Engine: 3.0-litre V6 biturbo
Transmission: eight-speed tiptronic
Power: 313PS between 3,900rpm 4,500rpm
Torque: 650Nm between 1,450 and 2,800rpm
Fuel consumption (combined cycle): 42.2mpg
CO2 emissions: 176g/km
Top speed: artificially limited to 155mph
Acceleration (0-62 mph): 5.6 seconds
Price: £49,445; A6 Allroad Avant range from £43,150

Audi's first A6 Allroad was born in 2000 into a very different world to that which greets its third-generation successor. Audi has been making cars with four-wheel drive ever since it introduced the famous Quattro system over thirty years ago but that system was originally conceived as a means of improving on-road grip and handling; the earliest Allroad adaptation of the A6 Avant estate was the company's first attempt at using its all-wheel drive technology for the more traditional purpose of giving a car good cross-country performance.

Off-roaders were then still mainly the preserve of specialist manufacturers such Jeep and Land Rover, although Audi's rival Mercedes had recently introduced the M-Class. The first A6 Allroad didn't really compete with those cars directly but instead pioneered a new, intermediate category, the crossover, which tried to combine the attributes of an SUV and a road car in one vehicle. Not everyone was impressed; crossovers were sometimes dismissed as mere “soft-roaders” and the first Allroad looked a bit odd with its raised ride height and plastic wheel-arch extensions.

Now things are entirely different. Audi has its own full “Russian doll” range of SUVs, the Q3, Q5 and Q7, and everyone is making crossovers, so cars of this type are now fully accepted, although curiously, with the arguable exception of Volvo's XC70, the A6 Allroad still doesn't really have a direct rival. And while the recipe Audi follows to make the A6 Allroad hasn't really changed much, the concept has matured subtly. The wheel-arch extensions are a lot less obvious than before, and you can also get them painted in the same colour as the rest of the bodywork so that they are even less obtrusive. In normal use, the latest A6 Allroad doesn't have a raised ride height compared with a standard A6 Avant; instead, on the lowest of the five settings available on its air suspension set-up, it is actually closer to the ground than the standard car, although of course it can be raised in order to provide greater comfort or clearance as required. The adjustable air suspension has always been there, by the way, it's just that it's now used differently to raise the car only when that's needed, rather than giving the car a permanently raised off-road look.

When it comes to what’s under the bonnet, you can have any engine you like as long as it's a three-litre V6. There's a petrol TFSI with 310 PS, and three diesels providing 204, 245 or 313 PS – the last is the new BiTurbo 3.0 BiTDI which punches the A6 Allroad to 100km/h (62mph) in 5.6 seconds and on to an (artificially limited) 155mph. Other models get the new seven-speed version of Audi’s S tronic but the 3.0BiTDI has an eight-speed Tiptronic. The new BiTDI is the engine that’s been getting all the attention, and it’s true that out on the road it provides very high levels of performance indeed, but on British roads, the 204 and 245 PS diesels still do a pretty good job, with even the least powerful being capable of doing 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds.

Equipment levels are high, with all A6 Allroad Avants getting the Audi MMI navigation system, leather upholstery, 18-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors and hill descent control.

Some people didn’t really know what to make of the first Allroad but over the decade that followed, its successors have built up a devoted following. Audi reports that while the A6 Allroad is not the most expensive car its sells, its buyers are more affluent than those of any other model in the Audi range – given the understated A6 Allroad’s enormous breadth of capabilities, I’d say they may be Audi’s most discerning and well-informed customers as well.

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