Audi A6 Allroad is the Goldilocks of station wagons

Not incredibly powerful nor frustratingly basic, it comes so choc-full of comforts and practicalities that you’re soon spoiled for anything else in the price range

By HANNAH ELLIOTT

DON’T buy the 2020 Audi A6 Allroad if you want a station wagon with finesse and power. Its seven-speed automatic transmission dances herky-jerky when you punch the gas; its 335hp V6 engine moves with the casual attitude of a sun-bleached golfer heading toward the back green. Top speed is 130mph (209kph).

But the A6 Allroad’s lackadaisical performance didn’t keep me from enjoying more than 800 miles (1,287km) driving from Los Angeles to Big Sur and back when I had it last week in California. It didn’t affect by a sliver how much fun I had filling the capacious back with treasures from an AfghanmarketinSantaBarbara.Its adaptive air suspension and off-road mode (which raises the wagon 1.2 inches) handled the dirt roads of Paso Robles’s exquisite hidden vineyards just fine.

In fact, the A6 Allroad doesn’t have to be the fastest or smoothest wagon out there to be a great fit for your life. At US$65,900 (RM274,810), it provides a happy medium in the brand’s line-up, between the less- powerful A4 Allroad (US$44,600) and the walloping RS6 Avant (US$109,000). Call it the Goldilocks of Audi wagons — it sits right in the middle, where everything feels all right.

The Glamorous Grocery-Getter

Also great are the dual-pane sunroof and a lift mode that raises the car an additional 0.6 inches

What I love most about the wagon is how it looks. Am I shallow? So be it.

The prominent grill fenced by gleaming chrome vertical slats stuns from any angle, even when partially obscured in the tiny compact spot I wedged it into for a few nights in Carmel. The 20-inch wheels (two inches bigger than those on the A4) hulk underneath the wagon’s chiselled body lines and streamlined roof rack. The expanses of windows and rocker panels on each side spell sport-ready; the standard-issue Matrix- design headlights with high-beam assist and rear Allroad-specific diffuser are fresh, modern, cool.

Dudes in board shorts and ladies shopping on Ocean Avenue commented on the wagon’s “Soho Brown” metallic colour, a moniker that only half does justice to just how interesting and elegant the vehicle looks. This is not your (suburban) mother’s wagon.

A word about that roof rack: Halfway up Highway 1, my boyfriend and I pulled over to remove it. We did it easily in 5 minutes; in a wonderful fit of Teutonic always-be-prepared preparedness, Audi includes a T-handled Allen-head wrench in a toolbox in the back. The relief from the wind-buffeted buzz against the rack was immediate.

I’m sure the rig is practical for kayaks and skis, but the 30 cu ft in the back already more than accommodated two very large travel bags for four days on the road, two Moroccan stools, a huge Berber pillow, two weekender valises, multiple coats and about five wide- brim hats. Plus the roof rack bars.

Practicalities Galore

Night vision assistant with pedestrian and large animal detection is optional

The other reason it doesn’t necessarily matter that the A6 Allroad is neither as powerful nor as fast as the RS6 Avant — nor the 591hp Mercedes-Benz E-Class wagon, for that matter — is that it comes so choc-full of comforts and practicalities that you’re soon spoiled for anything else in the price range.

There are cupholders and USB outlets and storage pockets aplenty, a blessing rarer than you’d think. As someone who drives nearly 100 different new cars a year, I’ve learned never to take these niceties for granted. (Porsche AG, I’m looking at you.)

Standard on the A6 Allroad are an 8.8-inch screen with navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android compatibility and WiFi. The Bluetooth system synced instantly with my iPhone and did so again every time I got back into the car — a convenience ridiculously rare in many premium vehicles.

Sixteen Bang & Olufsen speakers for surround sound are standard and perfect, I discovered, for blasting Hole and Willy Nelson and Curtis Mayfield and everything in between. For those who need something extra, a virtual cockpit gauge cluster and 10.1-inch infotainment screen are optional, as are three more speakers.

In-dashboard navigation, soft leather upholstery and a high-resolution 360-degree exterior camera system were also welcome comforts in the A6 Allroad I drove. Also great were the dual-pane sunroof and a lift mode that raises the car an additional 0.6 inches (it sounds minuscule, but that’s industry standard and it does make a difference) for rough-road fun on cabernet runs to Daou Vineyards.

Standard all-wheel-drive enhances the total practicality and ease of living around and in this altogether admirable wagon. I loved the standard four-zone climate controls and heated steering wheel. (Yes, I did use it — you’d be surprised how cold those Big Sur mornings are, even in August.)

I should mention here the fuel economy of the A6 Allroad: 20mpg in the city and 26mpg on the highway. Over four days of crisscrossing travel through coastal mists and over hills alive with desert-fire heat, we averaged 25mpg. This aspect of the car is great; the fewer times I have to touch a strange fuel pump during the pandemic, the better.

The Audi A6 Allroad may not have the soul of a race car, but it’s pretty and practical and, most difficult to achieve for such a humble grocery-getter, it’s memorable. I didn’t win any drag races in it — but I didn’t want to say goodbye. — Bloomberg