Before there were station wagons there were estate wagons, specialized vehicles to carry people and luggage to and from a train station, especially to estates. As such they were early luxury vehicles. Then affordable manufacturers mass produced wagon versions of their cars to meet the needs of Baby Boomer families after WWII. They fell out favor when minivans came along in the 1980s, which were in turn supplanted by SUVs that have been growing in popularity since the 1990s.
Ironically, just about the only station wagons being produced these days harken back to estate wagons. They are the limited number of car-based models being manufactured by such luxury companies as Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo. And most are equipped for treks to the countryside with higher ground clearances and all-wheel-drive systems.
The 2022 Audi A6 allroad quattro is widely considered to be the best of the breed. Having recently tested a 2022 Volvo Cross Country, however, I can say the competition is fierce. Both deliver luxury, performance, technology and practicality in spades, making them serious alternatives to luxury SUVs. The 2022 version of the Audi is newer, however, making it more sophisticated but also more expensive. But, in a week of mixed driving, I have to say you get what you pay for and then some.
For starters the allroad quattro (yes, lowercase) is based on the Audi A6, which is one of the best midsize sport sedans on the planet. Power is provided by a mild hybrid turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that produces 335 horsepower mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission. The ride is unbelievably smooth and quiet. But the real magic comes from Audi's legendary quattro all-wheel-drive system which first made its mark in professional off-road rally racing in the 1980s. The original Audi Quattro was the first rally car to take advantage of the then-recently changed rules that allowed the use of four wheel drive in competition racing. It won for the next two years and directly led to the company's subsequent generations of successful AWD-equipped passenger vehicles.
Despite its heritage, the 2022 Audi A6 allroad quattro is not a hardcore off-road vehicle. Although it has 7.3 inches of ground clearance, that should be considered an advantage over poorly maintained roads and through moderate mud and snow, if only because rough terrain risks marring the striking alloy wheels. But the quattro system will also provide extra traction in the heavy rain storms that happen frequently in the Pacific Northwest during winter months.
Since the wagon starts at the Premium Plus trim level, it also comes loaded with the company's most advanced technologies. This has frequently required a learning curve in some vehicles with touchpads and other non-intuitive display screen controls. The stacked dual touchscreens in the A6 allroad are much easier to use, however, proving that advanced doesn't have to mean complex. The upper 10.1-inch display controls the infotainment system, while the lower 8.6-inch display manages in-cabin functions. A 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system comes standard with a 15-channel amplifier, while an even more impressive B&O 3D Advanced sound system is available on the Prestige trim. Small twin speakers on the outer edges of the dash feature a pop up top meant to disperse the sound that looks cool, even though it's kind of silly.
The styling of the A6 allroad is very clean and sophisticated, both outside and in. Exterior lines are restrained while the interior is bolstered by high quality materials. Even Audi's 12.3-inch digital virtual cockpit cluster standard. The electronic console shifter is surprisingly manly, more like a Dodge muscle car and a welcome alternative to the push buttons and steering column stalks on some luxury vehicles. With a name like allroad, drivers should at least feel like they're prepared to go anywhere when they shift it into gear, after all.
All this doesn't come cheap, of course. It starts at $66,900 and our Prestige version test version with the Luxury package was priced at $81,840. But many luxury SUVs cost more without delivering as much driving enjoyment as the sport sedan-based Audi. If you're ready for something different, rediscover the pleasures of an estate wagon with the The 2022 A6 allroad quattro.
2022 Audi A6 allroad quattro
Base price: $66,900
Price as tested: $81,840
Type: Midsize luxury sport wagon.
Engine: Mild hybrid turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 (335 hp, 369 lbs-ft)
Transmission: quattro 7-speed S tronic
EPA estimated mileage: 21/28
Overall length: 194.9 inches
Curb weight: 4,486 pounds
Final assembly: Neckarsulm, Germany
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