► Practical Avant joins the A6 range
► Debuts with two diesel engines and confusing names
► Is it better than Merc and BMW competitors?
If you’re the type of person who goes about their business with minimal fuss but likes to just do things properly, chances are you’re the kind of person who appreciates the merits of a good estate car.
The new Audi A6 Avant represents this kind of attitude in the firm’s ever-expanding range. Offering vast interior passenger space, a practical rear end, all the kit you can find on the more expensive A7 and A8 and some punchy powertrains, it begs the question why you’d bother looking at another type of car.
But is it the best estate car?
While its handsome looks and tech-heavy interior impress (especially the material quality and the amount of advanced gadgets you can get – thank you A8), it manages to occupy a space in the estate car market that didn’t really need to be filled.
But that’s only really the case if you go for the top-spec car with the most powerful diesel engine and a bunch of option boxes ticked.
The whooshy 3.0-litre V6 TDI (called 50 TDI under Audi’s new nomenclature, remember?) with air suspension isn’t quite as wafty and smooth as an equivalent Mercedes-Benz E-Class (nor is it as immensely vast inside) and it’s also not quite as responsive to drive as a BMW 5er.
The all-wheel steering option is rather effective at making the A6 feel much more agile than you’d expect, but in combination with the air suspension, it’s never quite as floaty nor as sporty as you might like when you flick between the Drive Select modes. A standard set-up with adaptive dampers is much more effective and is really rather pleasant, so you can save yourself a bit of cash there.
Get to the bit about the boot…
It’s big, it’s square, it’s easily accessible and easy to expand.
There’s a but. It’s no bigger than it was previously (565 litres with the seats in place) and trails its Merc and BMW rivals for capacity, which is where it counts. Buyers want estate cars to be practical, and if you’re thinking practically, your money is better-spent on the Mercedes.
There are some neat touches though. While the electric tailgate is standard, the load cover neatly and smoothly moves up and out of the way so you don’t have to put the effort in, while a fling-your-foot-under-the-bumper system is available at extra cost.
Any other engines?
We’d suggest picking the entry-level 2.0-litre TDI (badged 40 TDI – keeping up?), which is a new unit producing 201bhp and a healthy 295lb/ft of torque, paired with the proven S Tronic dual-clutch gearbox (the 50 TDI gets an eight-speed auto).
It’s very refined and even under hard acceleration doesn’t get too shouty or unruly, but it encourages a relaxed driving style that rather befits a large wagon like this. How many times do you see antiques dealers thrashing their Saab or Volvo estate around a country lane.
Is the interior suitably techy?
Absolutely – featuring Audi’s MMI Touch infotainment system that debuted on the A8. There are screens everywhere and the majority of the dashboard is a feast for fingerprints (keep a cloth in the car), but once you’ve got used to the way the A6’s touchscreens work and where all the menus are, it’s less intimidating to operate than you might expect.
There’s also a huge amount of driver assistance technology available from the options list so the A6 Avant will almost drive itself on a motorway, while mild hybrid systems beneath the bonnet help to make stop-start city driving more efficient and smoother and less jerky.
The jury’s out on the smooth aspect of this, as it can cut in before you’ve actually stopped, and in combination with the sometimes-hesitant gearbox, it can be a little frustrating. There’s no denying how quickly the car switches back on again though, so that’s something…
New Audi A6 Avant: verdict
If you’re thinking of getting an upmarket estate car, it could be tempting to just get the most powerful, most expensive version under the assumption that means you get the best one. That’s not quite the case with the A6.
Stick to the 40 TDI engine and don’t go too crazy with optional spec and you’ll get a refined, composed, grown-up estate car that just gets the job done efficiently and without any drama.
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