New Audi A6 Avant Long-term Review (2020) | CAR Magazine

Audi A6 Avant: the six-month test

Published: 02 September 2019

► Living with an Audi A6 Avant
► Ben Barry takes the wheel
► Read our regular reports

Month 6 living with an Audi A6 Avant: waiting for nothing

Some cars get all sorts wrong and we love them anyway. Others mostly get it right but are unloved because of a few flaws. After 11,000 miles with the A6, I’d say the Audi falls into the second category.

We’ve been testing the front-wheel-drive 2.0-litre TDI, the most affordable of all A6 Avants, and a car we expect to ace everything. So it’s important to stress just how much the A6 gets right. It’s a good-looking car.

The interior offers more than generous space for adults in the back, and we’ve never lacked stowage in the generous boot. The interior is beautifully wrought, from the smooth grain of its high-quality leather to the slick integration of the twin touchscreens and digital instrument binnacle. You cannot sit in an A6 and fail to be impressed.

Despite being a 1.7-tonne car with a modest four-cylinder turbodiesel, the 40 TDI can also shift, with a big whump of low-down torque. It’s refined too, with very little road- or wind noise, the diesel thrum isolated at a motorway cruise.

Other than diesel, the A6 has needed only £20 of AdBlue around 6500 miles. I usually got low-40s mpg, not the 60mpg claimed, but it soared to 48mpg with this month’s 4504-mile marathon.

But there are too many flaws. The steering is vague around the straight-ahead, the suspension rides too fractiously on standard steel springs and fixed dampers, there’s too big a delay when you accelerate from junctions, and too much wheelspin when you finally do move. Quattro and adaptive dampers would help transform the drive, if not the steering.

I find the lane-keeping feature frustrating – it reactivates every time the car is turned on, and aggressively pushes you back into your lane. It doesn’t help that the button is located low on the dash – it’s fiddly and distracting. Ditto the temperature controls on the otherwise excellent infotainment.

The key has been problematic – it’s so sensitive you can bend over to take off your shoes at home and suddenly the boot opens, like Chaplin slapstick. The key also locked itself in the car on a shoot.

A week in a BMW 520d Touring made an interesting comparison, partly because the Audi’s interior looked so much neater and tauter, and its infotainment was better. There was also a bit more road noise in the BMW, and the engine didn’t have quite the same low-down kick. But the BMW rode better (on adaptive dampers) and – crucially – it was significantly better to drive. It wasn’t a walkover, but I’d vote 520d.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Audi A6 Avant 40 TDI Sport

Price £40,740 (£46,805 as tested) 
Performance 1968cc diesel 4-cyl, 201bhp, 8.3sec 0-62mph, 149mph 
Efficiency 60.1mpg (official), 39.9mpg (tested), 124g/km C02 
Energy cost 14.9p per mile 
Miles this month 3087
Total miles 7209

Month 5 living with an Audi A6 Avant: trying the V6

A6 Avant V6

I’ve covered over 3000 miles in our A6 40 TDI this month, but I also tested its 50 TDI big brother. It’s a much better drive – instead of four cylinders, front drive, coil springs and dual-clutch gearbox, it gets six cylinders, quattro, air suspension and a torque converter. The big six is refined and much punchier, but it’s the lack of wheelspin from junctions and the better isolated ride that really triggered the buyer’s remorse. But while the gearbox is mostly quick, it’s still dangerously laggy out of junctions.

So yes, the 50’s the better car. Great news! But the 50 TDI is over £8k more expensive, emits 21g/km CO2 extra and returned about 6mpg less in my hands. It’ll cost a substantial chunk extra to run.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Audi A6 Avant 40 TDI Sport

Price £40,740 (£46,805 as tested) 
Performance 1968cc diesel 4-cyl, 201bhp, 8.3sec 0-62mph, 149mph 
Efficiency 60.1mpg (official), 39.9mpg (tested), 124g/km C02 
Energy cost 14.9p per mile 
Miles this month 3087
Total miles 7209

Month 4 living with an Audi A6 estate: is there too much tech?

The Audi A6 is, in many ways, a very good car. It’s spacious for my family and all our kit, build quality is excellent, technology impresses, it’s lovely and quiet at a cruise – this is all extremely good. But I’m not loving driving the A6, for several reasons. To recap, this is the entry-level 40 TDI, which means a 2.0-litre turbodiesel with front-wheel drive, seven-speed dual-clutch auto and fixed dampers with steel springs. This combination is a problem.

The electrically assisted steering is odd: you can waggle it left and right about an inch from top dead centre and nothing happens. This may enhance stability at an autobahn cruise, but it makes the car feel disconnected from the road and binary in the way it responds – nothing at all, then quite a lot.

A large front-wheel-drive car that makes no great claims in terms of driving dynamics needs to ride really well, but the A6 rides fractiously over less than perfect tarmac on its 19-inch alloys, even with generous sidewalls. 

