant I tried, fitted with an optional BOSE system costing a tenth as much, sounded almost as good.

And therein lies the problem with the Allroad in the eyes of most critics. An A6 does much the same job and is a sobering £6000 cheaper, if not as well equipped. Somehow the Allroad looks and feels more special though, and those qualities are surely at the heart of any Audi’s appeal. Fast, classy and practical, this Audi ticked more boxes than most. The RS4 has much to live up to.

By Chris Chilton


Month 6 running an Audi A6 Allroad - the strange Audi service schedule explained

No, I'm not supplementing my income with a bit of funeral directing on the side, the matching colours were simply coinicidence. The mini-me is my girlfriend’s 2004 A4 Avant TDI, pictured here to show the positive side of Audi’s sometimes painfully slow design evolution. Can you think of many 12 year-old designs that still look this fresh? It’s a great car, but against my better judgement we ended up with the awful CVT ’box, which is laggier than a Q&A with Ron Dennis when pulling away, and has suffered the dreaded clutch pack failure, a common fault, leaving us with a £900 bill at Milton Keynes specialist Inde-Tech.

No mechanical wobbles from its Allroad big brother to report, besides a one-off faulty tyre pressure reading. But when we left you last month, we were approaching service time according to the on-dash indicator, slightly bemused as to why we were being hauled in at 10,000 miles – within the official 9-18k-mile variable limits, but at the wrong end of the scale for a car that spends so much time on fairly gentle motorway journeys.

It turns out that the first buyer has a choice of two service programmes, and for some reason our car was on the old fashioned schedule, where maintenance is required every 10k or 12 months, whichever comes first. That’s fine for your retired bank manager nipping to the golf club once a week, but an expensive, time-consuming pain for an on-the-go rep doing 30k miles a year. Audi Peterborough charged £224.33 to change the oil and switched the car over to the long-life service schedule, though it will be gone before we’ll feel the benefit.

Why? Because we’ve been offered the opportunity to cut its tenure short and replace it with an RS4 Avant. Though I don’t deny the RS4’s on-paper appeal, and can imagine more of you being interested in reading about it than the quietly brilliant Allroad, I think it’s barely better than the rather rubbish, but less practical, RS5 on the road, so it won’t be me behind the (entirely dead) wheel.

By Chris Chilton



 

Month 5 running an Audi A6 Allroad - our Allroad needs early service attention

For as long as I can remember, my long termers have always clocked up 22,000 miles in a year. So variable interval servicing is great. The car’s brain looks at the sort of use it’s had, which in my case is plenty of long, low-stress m-way work, and calls time around the 18,000-mile mark. So I only pay for one service per year and, more importantly, incur less inconvenience.

The Allroad, like my VW Touareg before it, has such a system and requires servicing between 9-18,000 miles. But this time, with 9200 miles showing on the odo, it’s pointing me towards the dealership in the next 1000 miles or, oddly, 574 days. Now I understand that the bi-turbo V6 is in a higher state of tune than the Touareg’s single-turbo unit, and freely admit to enjoying that tune on a regular basis. But really, 10k?

Was it those two laps of Rockingham I did? Was it those odd occasions when I naughtily dipped into the boost before the oil had fully warmed on frantic school runs? Did Pulman drive all the way to the south of France in third gear on his holiday? I hope to have answers next month.

By Chris Chilton


Month 4 running an Audi A6 Allroad - our Audi changes hands for a Parisian holiday

Porsche to Paris? Sounds fun, but alliteration can be expensive. My Panamera GTS hovers around the 21mpg mark, so a crawl to the French capital and then a drive down to the Mediterranean for the second part of our holiday could have seen me and the girlfriend spiraling into our own personal recession.

Flights, airport parking and taxi fares would work out roughly the same as driving – which is rather less stressful than Ryanair. Solution? Switch with Chris Chilton, who’s been after something fast after thrashing his A6 Allroad around Rockingham last month.
Packing for two meant the Audi’s boot gobbled our gear with ease, so the biggest question was what to listen to. Each other? French radio? Chris’s car doesn’t have DAB radio (a £305 option) despite its stunning £6k B&O stereo, so 5Live crackled crisply for the schlep down to Dover then our audiobooks took over: 1984, Crime and Punishment and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde picked by the missus, all spoilt by some lacklustre Chris Ryan book chosen by me.

