Ready for whatever the English summer can throw at it

Ready for whatever the English summer can throw at it

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Can a crossover ever be considered a supercar? No? What if it sprints to 62mph in 5.6 seconds, hits a limiter at 155mph and sends so much torque to all four wheels that it will chirp its tyres off the mark?  And then there's this: what if it's a diesel?

Consider those numbers above before you define the new Audi A6 allroad: it's what I found myself doing whilst on the UK press launch. Here and in certain other markets, there will be two V6 engines for this big estate - one a supercharged 2,995cc petrol that produces 310PS, and the other a turbocharged 2,967cc diesel that can be ordered in 204PS, 245PS or 313PS form. 

The performance figures I've quoted are for the BiTDI, the most powerful diesel in the range. I reckon they should have called it the S6 allroad quattro - after all, the same unit will sit under the bonnet of the forthcoming SQ5 TDI quattro, the firm's first diesel S model. The torque output for both is a phenomenal 650Nm, 210Nm more than that produced by the TFSI, the supercharged 3.0-litre petrol unit. All allroads come with stop-start and a seven-speed S tronic (twin clutch) gearbox, with the exception of the BiTDI, which has an eight-speed tiptronic (torque converter automatic) supplied by ZF.

One of the curiosities about this unusual car is that the UK will be one of its best and no doubt most profitable markets. Big estates do well here, as do pricey SUVs such as the X5 and Range Rover Sport. The A6 allroad effectively has its own segment, the similarly sized Volvo XC70 being far less expensive than the new Audi. By the way, am I the only person who can't fathom why VCC hasn't given the XC70 and V70 a mid-life styling update since it launched them way back in 2007?

The allroad's mid-range 245PS diesel variant is expected to account for the majority of sales, due to its mix of price, CO2 average and 27% BIK value. And the typical buyer? Audi GB's research discovered multiple common factors but here's just two: they'll have an exceptionally high net worth, and possibly use the car to tow a horse box. The sales expectation is an average of somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 cars in a full year.

I can see why this car so appeals to a select group of monied Brits and you'd be forgiven for thinking it would also be a natural for the US market too but no, Audi sells only the smaller A4 allroad there, minus the A4 part of the model name. Americans, it seems, prefer the Q7 when it comes to wanting a 4x4 that's bigger than the A4 allroad.

Indulge my US market comparison for a moment as there's a reason: the brand's UK sales continue to outstrip Audi of America's (55,117 versus 52,494 for the year to the end of May), would you believe? The brand has risen strongly here over the last decade, helped in part by an expanding model range, and for a long time we were behind only Germany. These days, however, China is way ahead of all other markets.

The A6 leads the E segment in Germany, helping Audi to record brand sales of 25,307 in May and 107,584 for the year to date but the numbers for China are in another league: 36,278 last month (+44% YoY) and 160,562 for the year to date (+42% YoY). I found all this data by diving into Audi's own global media website, in case you're wondering about the source.

The company says the new A6 allroad has the best economy in its class, and it's hard to argue with that as the 204PS 3.0 TDI delivers an average of 46.3 mpg and has a CO2 number of 159g. The BiTDI returns 42.2 mpg and 176g/km of CO2. Those numbers will matter as some 50% of sales are expected to be to company car buyers, 90% of whom are male and "likely to be self made and performance oriented", according to Audi.

So much for the numbers, what's it like to drive? In a word, grippy. Fast and grippy. The media launch took place on the edge of Dartmoor National Park in the southwest of England and we had typical summer 2012 weather: sunshine, rain and mist, which swapped places for most of the morning. This car really can take just about anything you or the elements want to throw at it, including sheep and ponies who wander off the moors and into your path - the ABS was tested on one occasion. These four-legged friends left their calling cards on the road too but if sheep poo is slippery or not, the allroad's quattro system didn’t appear to notice.

The allroad comes as standard with pneumatic suspension but forget the wallowy systems of old: this one gives all the benefits of the magic carpet ride you'd expect from air springs, but with minimal float and roll. There's up to 185mm of ground clearance in Lift mode, plus the Hill Descent System is clever enough to warn you if the car is at risk of tipping should you be offroading at an extreme angle.

The new model is a little longer (4,940mm) and wider (2,084mm including mirrors) yet up to a claimed 70kg lighter (1,855-1,910kg) than the old car thanks to the use of aluminium for most panels. It's also slightly lengthier than the A6 Avant upon which it is based - that'll be the big bumpers, which have matching plastic wheelarch guards. These come in a contrasting shade to whatever paint you choose but you can pay extra and have them colour-coded. You also get stainless steel scuff guards front and rear, aluminium roof rails, headlight squirters and special 18" wheels.

Inside, there's a unique colour for the dashboard, which itself differs from other A6s. You can load this car up with all kinds of options - one of the ones I drove was priced at over GBP60,000. One thing I'd have would be the on-board wifi – purely for the times when I'm a passenger, honest - and I also will admit to having become convinced by the MMI Navigation system's ease of use after just a minute's fiddling. And let's not forget the menu where you can find the exhaust system's sound actuator which I recently blogged about.

As for options, you can spend GBP1,500 on the Technology Pack, into which Audi GB has bundled MMI Navigation Plus with MMI Touch and various other goodies, and/or the GBP1,800 Comfort Pack (cameras to help you park, electric seats and Advanced Key). If you're a total techie, the Technology Pack Advanced (GBP3,250) might tempt you. Here's what you get: MMI Navigation Plus with MMI Touch, colour DIS, mobile phone preparation with Audi connect (online services) and Audi Music Interface, adaptive cruise with Stop&Go, active lane assist, and more besides.

You can further spec up your allroad with massaging seats, rear side airbags, a panoramic sunroof, an electric tailgate (nope, it doesn't come as standard) and night vision assistant with pedestrian detection. And that's how a GBP60,000+ allroad can be created.

The new A6 allroad quattro will be at Audi dealers in the UK from 7th July. Prices start at GBP43,150 for the 3.0 TDI (204PS), while the 245PS variant costs GBP44,690, the supercharged petrol 3.0 TFSI (310PS) is GBP45,020 and if you want the 3.0 BiTDI (313PS) you're looking at GBP49,445.

Author: Glenn Brooks