Steve Moody drives the new Audi A6 Allroad.
A German Audi engineer told me that this new A6 Allroad was the best all-rounder there was. I scoffed, and explained he had clearly not seen Ian Botham’s performance in the summer of 1981 or else he would revise his view.
He looked bemused as I waxed lyrical, and possibly at too much length, on a hazy summer spent in front of the television, leg in plaster from a school-holiday motorbike accident, watching my hero propel Australian bowling into the confectionary stalls of Yorkshire (and out again). Being German, and so possessing the ability to cut to the point, he made the pertinent observation that cricketers and cars were separate entities and not ripe for comparison. We’ll see.
First, the Allroad, the third version of a car that has rightly become a favourite countryside steed, is a stylish machine. Perching 2½in higher than the standard A6 Avant, the stainless-steel front and rear guards, thick plastic bumpers and side sills that protect from damage give it an elegant yet chunky appeal. The chrome grille is a touch glitzy for a car bought principally by people who don’t want to stand out in the increasingly ostentatious SUVs on offer, but a well-aimed run at a muddy patch or two will sort that issue out.
Off road, the Allroad is dependably useful, without being unstoppable. The suspension can be raised further still for particularly sticky wickets, and, as well as permanent Quattro four-wheel drive, there’s a hill-descent control system and a gadget that informs you of the steepness of your current slope, although if you have to ask, you perhaps ought not be there in the first place.
The model we tested had Audi’s new twin-turbo diesel V6, with more than 300bhp. Beefy himself said to batting partner Graham Dilley, in forlorn hope, back in 1981, ‘Let’s give it some humpty’, and the Allroad is certainly capable of plenty of humptiness, because this remarkable engine performs with the muscular insistence of a scrumpy-fuelled young farmer at a barn dance. It sounds like no other diesel, too, with a special chamber in the exhaust converting the usual grumbly noise into a magnificent petrol-esque howl.
On hard ground, the Allroad drives like most Audis, which means that it’s wonderfully fast, but easy-going to drive, rather than genuinely enjoyable, as a BMW might be. As a flat-track bully-the adaptable suspension hunkering the car down low on the motorway at speed-it’s excellent, however.
Inside, its beautifully appointed cabin has a few of its own bits and pieces to signify its suitability for country living. Hard-wearing striped floor mats, like the carpet runners found up Edwardian staircases, higher-quality leather and boot linings to keep muddy dogs in their place are all useful additions. It also has a night-vision option, which projects an infra-red image of the view ahead into the instrument binnacle, and although this costs £1,500, I can confirm it’s amazingly handy for avoiding suicidal deer.
The Allroad is expensive, with the less-powerful V6 diesel nearly £44,000 and the twin-turbo version almost £50,000, but in terms of go-anywhere adaptability, high-speed performance and sophisticated style, it’s peerless. However, it can’t bowl a vicious outswinger, or hook Dennis Lillee into the stands, can it?