KAKADU National Park, a beautiful jewel tucked seamlessly into the fabric of the Top End, played host to the launch of the Audi A6 Allroad.
With a rich Aboriginal heritage, extraordinary sunsets, amazing birdlife, and of course thousands of lazy crocodiles, Kakadu is without parallel ... a fitting backdrop then for a vehicle that is very much out of the ordinary.
Straddling the line between wagon and SUV, in a place all of its own, this A6 Allroad has a new engine, a new look, a fresher interior, is more fuel efficient, safer and has a cheaper bottom line.
The interior of the A6 Allroad remains fairly unchanged with quality materials, a clever user-friendly layout and the excellent fit and finish we have come to expect from this German marque.
Seats are flattish but comfortable with enough width across the top for broader shoulders while those in the rear, too, have little reason for complaint.
Audi's multi-media system takes pride of place, and so it should, a nice reminder of the technology on offer including Google Earth sat nav view and Wi-Fi hotspot.
This infotainment system is probably not as intuitive as the updated editions offered in other Audi models but is easy enough to navigate with good graphics and colour quality.
Google Earth overlayed on the mapping data makes for excellent viewing and is duplicated on the instrumentation in front of the driver.
At 565 litres the boot is a cavernous affair with an electric tailgate to facilitate loading and unloading, one-touch seat fold buttons and those always useful shopping bag hooks.
On the road
The new 3.0-litre turbo diesel unit that does duty in this A6 Allroad may be less powerful (20kW and 80Nm) than its predecessor but lacks for nothing in practice. It delivers a smooth and refined ride with poise and elegance around corners and plenty of power when you need it.
The seven-speed S-tronic automatic transmission is an able companion, hardly missing a beat, so competent in fact that it is hardly worth troubling the steering-mounted paddle shifters.
There is some lag from start-up but is not overly intrusive and disappears soon enough when you pick up speed.
The air suspension, which aids ride comfort, can raise or lower the car from 125mm for city driving up to 185mm for off-road adventures.
We toggled our way through the six drive modes - allroad, comfort, auto, efficiency, dynamic and individual - which alters the ride height, suspension and steering. For our money, unsurprisingly, we found the allroad setting best with the comfort mode a tad floaty.
The Quattro all-wheel drive system keeps this A6 on course off the bitumen, too, finding enough traction on the sandy, slippery, rutted roads out to Kakadu National
Park to keep the safety aides at bay.
The flat roads of our drive route did not allow for the testing of the hill-descent control or tilt angle display systems and we look forward to giving those a go when we have the car for a test locally.
What do you get?
Naturally, you would expect a fair bit of gear for $111K and the A6 Allroad certainly delivers to a point on the luxury inclusions like four-zone climate control, LED headlights with dynamic indicators and high beam assist, Milano leather electrically adjustable front seats, MMI navigation plus with 20.3cm monitor and Bluetooth interface with audio streaming.
But like other luxury brands, for other niceties you will have to option the Technik package ($4800) which offers park assist, 360 degree camera, active lane assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go and pre-sense plus with autonomous emergency braking.
Safety comes courtesy of eight airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, stability and traction control as well as hill-descent control.
The new engine has seen fuel efficiency improve from 6.3 litres/100km to 5.6L/100km. Audi offers a three year unlimited kilometre warranty and roadside assist with the option to extend the warranty and there are also inclusive servicing packages.
Audi says the A6 Allroad has no competitors in this luxury wagon segment and they are right but buyers may also consider the Mercedes M-Class (from $83,900), BMW X5 (from $84,200) and even the marque's own Q7 (from $91,500).
The A6 Allroad definitely has a lot going for it. It is great to drive, comfortable to travel in and adept at getting off the beaten track. It is easy to get in and out of, has plenty of storage options with the electronic tailgate a big plus.
There is extra body cladding and underbody bash plates to protect it on more agricultural roads. Ventilated seats would be nice though, given the price, and while we are on cost it irks that buyers can hand over more than $110,000 for a vehicle and still have to pay extra for metallic paint.
With its three-dimensional grille, low, squat stance and new, sharply-styled LED lights, the A6 Allroad looks the business. The revised bumper and exhaust outlets do their bit to keep it sharp with funky rear dynamic indicators finishing off a nice-looking package.
It is quite obvious the A6 Allroad is not just your normal run-of-the-mill wagon. Its luxury underpinnings, powerful engine and capability on all surfaces certainly puts it in a class of its own. Its appeal lies both in function and form and that's probably why a loyal client base is happy to pay the price of exclusivity. Not quite a wagon but far from an SUV, this offering from Audi is certainly worth a look.
Model: Audi A6 Allroad.
Details: Five-door five-seat all-wheel large luxury wagon.
Engines: 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel generating maximum power of 160kW@3250 - 4500rpm and peak torque of 500Nm @ 1250-3000rpm.
Transmission: Seven-speed S-tronic automatic.
Consumption: 5.6 litres/100km (combined average).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $111,900.
What matters most
What we liked: Fun drive, luxury interior, ride quality, all-round class.
What we'd like to see: More inclusions as standard.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assist. Servicing is every 15,000km or 12 months.
Verdict: 4 stars
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