These high-end luxury-class station wagons want to excel on all roads and all terrain and would therefore be a clever alternative to SUVs. Do the Audi A6 Allroad and the Mercedes E All-Terrain live up to these claims?
Of course, we take a word for it here, which is actually not allowed - after all, all-purpose glue doesn't stick everything. But a lot. And when a car model claims that it is suitable for all roads (all-road), its competitor even for all types of terrain (all-terrain), then that is nothing less than a promise. Accordingly, both the Audi A6 Allroad Quattro and the Mercedes E All-Terrain should be the dream of every globetrotter.
What initially sounds like marketing superlatives that are widely presented may not even be that far-fetched: We have two luxury-class station wagons here that already have serious all-rounder genes in their DNA. So if we equip these transporters with powerful diesel engines with low consumption and an enormous range, put all-wheel drive under the bodies and raise the latter a few centimetres, then the set-up actually already covers a lot of what the spirit of adventure creates in ideas.
As you can see, the all-rounders had to wade through ponds for the photos, scramble up steppe-like mountain slopes and take rubble gravel under the road profile. No problem for the special suits, because both have equipped their air suspension with the necessary know-how. Off-road programs not only increase traction, but also ground clearance – by 3.5 to 4.5 centimeters. In addition, the displays provide information about the gradient and inclination angle in the Mercedes and the steering angle in the Audi.
This is an expression of a certain will, if not necessarily ability, at least compared to agile cross-country chamois. The usage behavior of a typical SUV driver, on the other hand, is always covered by the 4x4 skills – without the disadvantages of love handles and building construction.
Only high if you have to
Allroad and All-Terrain are clever alternatives to the high-mounted SUVs in their class because they only increase their ground clearance for special occasions. In everyday driving, on the other hand, their bodies hardly tower above those of their progenitors, the normal station wagons.
Compared to the fashionable high seats, not only the smaller frontal area saves fuel, but also the lower weight. Both six-cylinders could move mountains of metal thanks to 700 Nm; but the high-performance machines are more efficient if they stay well below their potential - and initially wash away the station wagons vigorously, only to then mumble the bass at low revs and even lower loads to keep up the pace.
In this way, average consumption of six liters per 100 kilometers can be achieved.With exactly those engines that are decried as stinky by ill-informed opinion makers. Almost only the odorless carbon dioxide comes out of the tailpipes; smelly nitrogen oxides are washed out almost beyond recognition in Euro 6d catalytic converters. Tests by auto motor und sport with numerous diesel models from Audi and Mercedes have proven this.
Not only those who want to pull a trailer will be happy about the early and seemingly never-ending traction; Even when fully occupied and fully loaded, the station wagons conquer any mountain with ease. Traditionally, the luggage compartment of the station wagon holds significantly more than that of the Avant. The same applies to All-Terrain and Allroad.
The Mercedes also scores points in the body section for the larger storage compartments under the loading floor, the collapsible shopping basket and the better overview to the rear. However, the lead in the sub-items operation and instruments is particularly clear.
What advantage does the Mercedes have over the Audi here? The so-called augmented reality within the navigation system, for example. Here, a camera image superimposes the road on the middle monitor and the system places directional arrows over it; This makes proceedings more and more unlikely. And buttons – for the air conditioning, for example, and for the infotainment main menus.
With the Allroad, almost everything that distracts attention from the road needs to be touched. Although the voice control often helps, it doesn't understand nearly as many commands as its all-terrain counterpart. Its higher competence gives points in "Multimedia" in the comfort chapter.
Speaking of comfort: This Mercedes also makes it his concern. The air suspension with three chambers in the back and two in the front, together with the adaptive shock absorbers, is the terror of all bumps, because they fade into insignificance. Nevertheless, the chassis sucks on the asphalt pores and describes their grip in the steering.
The all-terrain flows dreamlike, takes bumps as calmly as curves, aims at nothing but the horizon on the freeway straights. How quickly you arrive at your destination seems to be primarily a matter of mood and not so much an expression of a technical limit. The Mercedes is surrounded by a serenity that may seem perfectionist-cool to some - because there is nothing to correct in the driving flow.
There is more life in the Audi - at least if it is equipped with all-wheel steering (1,900 euros) and sport differential (1,500 euros) as well as 20-inch wheels (2,200 euros) like the test car. As you have known for a long time, we add all of this to the basic price to be evaluated in comparative tests, because these options give the Allroad potential advantages.
Although the differences are strangely measurable, especially when braking, but less so in the lateral dynamics: the Quattro completes the double lane change a little faster, wipes away at the rear near the limit speed, stamps at the front. To a lesser extent, these tendencies can also be seen on country roads; the rear turns slightly, and the front axle bites stubbornly in the given line. So stubborn that it transports stubborn bumps to the steering. In general, the Allroad is more likely to be stimulated by external influences than the All-Terrain - be it bumps or ruts.
Three-liter turbo from the S6
You think you can feel a little S6 in the character. That may be a bit far-fetched, but the three-liter V6 actually comes from the sports version. Here as there, a single turbo has to suffice for the diesel engine; this is supported by an electrically driven air compressor in the intake section behind the intercooler. And after a facelift, now also the e-boost of the belt starter generator - with 60 Nm.
Of course, they can't move too much with a two-ton truck, but at least they hide the starting weakness that has been plaguing the TDI since the switch to the WLTP tests. The mono-turbo of the Allroad actually reacts a little more alert to the foot on the gas pedal than the three-liter biturbo of the All-Terrain, which Mercedes has not yet hybridized mildly. Accordingly, no electric motor with an initial boost will help.
Nevertheless, the E 400 d does not let itself be left behind by the A6 55 TDI when accelerating, and is even two tenths more economical on the test average over 100 kilometers. Incidentally, our values do not fully correlate with those of the WLTP cycle; there the Audi emits minimally less carbon dioxide.
Much in this test differs only minimally - you can see it from the sometimes small difference in the individual ratings. Both cars are wonderful in their own right and a credit to their brands.
But even small differences add up to a significant plus for the Mercedes E 400 d T All-Terrain 4Matic. Here we write the winner's name in full, emblematic of the full repertoire he has to offer. All-Terrain, so one for all? In fact, not that far off the mark...
Even slightly higher, the T-model retains its great comfort and dreamlike agility. It's the more talented station wagon anyway, and it's also a bit more economical than the Audi.
The Allroad bites when braking and is even more willing than its competitor in corners. With his distraction-intensive touch controls, he falls behind.