If you ask Audi, 2020 is the year of the wagon. The A6 Allroad returns to the United States after a two-generation hiatus, carrying the 591-horsepower RS 6 Avant in its wake. The A6's two long-roof options will provide crossover-averse luxury buyers with a midsize alternative that prioritizes style and driving dynamics over maximum size and a higher view out, but will they bite?
On paper, the Allroad is a solid proposition. It’s a midsize, like the A6 sedan on which it’s based, albeit stretched. It also has a staggeringly long list of standard equipment – longer than that of either A6 sedan variant – including Audi's latest MMI infotainment wizardry and Virtual Cockpit digital cluster, positioning the Allroad as the most premium non-S model in Audi’s A6 hierarchy.
The Allroad’s real party piece, however, is its trick suspension. The air setup grants adjustable ride height and firmness, allowing for all-purpose flexibility. When the C5-generation Allroad debuted 20 years ago, this notion was still cool.
Whether this formula tickles your fancy two decades later is up to you, but cool or not, we can say for certain that it is no longer unique. The high-riding wagon concept has gained popularity in Europe, prompting continental automakers to give it another go in the U.S. market. Volvo has doubled down with a pair of Cross Country wagons, Mercedes has finally brought over its E-Class All-Terrain, and the A6 Allroad joins the A4 Allroad that was launched as a test balloon of sorts seven years ago. There's also the European-built Buick Regal TourX, but you wouldn't be alone in forgetting about that.
Like the others the A6 Allroad is a wagon, first and foremost. It boasts 30 cubic feet of cargo space behind its rear seat, which will just about double anything you see from a midsize luxury sedan. And if you need the A6 Allroad to behave more crossover-like when the road gets rough, well, it’s right there in the name, isn’t it? Put the wagon in “Offroad” mode and you get an extra 1.2 inches of ground clearance, for a total of 6.7 inches; a “Lift” mode gives you another 0.6 inches if you really need to get it on its tippy-toes.
Sounds like all of the benefits of a sporty wagon and a rugged crossover put together, right? Well, not quite, as the Allroad’s capability comes with caveats. The maximum speed for these modes is just 21.7 mph, which might sound like a random number, but it's the result of translating 35 km/h into Proper American. Mercedes claims the All-Terrain sits a very meager 5.75 inches above the ground, while the Volvo boasts a whopping 8.3 inches of static clearance regardless of the speed you're going – the clear winner here if tall is what you’re after.
The Allroad also bypasses the A6 sedan’s turbo-four. Instead, it comes standard (and only) with the upgrade 3.0-liter turbocharged V6. It’s good for 335 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque and is paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission, Quattro all-wheel drive and a 48V mild hybrid assist system that takes away the usual auto stop/start hiccup and even throws in a little extra acceleration torque. This is more potent than the V90 Cross Country’s 316 hp engine, but gives up a bit to the ‘Benz, which checks in at 362 horses and 369 lb-ft.
And while the Allroad may ride lower to the ground than a full-blown crossover, it’s not exactly a lightweight, nor is it really any more firmly planted, as we discovered once we got it out onto the road. Even with all of the Audi’s various systems set to their sportiest and the suspension sitting as low as it will go, it still feels tippy when pushed. And while it may be lighter than a family SUV, the Allroad is a bit healthier than the A6 sedan, pushing 4,500 pounds unladen.
You’ll pay for that at the pump too, where the Allroad checks in at 20 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg combined. Both the Volvo V90 Cross Country and new Mercedes E450 All-Terrain better it at 24 mpg combined. We put roughly highway 350 miles on the Allroad during our loan, averaging just over 20 mpg at midwestern turnpike speeds.
The good news is that the Allroad is never wanting for power. Audi says the big wagon will hit 60 in just 5.1 seconds, and we’re inclined to believe it. And thanks to the V6’s relatively generous displacement, all of that oomph is available pretty much the instant you get on the throttle. The A6 Allroad may not be svelte but it’ll certainly get out of its own way, and it packs quite a bit more punch than the Volvo, though the A6 Allroad’s power advantage comes with a 300-pound weight penalty.
Inside, Audi has gone with a two-tiered infotainment system, with the primary display screen sitting high atop the center console and a secondary control screen residing beneath it. This division of labor frees up more space in the primary screen for information you actually want to see and interact with, while controls (such as vent and temperature settings) are relegated to the lower unit. While the tech is robust, it suffers from many of the same drawbacks as other touchscreen-dependent systems, and smaller UI elements can prove especially challenging to use while on the move. Many of the settings for the driver-assist functions are also buried deep in various system menus.
Yes, options are good, but unlike Volvo's Sensus, which puts just about every toggle on one easily accessible screen, Audi’s customization features are buried comparatively deep within its MMI interface – a fault shared with Mercedes-Benz. Hit the road before you get everything just right, and you’ll probably have to pull over to dig through menus looking for whatever you forgot – or didn’t realize you needed to begin with.
Despite this steeping learning curve (and lengthy setup), we found the MMI interface to be generally intuitive and almost infallibly responsive. Kudos on both fronts. Even after hours behind the wheel, we found the Allroad’s cabin coddling and serene, allowing us to put hundreds of miles behind us with only minimal fatigue.
But what of the wagon things, you ask? Well, we’re happy to report that it does those pretty darned well. The Allroad’s rear seat is comfortable and spacious, yet easy to stow when it comes time to haul large or abundant cargo. We managed to put three sets of spare wheels (two still shod with tires) into the back with enough vertical room left to utilize the rearview mirror.
So, it’s a wagon, it’s comfortable, it’s luxurious, it’s feature-rich and it’s versatile enough to play the roll of a soft-roader when called upon. What’s the catch? Well, it ain’t cheap.
A 2020 Audi A6 Allroad 55 TFSI Premium Plus with zero options is a $67,000 car. A Prestige package car like ours with the Soho Brown paint finish checks in at $73,040 (including $1,045 for destination). Our loaner likely had some other odds and ends we can’t easily account for, but it’s safe to say that to get one close to this spec, you’re going to shell out approximately seventy-five grand. The Audi and Mercedes-Benz are pretty evenly matched on price, but the less-powerful Volvo V90 Cross Country pretty much tops out where the Audi begins.
You know what else is $10,000 cheaper than an A6 Allroad? Audi’s own Q7 crossover, which offers three rows of seating, more cargo room and more ground clearance. Yeah, you get less power with the base Q7, but the Allroad’s V6 is optional on Audi’s big three-row too, and for about the same money.
So maybe the Q7 makes more sense on paper, but we suspect that potential buyers of a luxury wagon like the A6 Allroad may not care despite being well aware of any practical shortcomings relative an SUV. Perhaps they like the look, lower ride height or just being different than the SUV-buying masses. Maybe they just know it'll fit in their garages better. Either way, we can promise you this: If you want a comfy European luxury wagon with plenty of punch and cargo space galore, there aren’t too many options. Fortunately, the 2020 Audi A6 Allroad is a good one.