Luxury lifestyle machines have never been this cool.
There are countless niches out there. You can have a coupe with four doors, an SUV that will lap the Nurburgring faster than some supercars, or a station wagon that makes SUVs redundant. That last niche is the subject of this piece, but more than just wagons that can go off-road, we're looking at two of the finest offerings on the market that do it all in luxury: the Audi A6 allroad and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain.
These luxury cars are far more capable than they appear, each with their own unique way of doing things. But which is best? Let's find out.
You don't need to look further than the Audi RS6 to know that the answer to the above question is a resounding yes, but the cars in question here are a lot less performance-oriented. Nevertheless, it's the Audi that holds our gaze for a longer period of time. Thanks to sharp lines mixed with sweeping curves, a buff pair of hips, and a exterior lighting that gives the impression of added width, the Audi is a pleasure to behold.
With the E-Class, Mercedes is guilty of doing what Audi was once accused of: making a car that looks exactly like the rest of its family. Sure, there are some nice touches like the subtle bulges in the hood and the imposing rear end, but the entire car looks like a budget offering. Where the Audi makes its plastic body elements look stylish, the Merc makes them look cheap, albeit with some purpose.
Audi's love for the touchscreen display can be a bit divisive. At first glance, the numerous screens look super-techy and upmarket, but in a car like this, you're likely to encounter your fair share of dust if the car ever goes off-road. That won't work well, and we're not fans of taking our eyes off the road to adjust the infotainment's volume either. Furthermore, if you take your eyes off the screens, the cabin is actually pretty boring.
In the Merc, the interior is once again stunningly pretty. A pair of screens merge to form the appearance of one widescreen display, but the detail in the A/C vents and trim elements make this a more attractive cockpit to look at. We also like that there are some physical buttons here. Whichever you prefer, both are finished to an impeccable standard and offer plenty of luxury to make your vacation truly relaxing.
The A6 comes with adjustable air suspension as standard for greater ground clearance, but you have to pay extra for a surround-view camera that can be helpful when on narrow trails. Fortunately, you do get four-zone automatic climate control, a heated steering wheel, and a dual-pane panoramic sunroof.
On the Merc, air suspension is also standard with Offroad and Offroad+ driving modes. You also get a number of safety features as standard, including route-based speed adaptation, but it's tough to call a winner here. The old guard and the newbie are similarly impressive in their own ways, but the Merc is definitely the safer choice.
Both of these cars have electric assistance in the form of mild-hybrid systems. The Audi A6 allroad uses a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 that, in conjunction with the electric system, produces 335 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel-drive is standard and is powered with the aid of a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
In the Merc, you get a single engine choice too. Here, it's a 3.0-liter straight-six with EQ Boost that generates 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. AWD is standard fare again, as you'd expect, but a nine-speed automatic manages the output. With more power, similar torque, and a legendarily smooth transmission, the Merc is a firm favorite.
Neither of these cars is particularly cheap. The 2021 Audi A6 allroad starts at a base price of $65,900 before destination, with that price swelling to over $71k if you step up to the top trim. The Merc, on the other hand, is going to be even more expensive. Pricing hasn't yet been revealed, but with the regular E-Class starting at over 66 grand, the All-Terrain version will surely be even pricier. Still, at least that will net you the top (and only) trim in the range, so the cost to value argument is tricky to navigate. That said, a lower price is always more attractive, and the A6 will likely gain a few extra sales as a result of its lower base figure.
Both cars are impressive in their own rights. The Audi is a car that looks amazing without compromising on practicality, while the Merc makes up for its exterior shortcomings with a stunning interior. In terms of performance, the E-Class seems to be the clear winner on paper, but we'd have to take these cars to a trail to get a true gauge of which performs better when the tarmac runs out. If you can get past the boring exterior styling, we think the Merc is the one to go for. Or at least we would if the Audi didn't start at a lower price. After all, this is a new niche for the E-Class. With a lower base price and a proven track record, our favor returns to the A6 allroad.