The transmission also frustrates. It can lag behind when you give it some throttle out of a junction (usually the exact moment you can’t afford it to lag due to approaching traffic), at which point you’ll probably accelerate harder. The problem is, this means everything kicks in at once: the revs soar and front tyres scrabble, causing the traction control to cut power. And then you’re still going nowhere.

I’ve also had moments where I’ve used the paddleshifters to drop from third  to second gear coming into a roundabout while in auto, but then the software doubles up and drops a gear too. Suddenly I’m in first with the revs flaring and the software doesn’t seem to want to climb back up to second, even when you’re clicking at the paddle.

Like I said, there are many positives about the A6 40 TDI, but a load I’d change about the drive.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Audi A6 Avant 40 TDI Sport

Price £40,740 (£46,805 as tested)
Performance 1968cc diesel 4-cyl, 201bhp, 8.3sec 0-62mph, 149mph
Efficiency 60.1mpg (official), 39.9mpg (tested), 124g/km C02
Energy cost 14.9p per mile
Miles this month 933
Total miles 4122

Month 3 of our Audi A6 Avant long-term test: pulsing accelerators and lane-keep assist

Audi A6 Avant touchscreen

Two things need turning off on the A6, the first easy – a pulsing throttle intended to tell you to stop accelerating. Annoying, but easy enough to permanently neutralise.

But lane-keeping assist, although it can be disengaged, reactivates each time you start the car. With it on, the steering tries to stop you crossing white lines unless you indicate, and feels leaden like a flat tyre. The off button is hard to find by touch, meaning some potentially dangerous eyes-off-road time. If you move out to overtake a cyclist without indicating the steering will fight you; and returning to the correct lane after overtaking a car can be thwarted by the A6 wanting to keep you in the wrong lane.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Audi A6 Avant 40 TDI Sport

Price £40,740 (£46,805 as tested) 
Performance 1968cc 4-cyl turbodiesel, 201bhp, 8.3sec 0-62mph, 149mph 
Efficiency 60.1mpg (official), 40.5mpg (tested), 124g/km C02 
Energy cost 14.9p per mile 
Miles this month 1408 
Total miles 2238 

Month 2 living with an Audi A6 Avant: this or a Mazda 6?

Audi A6 Avant or Mazda 6 Tourer?

I’d barely settled in to CAR’s new Audi A6 test car when photographer Alex Tapley (in hat, on my car) asked for a week-long swap with his Mazda 6 Tourer. The two 6s do make an interesting comparison: a large German luxury estate that’s a default choice, and a Japanese alternative that’s much cheaper but rarely seen – it’s £8k more affordable in standard form, £14k as tested. Are UK buyers missing a trick here?

Well, Alex seemed pretty excited about nabbing the A6. Part of the appeal came down to the badge, he admitted. He felt a more successful kind of photographer driving something with four rings on its nose. But the A6’s boot also proved to be a useful bit bigger for all that camera gear he lugs around – what is all that stuff? – with 565 litres seats-up to the Mazda’s 480. That’s partly because the Audi is 74mm longer at 4939mm.

With all the miles Alex covers, the Audi’s apparently huge mpg advantage also appealed. ‘It’s pretty impressive that the Mazda officially does 41.5mpg considering it’s a big car with a 2.5-litre petrol engine,’ he commented, ‘but the Audi’s four-cylinder turbodiesel would make a big difference to my fuel costs if it gets anywhere near 60.1mpg.’

The Audi’s cockpit made the biggest impression. ‘Its infotainment is far superior to the Mazda’s,’ noted Alex, pointing to the slick twin touchscreens that define the dashboard. ‘It’s also a much nicer place to spend a journey – it’s quieter, looks smarter, and I find it easier to get comfortable in the A6.’

To drive? ‘Both cars are pretty undynamic and gutless,’ he observed, damning both with no praise at all.

Audi A6 Avant long-term test

And so I found myself in the Mazda 6. I like the Mazda’s design, with its muscular haunches and poised stance. Inside, though, I’m definitely on the same page as Alex – the Mazda’s back in the mircrofilm era where the Audi’s gone full iPad. Not that it’s all bad. I don’t mind the analogue dash instruments at all, because even though they’re not as flashy as the Audi’s digi dash, they’re easier to process at a glance. Which is the point. And I appreciate the minimalist feel. But the infotainment looks a couple of generations out of date after the Audi’s, and in general you don’t get the same sense of slick execution or chunky quality.

On the go, you notice there’s much more road noise fizzing through the Mazda’s cabin than the Audi’s, but then the Mazda is almost 100kg lighter, and the payback seems to be a sharper feel dynamically – there’s a bit of ants-in-its-pants fidgeting over small imperfections, but mostly you notice the generous, comfortable stroke of the dampers. This makes the 6 flow quite sweetly over a twisty backroad, and you can play with the bodyroll to make it feel quite responsive and adjustable where the Audi is more one-dimensional. I also prefer the Mazda’s steering – nice and light, but accurate and responsive too.

