What is it?
Audi has been making four-wheel-drive cars for years, a fact that seems to have passed a certain set of drivers by. School run mums – in their Land Rover Discoverys, BMW X5s and Mercedes MLs – must drive past them on a daily basis.This has nothing to do with kudos – Audi has that in spades. No, this has more to do with another sort of elevation – being able to look down on your fellow road users from on high. Enter the new Audi Allroad, an A6 that went for a fully paid-up subscription to the gym and took a course of growth hormone in one go.Naturally, you’d expect to pay a proportionately inflated price for it: an extra £2120 over the £34,100 cost of a regular A6 Avant 3.0 TDi SE. For that you get the visual addendums of wider wheelarches covered with plastic protector strips, an eye-catching chrome-effect grille, flared door sills and stainless steel underbody protectors front and back.More important, though, is the standard air suspension (similar to that fitted to the regular A6, but with higher settings). This allows Allroad owners to benefit from a car-like ride height on twisting roads or motorways, but then boost it when they pull up alongside the Farquhars outside the school gates. There’s even an ‘Allroad’ setting that’ll change the ride height automatically as your speed changes. At its highest, the Allroad offers a perceptibly loftier driving position than regular estates, but it won’t quite put you eye-to-eye with traditional 4x4s.
What's it like?
With our test route snaking around the Dolomite Mountains there’s plenty of opportunity to test the Allroad’s on-road manners. In either automatic or Dynamic modes and with quattro four-wheel drive as standard, the Audi copes admirably with high corner speeds, although there’s a fair amount of body roll in the process. Try hard enough and you’ll be quick but receive little emotive reward.Nevertheless, the Allroad is better than you’d expect given its off-road pretensions. Left in comfort or automatic modes, it rides better than our long-term A6 Avant, despite both wearing optional 18-inch alloys – a consequence, we suspect, of the Allroad’s revised damper settings and taller-profile tyres.Glancing at the tyre walls reveals standard-fit Tarmac tyres instead of the chunky all-terrain rubber of the previous Allroad: an indication that Audi recognises that few Allroads are likely to venture off-road. For those who do there is the option of more capable tyres.At launch UK buyers get a choice of two diesel engines (2.7 or 3.0 litres), with two petrol models following next year (3.2 V6 and 4.2 V8). We drove the bigger diesel with Audi’s fine six-speed automatic ’box – for those who prefer three pedals there’s a six-speed manual. With 332lb ft of torque, the TDi V6 is relaxed, responsive and has a level of throttle adjustability rare in diesel motors. Drive the 3.2 FSI over the same section of twisting road and the gearbox will be working harder to keep the same momentum. However, with 80kg less hanging over the nose it does take a marginally better cornering stance.Apart from new tweed-effect carpeting, the cabin is a familiar affair: high quality, appealingly designed and well-ordered. Allroads come exclusively in Avant form, boasting up to 1660 litres of luggage capacity and with an optional selection of belts, bars and tethers to secure your bags when all roads lead off-road.
Should I buy one?
The Q7 will appear in showrooms shortly in July, which begs the question: why did Audi bother with the Allroad at all? Because it sells well; Allroads accounted for 20 per cent of all previous-generation UK A6 Avant sales, and building this car from the standard A6 Avant can hardly be the greatest engineering challenge. The Allroad comes in one specification only, at £33,530 for the 2.7 TDi and £36,380 for the 3.0 TDi, and includes dual-zone air conditioning and 17-inch alloys. Considering the £1500 you’d pay for air suspension on the A6 Avant, the premium for the Allroad looks reasonable.For those who crave tough looks and the perceived added security of an elevated driving position the A6 Allroad strikes a good compromise. For what you gain in the shape of beefed-up looks and improved ground clearance there’s little deterioration in driving abilities. Just right for mum, then.Jamie Corstorphine