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Audi A6

Part executive estate, part SUV... Audi's Allroad has all the dynamic abilities of a luxury car with just enough of the mud-plugging skills of an off-roader. It sounds like the perfect mix - so why doesn't Audi sell more? Well, with a brand new version arriving in the UK, it hopes it soon will.

This is one of Audi's most comfortable cars, but does that make it an Allroad? The previous-generation soft-roader was a genuinely rugged version of the A6 Avant, but with less aggressive styling and more luxury inside, its successor doesn't feel quite so robust. However, many will still appreciate its air-suspension and long-distance cruising ability. A stylish addition to the Audi range.

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Part executive estate, part SUV... Audi's Allroad has all the dynamic abilities of a luxury car with just enough of the mud-plugging skills of an off-roader. It sounds like the perfect mix - so why doesn't Audi sell more? Well, with a brand new version arriving in the UK, it hopes it soon will.

The new look is kicked off by a bold grille featuring the vertical chrome bars normally the preserve of Audi concepts. Large alloys and discreet plastic wheelarches complete the stylish appearance, although it's more muted than muscular. Unlike its predecessor, the fresh-faced Allroad isn't instantly recognisable as an SUV-aping model.

Inside, the interior is also barely dist-inguishable from the normal A6 Avant's - although few buyers will complain. It is beautifully built and designed with real accuracy. Only when you press the 'car' button on the MMI cabin control system does the newcomer set itself apart from the standard machine.

This offers drivers a choice of suspension settings, ranging from the stiff Dynamic to the pumped-up Allroad and Lift. Air-filled dampers raise the ground clearance by up to 60mm - enough to get over rocks and ruts off-road.

Power is fed through a strengthened version of Audi's quattro 4x4 transmission, so the Allroad can tackle slippery surfaces with ease. But drivers who used their old-shape car to tow heavy trailers or scale steep slopes will be disappointed to learn the low-range gearbox is no longer available. Still, the Audi does get a special off-road setting for the Electronic Stability Programme.

On the tarmac, the Allroad demands few compromises. Its suspension does a better job of ironing out bumps than the standard A6's, while the handling is composed and stable. Keen drivers won't like the over-assisted steering, but the dynamics are impressive compared to a conventional off-roader's. Our test car had the same 180bhp 2.7-litre TDI powerplant as the standard A6, mated to a slick-shifting six-speed auto. Performance is strong, while refine-ment will also impress full-scale 4x4 drivers. Just don't expect thrifty fuel economy - the trip computer indicated we averaged little better than 31mpg.

For now, the only alternative is the range-topping 3.0-litre TDI, but 3.2 and 4.2 FSI petrol variants are scheduled to join the line-up in January. Allroad buyers pay a premium of £2,280 over the standard A6 Avant. And while the newcomer might not be as tough as its predecessor, for those who want a 4x4 with the emphasis on tarmac-friendly handling, it is hard to beat.

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