But, yes, Alex is right about the Mazda feeling gutless – if you took the plunge and opted for a 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated petrol rather than the default four-cylinder diesel, you’d probably feel a bit excited. Instead, the Mazda is lethargic in the midrange and quite thrashy when stretched – the Audi 2.0 TDI is no peach, but I missed its generous low- and midrange punch. Having 105lb ft extra is just a better fit for a big estate.

As you can see from our mpg, though, the two are closer than you’d think – the petrol Mazda is typically averaging around 34mpg where the diesel Audi is only just making 40mpg. With diesel often 10p a litre pricier than petrol, that means on today’s prices you’ll pay around £56 to go 350 miles in the Mazda, but £52 in the Audi. Not what you’d expect if you looked at the stats.

Meeting up a week later, Alex seemed to like the Audi a bit more than I do, and I think I liked the Mazda a bit more than he does. He said he’d prefer to stick in the Audi. I said I’d prefer him to give it back. But it’s a decent car, that Mazda.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Audi A6 Avant 40 TDI Sport

Price £40,740 (£46,805 as tested)
Performance 1968cc 4-cyl turbodiesel, 201bhp, 8.3sec 0-62mph, 149mph
Efficiency 60.1mpg (official), 40.5mpg (tested), 124g/km C02
Energy cost 14.9p per mile
Miles this month 1408
Total miles 2238 

More long-term tests by CAR magazine: we live with cars to see how they perform in daily life

Month 1 of our Audi A6 Avant long-term test: the introduction

Audi A6 long-term test by CAR magazine

Asking the Germans to build you an estate car is a bit like asking the Italians to knock you up some pasta. According to analysts JATO, German drivers account for 37 per cent of the European estate car market, and Europe accounts for 72 per cent of estate-car demand globally. When you’re part of this kind of success, why would you make any radical changes? No reason at all if you’re Audi and your mission is to come up with the fifth-generation A6 Avant.

Still a mix of steel and aluminium, it grows 6mm versus its predecessor at 4.94 metres long and has a 12mm longer wheelbase, but carries no more stuff – though at 565 litres, luggage space could never be described as a bit pokey. More significantly, Audi has rolled out mild hybrid tech across the range – a system that captures energy under deceleration and feeds it into a lithium-ion battery to redeploy when needed. It means the engine can shut off and coast during gentle driving between 34mph and, ahem, 99mph, and when you’re slowing down its stop-start system kicks in from just over 13mph. There’s also Audi’s new dual-touchscreen infotainment system, which even swaps physical heater dials for a touchscreen graphic that you swipe and prod. Looks neat, but let’s hope it’s slick to use.

Audi A6 Avant LTT interior

The launch range spans four- and six-cylinder turbodiesels, with only a 2.0-litre turbo four confirmed beyond that, but there are four different suspension set-ups including full air springs, and even the option of rear-wheel steer.

Our car’s 40 TDI badge suggests a large engine, but it’s actually a 2.0 turbodiesel with 201bhp. The rest of the spec includes an S-tronic dual-clutch gearbox, front-wheel drive, standard steel springs and fixed dampers.

We’ve also got the entry-level Sport trim, not top-spec S-line. There is no more affordable (‘cheap’ isn’t the right word) A6 Avant, making this car representative of the kind of spec you’d stretch to on a company-car scheme. So hopefully there’ll be plenty of you interested to see how we get on with that new technology, and how close we can get to the official mpg figures with the help of mild-hybridisation.

Audi A6 Avant LTT side pan

Not that this A6 is completely rep-spec. On top of the significant £40,740 basic price, our car gets £6955 of options. These include 360º camera with front/rear parking sensors (£700), electric memory front seats (£725), acoustic glazing for the side windows (£525), four-zone climate control (£825), 19-inch alloys (£1150) and the Technology pack. The latter costs £1495 and introduces a larger upper touchscreen (10.1 inches instead of the standard 8.8), Google Earth navigation, Virtual Cockpit (a fully digital instrument binnacle that you can configure to include the sat-nav map between speedo and rev dials) and wireless phone charging. Surprisingly, our car’s Glacier White paint is also optional. It’s a metallic, but it looks pretty Transit to me, and costs £685. I’d have probably gone for Firmament Blue, also £685. It all tots up to £46,805.

For now, I’ve only just managed to use a tank of fuel since delivery, but I’ll be covering a chunk more miles over the next month. I’ll wait until then to report back on what the new A6 is like to drive.

By Ben Barry

Logbook: Audi A6 Avant 40 TDI Sport

Price £40,740
As tested £46,805
Engine 1968cc 16v turbodiesel, 201bhp @ 3750rpm, 295lb ft @ 1750rpm
Transmission Seven-speed dual-clutch speed auto, all-wheel drive
Performance 8.3sec 0-62mph, 149mph, 124g/km CO2
Miles this month 390
Total 830
Our mpg 38.2
Official mpg 60.1
Fuel this month £63.45
Extra costs None

Check out our Audi reviews

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator