First drive review: 2020 Audi A6 Allroad cures the crossover blues

There were many cars, and many more miles, but if I had to do it over again, I’d still take the 2020 Audi A6 Allroad. 

On a work trip racking up 1,000 miles behind the wheel of everything from full-size SUVs to compact sedans to a Bentley Bentayga ultralux SUV, the A6 Allroad logged the most miles and checked all the boxes: fun to drive, excellent handling, plenty of cargo room, technology that shared the driving load, and stunning looks that made me gaze a little longer each time I approached the elegant wagon. 

The only thing it lacked was a periscope to see over all the mammoth SUVs and prehistoric semis. The vehicle mix in traffic has changed dramatically since the A6 Allroad wagon first launched in 2000. But the 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 took care of the oversized crowds with punchy torque-rich bursts and nimble lane maneuvering. It’s the crossover antidote.

My tester for the week came in top Prestige trim washed in Avalon Green metallic paint. It’s a color that changes like a Great Lake on a summer day, from slate, to seafoam green, to a distant kind of blue. The wide and low stance, short overhangs, and gray matte cladding on the round wheel arches and long rocker panels blend together beautifully for a car that is not just an antidote to crossover fatigue but a standout design for anything on four wheels. 

2020 Audi A6 Allroad

2020 Audi A6 Allroad

2020 Audi A6 Allroad

2020 Audi A6 Allroad

2020 Audi A6 Allroad

2020 Audi A6 Allroad

The silver bumpers, roof rails, and sills frame it like a trapezoid. The face showcases a steep grille with vertical slats that differ from the horizontal slats on the sedan. Curves sculpt the muscular front and rear ends, and standard 20-inch wheels buff out the profile for a look that is both sophisticated and sinister. No love is perfect, however. The rear doors barely cut into the cladding over the rear wheel arches. Those with OCD might struggle with this. 

The interior carried over the sophisticated contrasts, with Pearl Beige leather surfaces contrasting textured ash wood trim with aluminum accents. Sitting down came with a sigh of relief and gratitude. 

Modified behavior

The Allroad is about 1.5 inches taller than the A6 mid-size sedan, but the standard adaptive air suspension results in 2.4 inches of variability, depending on the six drive modes. At its peak with a 7.3-inch ground clearance in Offroad mode, the A6 Allroad rivals some crossover SUVs.  

Switch to Dynamic mode, however, and it lowers from the standard 5.5 inches down to 4.9 inches, which elicits visceral feelings. It’s still not as low as the 4.2 inches of clearance in the A6, but Dynamic mode’s change in throttle sensitivity is significant. In Comfort mode it plods along like a dog on a summer day. Dynamic mode makes it bristle and dart out for that big furry bunny up ahead. 

The turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6’s 335 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque is routed to all four wheels through a 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission that is seamless in high gears but less assured in the lower gears. It pushes the A6 Allroad to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds, according to Audi, and small paddle shifters let you dive deeper into the rev range. It’s quick but not overwhelming to passengers, so it’s still plenty of fun for the driver even with the family sitting in judgment. For more performance, consider the 2.9-liter turbocharged V-6 in the S6 that can tip 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. Or go all in with the 2021 RS6 Avant and its 591-hp 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8. The family might not come along for that $110,000 ride, on the road or to the dealer. 

The chunky, leather-wrapped steering wheel feels good in the hands, and the steering tightens up as the inputs ratchet up. The A6 Allroad handles gracefully, nimbly, and much more like the A6 than the Q8, which has nearly the same 30.5 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats. My tester came with rear-axle steering ($1,800) that shortens the turning radius at low speeds by slightly turning the rear wheels in the opposite direction of the fronts. It effectively shortens the car when parking or turning around. At higher speeds the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the front wheels for more stability and smoother lane changes. 

The engine’s mild hybrid system acts as a more sophisticated starter motor that smooths out the automatic stop/start system and supplements the engine under heavy loads. The A6 Allroad can coast from about 15 mph to a stop without the engine running, and it can recover small bits of energy to charge the 48-volt battery under the cargo floor. It operates imperceptibly with no imposition on the driver, packaging, or ride quality. 

In Comfort mode, the ride is indeed that. Auto mode does a fine job of adjusting to the variables of highway cruising, by switching between Dynamic and Comfort based on inputs. Offroad mode lifts up 1.2 inches at speeds of up to 21.7 mph, and Lift mode can add another 0.6 inches to get to that 7.3-inch ground clearance when scrambling  over rocks, but I didn’t have the opportunity to test either.   

Great tech

Most of my time was spent cruising on the highway, where the A6 Allroad’s excellent technology  helped shoulder the load. It’s unfortunate that you can’t get adaptive cruise control or active lane control without the Driver Assistance package that comes standard on the top Prestige trim, because it makes any road trip much easier. 

Audi’s 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is the best on the market. It lets you zoom in and out on a Google Maps view that can span the breadth of the cluster. Or, the tachometer and speedometer can be resized to normal proportions, and the map can fit between them. Or you can display audio controls in the cluster and leave navigation for the 10.1-inch touchscreen atop the center stack. You can have it any way you want it, and even though Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility come standard, Audi’s native MMI navigation is the exception that is better than the smartphone. For most of my drive, I kept wireless Apple CarPlay on the touchscreen for texts and used natural voice commands for navigation in the cluster. 

The touchscreen sits over another 8.6-inch display for climate controls. Haptic feedback has had mixed results in the past, but Audi’s version illuminates, clicks, and almost pushes back like a real button. But you might have to press the virtual button for a bit longer than a real button. 

Audi public relations knows that with the $4,500 jump from Premium Plus to Prestige for $71,990, you might as well opt up, and I’m glad they did. 

It adds cooled front seats, an excellent head-up display, and dual pane acoustic glass that keeps the ride quiet even with a panoramic sunroof. 

The 2020 A6 Allroad is about $2,000 more than the roomier and bulkier Q7 three-row SUV, but in looks alone it’s worth the upcharge. The air suspension and excellent handling make it that much better. It’s a great highway cruiser and daily driver with the room of a crossover and the look and feel of a luxury car. The Bentayga was fantastic, but the A6 Allroad was realistic enough for me to keep coming back to.  

Audi provided us with a week-long loan of the 2020 Audi A6 Allroad to bring you this firsthand drive. 


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