The sat-nav guided us to our rented Paris apartment without error, and we then hid the Allroad in a public underground car park for five nights. We didn’t so much climb the Eiffel Tower as wheeze our way up (if you choose to walk to the ‘second’ floor, it’s the equivalent of 43 stories), finishing off a ham and cheese baguette at the top. Loved the view though, and from the Arc de Triomphe too, from where you can see how Haussmann reworked the French capital – or avidly follow the progress of a silver Ferrari 430 Scuderia around the chaotic roundabout below.

The rest of our time in the Allroad was a straightforward blast to the south coast and back and it was perfect for the job. Comfy seats, cosseting ride, excellent refinement and I set the Allroad’s active cruise control to 90mph and prided myself on not letting it auto-brake by overtaking cars ahead in plenty of time. Vaguely fun, but it keeps you more attentive too.
I kept the Allroad in the Drive Select’s Efficiency setting for the first half of the trip, switching to Individual mode on the way back: exhaust to Dynamic for a surprisingly petrol-like growl, everything else still stuck in Efficiency. We averaged 35.7mpg, and although one tank nudged 39.9mpg, the lifetime average remains less impressive.

Three other downsides: the beige leather is heavily veined with denim dye and resembles a good blue cheese, and had we been a little more enterprising we’d have filled the backseats with umpteen copies of the French Closer on the return leg and flogged them to a British male population desperate to see some Royal chest. Oh, and the third? The holiday was great, ditto the Allroad, but when we docked back at Dover we could barely see the White Cliffs through the pouring rain.

by Ben Pulman


Month 3 running an Audi A6 Allroad - can the Allroad outlap a hot hatch?

Summoned to Rockingham Motor Speedway by Ben Pulman to wring some lap times out of six hot hatches for last month’s group test, I couldn’t resist getting the Allroad out on track. Obviously a circuit isn’t the natural habitat for a 1910kg estate car, but that bi-turbo V6 is so punchy I was curious to see how close I could get to the GTI brigade. And hey, if I landed in the kitty litter, I’d be in the right car for the job.

So I switched the Drive Select controller to Individual mode, from where I manually set up the transmission, suspension and throttle map to their sportiest configurations. I left the steering in comfort mode though, to stop it adding too much unhelpful weight through the really fast corners.

Predictably, jumping into the Allroad from cars that weighed 500kg less, it felt massively heavy. On track, you need patience to get all that mass over the nose to come round to your suggestion that you’re done with going left and you now want to go right. Push too hard and you get tyre-killing understeer and mushy brakes, neither of which I was keen to encounter given that this is a long-term test car and I’d be footing the bill to fix both.

Keeping it neat though, the Allroad remained surprisingly composed. The engine churns out a monstrous 479lb ft of torque, and that, together with its four-wheel drive traction, meant that the way it pulled out of the final corner and up to the start-finish line was hilarious.

Driven with more respect than I showed the hot hatches, it lapped in 1:28.3, an even 5.0sec adrift of the quickest, the M135i, and 3.4sec slower than the Focus ST. Not bad, but don’t expect to see many Allroads lining up in the paddock at the next Palmersport track day. Unless they’re towing a Caterham, of course. This is a truly multi-talented car and, new Range Rover aside, I can’t think of many luxury workhorses that would make a better companion to a dedicated trackday toy, and still be a great drive in their own right.

by Chris Chilton


Month 2 running an Audi A6 Allroad - how does the Allroad cope with family holidays?

A few months back I saw a documentary about a mentally ill bloke who’d hoarded so many newspapers in his house that he had to scramble over the top of them, inches from the ceiling just to move from room to room. He’d have been at home in the Allroad on my summer camping getaway earlier this year.

