Review: Audi’s A6 Avant continues to be a superb premium load-lugger
What is it?
Audi, despite its myriad of SUV and crossover offerings, still makes produces two estate cars – the A4 Avant and this, the all-new A6 Avant. Though it’s hard to deny the appeal that the four-wheel-drive market is currently experiencing, the everyday estate car is still there for those who want space, practicality and ease-of-use wrapped up in a more road-friendly bodystyle.
Audi’s new A6 boasts more technology than ever before, along with a pair of efficient diesel engines too. We’re testing it here in range-topping S Line specification.
It was no small task to replace the old A6 Avant. The previous car had proved immeasurably popular, with sleek, elegant and understated styling somehow managing to defy time. So when it came to revealing the new one, there was a fair amount of expectation mounted on to it.
Fortunately, we needn’t have worried. The new A6 Avant arrived with the same classy approach to exterior design and interior layout. There are improved materials, a good amount of standard equipment and, as before, a brilliantly large boot.
What’s under the bonnet?
You’ve actually got just two engine options available with the A6 Avant. There’s a range-topping ‘50’ 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel with 282bhp, or the entry-grade ‘40’ 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel, which is the one we have here. It produces 201bhp and 400Nm of torque, and it’s driven to the front wheels in our test car via a seven-speed automatic gearbox. Of course, Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system is available as an extra, and there’s good reason to specify this – though we’ll come to that later.
It’s certainly the engine choice for those who want reasonable economy figures. Audi claims 57.6mpg combined (with cars running 20-inch alloy wheels, like ours), alongside emissions of 129g/km CO2. Though these figures are good, it doesn’t mean the A6 Avant is underpowered – 0-60mph take a respectable 8.1 seconds, with acceleration topping out at 149mph.
What’s it like to drive?
The A6 Avant has always famously been an accomplished long-distance cruiser and this latest version is no different. At motorway speeds it’s remarkably hushed, with the engine making next to no audible intrusion on the cabin. The steering has a good weight to it (albeit with little feel), and there’s more than enough power on tap to make overtaking or merging an easy task indeed.
It’s at lower speeds where the effect falters somewhat. The issue lies predominately with the gearbox, which can be sluggish to send power to the wheels when pulling away from a dead stop. It means that if you want to make a quick dash into a roundabout, or briskly leave a junction, then you can be left waiting for the power to arrive. It quickly gets tiresome.
And when that power does eventually arrive, it can often be too much for the front tyres to cope with. Driven gently the powertrain doesn’t trouble the forward rubber all that often, but push the throttle with a little more fervor and you’ll likely feel the front wheels scrabbling for traction. We’d opt for the quattro system to avoid this.
How does it look?
As mentioned earlier, the A6 Avant’s design still toes on the understated side of things and, for most, that won’t be bad thing whatsoever. Yes, the front grille is almost obscenely large and there’s all manner of chrome accents dotted across the exterior car, but it’s not an ostentatious design – far from it.
It’s a big car, too, but somehow Audi has managed to disguise its sheer size with a variety of cut lines and trim pieces. It’s been quite successful in hiding the car’s overall bulk, and it means that the A6 Avant looks more dynamic than other estates.
What’s it like inside?
Audi’s on a bit of a roll when it comes to car interiors of late; the new Q8’s cabin is effortlessly stylish, and even the compact A1’s cockpit feels almost surprisingly well-made for a compact hatch. It’ll come as no surprise then that the A6 Avant’s cabin is very well made.
High-quality materials have been used throughout the interior, and everything feels very well put together. It’s centred around a widescreen infotainment system which dominates the cabin, but when combined with the high-definition Virtual Cockpit makes for a very high-tech feeling place to be.
What’s the spec like?
Our car, as mentioned, came in top-spec S-Line trim. It means you get a full sports styling kit with a dynamic front splitter design. As well as that, you get a lowered sports suspension setup, and Audi’s excellent Matrix LED headlights paired with scrolling rear indicators. You also get 19-inch alloy wheels as standard, though the ones on our test car had been upgraded to larger 20-inch units which were accompanied by a fearsome £1,550 price tag.
S Line cars get a full navigation system, though we’d argue that it’s worth adding the technology pack for £1,495. This brings with it a 10.1-inch top screen system, accompanied by an 8.6-inch screen underneath it to control heating and ventilation functions. You also get the 12.3-inch virtual cockpit system, which replaces the traditional dials and looks fantastic.
Audi’s latest A6 Avant is a dependable, comfortable and refined long-distance load-lugger – just as it always has been, historically. The newly-updated cabin feels special too, and elevates the feel of the car far above that of just a usual ‘estate’. We’d argue that quattro really needs to be added to the package to make it fully rounded – particularly in the UK, where the weather often requires better traction than in most countries – but save for that, this is one accomplished wagon.