Prince Charles and the Audi A6 Allroad Aug06

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Prince Charles and the Audi A6 Allroad

The UK Telegraph’s Neil Lyndon describes the heir to the British throne’s cool new ride

Sir Michael Caine has given up his Rolls-Royce and stopped wearing his Rolex watch out of respect for “people scraping and scrimping to feed their loved ones” in austerity Britain.

Michael Winner refuses to go quite so far but, as his own way of donning a hair shirt, he has declared that he might no longer ride around in a Rolls-Royce. In future, he will be seen only in his Bentley.

Perhaps these well-heeled but retiring gentlemen should get an Audi A6 Allroad. At the launch, Audi almost grovelled at the feet of potential buyers, sounding like a modern Uriah Heep: “The Allroad owner is very affluent. He is an opinion leader within his community. This is a car that truly matches a high-end lifestyle.”

Audi didn’t say so but everybody there knew it was talking about Prince Charles. At last count, the heir to the throne was the keeper of two A6 Allroads and so many members of his extended family drive Audis that the company might add a line to its four-ring logo that says “Purveyors of Fine Motors to the House of Windsor”.

An A6 Allroad is just about as elevated a car as it is possible to buy without signalling to the masses that you are a rich git. If Bentley made an estate car at less than half the price of its normal offerings, this would be it.

Audi claims that the Allroad is “the most versatile premium estate car available today” and – unusually for the utterances of a car-maker – every word of that sentence might withstand objective scrutiny. Its adaptive air suspension with increased ground clearance, combined with Audi’s quattro 4×4 system, would allow it to keep going on boggy tracks and icy drives when a more conventional car would be stuck: just the job for the polo field after a shower.

In its 3.0-litre BiTDI form, with more than 300bhp, it also offers the overtaking capabilities of a sports car, the composure on the road of a luxury car and a rate of progress from point to point which could not be beaten at legal speeds. Its gigantic maw of a load space is even bigger, when the seats are down, than that of a Volvo XC70.

Yet there’s a depth of cabin luxury and refinement that is dangerously close to making it the preserve of the rich. The sumptuous leather upholstery which comes as standard will certainly not be allowed after the revolution; discreet inlays of polished veneer that decorated the top-of-the-range bi-turbo version I drove will need to stay the owner’s little secret if they are not to be torn out by sans-culottes.

The exhaust system in that model has been fitted with a loudspeaker (I am not making this up) which transforms the note of the diesel’s V6 engine to that of a raucous V8. If you don’t want to scare the horses, you can tune this out by fiddling with remote controls in the cabin. No wonder the proles are restless.

This is the third A6 Allroad Audi has produced since 1999, each one a more unashamed slap in the face to egalitarian principles. The most basic 3.0 BiTDI is priced at just under £50,000, but the one I drove would cost more than £63,500 after all its extras (not including Rolex) have been added on.

A manifest social injustice, I call it.