It’s amazing how much stuff you convince yourself you can’t live without for a few meagre days sleeping in a tent. Last year, my old Touareg long-termer swallowed the lot reasonably easily without the need for a roofbox, thanks to the sliding rear seats. The Audi doesn’t have that feature, its boot is slightly smaller measured up to the window line, and the sloping rear hatch means you can’t cram in as much above it.

But we managed, making good use of the ski hatch for the windbreak and folding chairs, and the huge wall of clobber separating the two kids cut down on squabbling so effectively I was tempted to leave it all in when we got back. Economy? With the Allroad’s Drive Select controller set to Efficiency, we scored 38mpg on the way down, but that dropped to 30mpg trundling around Devon’s narrow lanes.

by Chris Chilton


Month 1 running an Audi A6 Allroad  - introducing our new Audi A6 Allroad

I feel like I’m in a previously unseen episode of Irwin Allen’s Time Tunnel. I don’t know where my green turtleneck is, or, sadly, Lee Meriwether in her sexy lab coat, but there on my drive is what looks very much like the Audi Allroad I ran as a long-termer back in 2008. Same metallic black paint, tasty parallel five-spoke alloy wheels and showy chrome detailing. I still hold that old Allroad up as the best car I’ve run. Not the fastest or the most fun, but a rarely seen mix of practicality and desirability. Of all the cars I’ve had, it’s the one I could imagine myself buying. So, when Ben P offered the chance to run the latest version, I was keen. When he mentioned the 309bhp diesel engine, I snapped his hand off.

This third-generation Allroad, like the first two, is essentially a posher, jacked up A6 Avant, in this case the new A6 that arrived in late 2011. The Allroad has always been a niche player, but when the first one appeared in 2000 Audi had no SUVs in its line-up. Now it has three, so the Allroad is going to be an even rarer sight. Not everyone gets the point. Why bother, when an ordinary A6 Avant Quattro does 95% of the job for £3k less?’ But you might as well ask what the point of an Audi A6 is when the Skoda Superb is as good as it is. Any Audi feels special beyond the sum of its parts, that’s why people buy them, and the Allroad’s jewellery, the chrome flashes on the nose and doors, make this a cut above your average rep’s A6. Plus there’s the ability to hike the suspension up for crossing rough ground if you need it.

The A6 Allroad comes in four flavours, which, unlike its lesser A6 Avant brother, doesn’t include the option of the fleet-favourite 2.0 diesel. Instead, the range kicks off with the £43,150 201bhp 3.0-litre diesel and extends to a 242bhp version of the same engine. Britain’s CO2-based tax system means the sole petrol engine, a 3.0 TFSI, is of minority interest, but the 3.0 bi-turbo diesel is definitely worth a look. With this engine, Audi finally has an answer to BMW’s mighty twin-turbo oil burners. Partnering the 309bhp peak power output is a mammoth 479lb ft of torque. Sixty-two is gone in 5.6sec yet Audi says it’ll do 42mph on the combined cycle. It even sounds good thanks to some clever electronic trickery in the twin tailpipes.

Base price for the twin-turbo version is £50,415 and, as you’d expect, it’s fairly richly equipped, featuring Milano leather seats, voice-controlled navigation, parking sensors, 18in wheels and air suspension as standard. I specced my last long termer, a VW Touareg myself, and deliberately went easy on the options. Audi chose the spec on this one, and did the opposite, upgrading the front seats to electric sports versions in Valcona leather (£2085), the wheels to 20in jobs (£2445), and adding full LED lights (£2175), panoramic sunroof (£1225), keyless entry (£575), four-zone climate (£620) and painting the plastic body cladding (£535).

By far the biggest extravagance was the scary £6300 spent on the Bang & Olufsen sound system. To my untrained ear it sounds excellent, but the fact that you still have to fork out another £300 for DAB is downright offensive. Audi thought so too – so they didn’t.

First impressions of the new Allroad are almost entirely favourable, and dominated by that sensational engine. The last two times I had my collar felt, I was at the wheel of an Audi, my old Allroad being one. Fingers crossed I’m not third time unlucky.

by Chris Chilton