12.1.2017Audi A6 Avant review
An executive estate can offer just about everything a driver might look for in a car, and Audi's A6 Avant is a case in point. From the extremely frugal ultra model, to the supercar chasing RS6 Avant, the big-booted Audi seemingly offers something for everyone. Here we test the greenest version - the A6 Avant 2.0 TDI ultra - to see if it can live up to its promises.
Review by Chris Lilly
With a 2.0 litre diesel engine producing 190hp, even the most frugal A6 Avant still offers a good level of performance. A 0-62mph time of 8.5 seconds will be fast enough for the majority of situations, and a top speed of 140mph indicates that the Audi is at home on a motorway. There's plenty of punch available too with a torque figure of 400 Nm, meaning you get a quick pick up in pace at almost any speed or gear. The practical result of these figures is an easy car to drive anywhere, with the A6 Avant able to hide its size and weight easily thanks to a good line-up of engine choices. It feels sprightly enough on the open road, will potter around town comfortably enough, and sits ad a very comfortable cruise in its more natural habitat on the motorway. Hardly lightning quick then, but far from sluggish either.
It is this section of the review that really begins to separate the executive models apart from each other's rivals. BMW has a reputation for being agile, Mercedes for being comfortable, Jaguar typically offers a good balance between the two, and Audi creates a very safe and sure footed car. This is true of the A6 Avant in ultra specification, as it is comfortable and precise, but doesn't offer an engaging drive like its BMW of Jaguar rivals. In fact, that's a positive for the majority of the time that you drive on public roads, since the Audi is nicely balanced between having supple suspension, and being too soft for twistier roads. Likewise, a Mercedes E-Class will soak up pot-holes around town with greater aplomb, but the A6 Avant performs well despite that. For such a long car, the A6 Avant proves surprisingly easy to pilot, with the tight spaces and turns of urban roads seemingly shrugged off by the Audi and it's precise - if not very communicative - steering.
Personally I'm a sucker for a nice estate car. The Volvo V90 looks better than the admittedly sharp S90, Jaguar's previous generation XF had more presence than the saloon, and the same can be said for the hardly ugly Alfa Romeo 159. I'm on the same theme with the Audi A6 too, with the Avant - in my opinion - being a very stylish car, in an understated way. What the Avant does offer over the saloon is a very large boot. There are larger available, but if you're going to complain about load space in the A6 Avant, you'd be better off buying a van. The load area is helped by a wide opening with a low sill, giving access to a huge boot with no silly ridges or wheel arches to work around. Put simply, if you're looking to stock up at your local flat-pack furniture shop, or need to do a big tip run, the A6 Avant will be a great choice. The rest of the time, there is space for a pack of dogs, a fortnight's holiday luggage, or enough shopping to put a serious dent in the credit card. It's long and fairly wide, so you have to pick parking spaces a little more carefully than usual, but visibility is good and the fairly squared-off shape helps you know where the extremities are.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The A6 Avant's cabin is extremely good, both in terms of style and finish. It competes even with newer models from BMW and Mercedes, and the controls feel high quality and built to last. The console layout has a few too many buttons really - though the shortcut keys for the infotainment controls are handy - but it's all fairly logically laid out, and the large digital centre element to the instrument binnacle is useful. In terms of comfort, the A6 Avant ticks all the right boxes there. Those up front will have more space than they really know what to do with, and the seats are comfortable and supportive even over long journeys. In the back, there is a little less head, leg, and shoulder room to play with as usual, but nothing to complain about. The Avant means there isn't a sloping rear roofline to cramp head space, while the car's overall length and width mean that even tall adults can sit in the back with no problems. Over short distances, you'd be able to take five adults and lots of luggage if a couple of there were on the smallish side. Otherwise, four adults, or two and three children, are easily carted from place to place.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
In this ultra version of the A6 Avant, the Audi offers some very good fuel economy figures - comparable to its rivals, or better in some instances. With an official figure of 61.4 MPG, the A6 Avant lets you get pretty close to this in real world driving, returning **.* MPG in my hands during its test. In terms of tax, it sits in VED Band D with CO2 emissions of 121 g/km, though I was driving the Black Edition specification, and the A6 Avant 2.0 TDI ultra gets as low as 114 g/km Co2 in SE Executive trim - Band C. This will cost Â£110 or Â£30 a year respectively under the current tax regulations, though these are changing as of April 2017.
The ultra moniker is reserved by Audi for the most efficient powertrain in each model line-up. As such, the A6 Avant ultra benefits from features including longer gear ratios, improved aerodynamics, an efficiency setting on the drive select tool, engine stop/start, brake energy recuperation, and lightweight chassis and components. When in efficiency mode, the car will coast when off the throttle at higher speeds with the seven-speed S tronic automatic gearbox. With the adaptive air suspension, the car will lower itself by a centimeter at motorway speeds to improve aerodynamics, and the navigation system can link up with the gearbox to let the transmission know the stat of the road ahead to be in the correct gear accordingly. The ultra version of Audi's A6 - though in saloon form - covered 1158.9 miles on one tank of diesel last year, averaging 75.9 MPG in real-world driving conditions, proving the systems work. According to our calculations, the tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 41.
The Audi A6 Avant range sees ultra specifications in all non-sports models - that's to say A6 rather than S6 or RS6. Prices start at Â£35,820 for the SE Executive ultra with six-speed manual, and the ultra models are the only ones able to be specified with a manual gearbox. You will need to add around Â£1,500 for the seven-speed automatic but it is more efficient, while the model tested was the A6 Avant Black Edition ultra, which starts at Â£42,325. Standard kit across the range includes 17-inch alloy wheels, leather trim, multi media system with DAB, Bluetooth and smartphone connectivity, front and rear parking sensors, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, and keyless entry and start. Moving up via S Line trim to Black Edition adds sports suspension, LED headlights and dynamic rear indicators, front sports seats, sportier exterior trim, 20-inch alloys, and a Bose surround sound system. Options fitted included the parking pack which added a rear camera and park assist, and adaptive air suspension.
The A6 Avant has, unfortunately for Audi, recently seen its rivals from BMW and Mercedes replaced with newer models. This means that for similar cash, drivers can get a slightly faster car for a little less money. However, the A6 Avant's strengths mean it is not so easy as all that to simply be overlooked. The gap between Audi and its two German rivals is small, and the A6 Avant is an extremely efficient, stylish, and practical machine. It's a good balance between the BMW's sportiness and Mercedes' comfort too, with it worth remembering that the entry level engine for the A6 Avant produces 190hp. To reach the same sort of figure for the 5-Series Touring and E Class Estate, you need to pick the next engine up from the bottom. The A6 Avant is a fine all-round workhorse and worthy of consideration for anyone in the market for a large executive estate.
Model tested: Audi A6 Avant 2.0 TDI ultra Black Edition
Body-style: Executive estate
Engine / CO2: 2.0 litre TDI 190hp diesel / 121 g/km
Trim grades: SE Executive, S Line, Black Edition
On-road price: From £35,820. Price as tested £42,325 (£48,790 inc. options)
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars