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Progress Report: Audi A6 Allroad(s)

It's the evolution (or lack thereof) of those weird estate SUV things

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Niche-tastic, aren’t they? The old A6 Allroad was built long before Audi released its first actual SUV - the Q7. Something of an oddity - a jacked-up estate masquerading as an SUV in a world obsessed with the things - the Allroad sold in relatively small numbers (admittedly going solely on how many you see around) compared to the Mercedes ML, BMW X5 and Range Rover it effectively competed with. 

Which is a shame because they’re really good. Both of these cars are genuinely nice things to biff about in day-to-day. 

This old Allroad is rare for an altogether different reason though - because instead of the six-cylinder diesel engines most Allroads were (and indeed are) supplied with, it has an almost 300bhp 4.2-litre V8. A derivative of the same engine Audi plugged into the Ronin-spec S8 and period RS6, no less. A cursory Google suggests this could be the only Allroad of its type left in the UK. It’s done 120,000 miles or so and everything works. Mostly. 

You see, old Allroads have something of a reputation for breaking - especially the trick height-adjustable air suspension. You might wake up one morning to find it listing to one side like an old barge. They also hemorrhage money - even cars a generation on from this can be bought for comfortably less than £5,000 - reflecting the fact a mechanical issue could effectively write it off. You’d have to be mad to buy one. And yet…

We actually enjoyed driving the old Allroad more than the new one. The engine is buttery smooth - delivering near-enough hot hatch levels of speed. Nobody expects this. It feels like it would win in a tug of war with the new car and sounds ace, too. Yes the steering is slow, the Allroad lists like a container ship with all its cargo on the starboard side and body control is lacking (it does some especially funny things over bigger undulations the new A6 floats over as though they weren’t there). But it’s just… nice. 

I know - ‘nice’ is an awful word my editor should fire me for using in copy. But it’s very apt. It’s nice to be able to see out (the new A6 feels claustrophobic by comparison), to have a physical button for every feature (of which there are many), an engine that at no point feels laboured, and a gearbox that favours drivability over keeping your emissions down. See, nice. 

Images: Mark Riccioni

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