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Audi A6 Avant estate (2011 – ) expert review

By David Motton, 21st July 2011

The verdict

The Audi A6 Avant is a stylish, practical and economical estate car which rivals the BMW 5 Series Touring and Mercedes E-Class Estate.

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Expert rating:

4.2

Pros

  • Strong performance from all engines
  • Lots of space for passengers and their luggage
  • Reduced emissions compared with the old A6 Avant

Cons

  • Expensive to buy
  • Firm ride on larger alloy wheels
  • Load floor not quite flat

Full Review

1. Exterior

The days when estate cars were boxy and dull are long gone. To many eyes, the Audi A6 Avant is a better looking car than the saloon. With its steeply sloping rear windscreen, strong shoulder line and taut surfaces the A6 is muscular and sporty. The confident Audi grille and intricate headlights add to the assertive character. That’s especially true of the S line model, which sits lower to the ground on larger alloys, and has LED running lamps set into the headlight design. The S6 variant takes things a step further, with a subtle roof spoiler, front and rear diffusers, black painted brake callipers and quad exhaust tail-pipes giving it an aesthetic fitting of its performance bent. Only taste separates the success of its looks when compared to the BMW 5 Series Touring and Mercedes E-Class Estate.

Our rating: 4

2. Interior

Few manufacturers do interior design as well as Audi. There’s a solidity and quality to everything you see and feel which goes some way to justifying the premium price tag. The cabin has some neat touches, too, like the way the 6.5-inch colour sat-nav screen glides out of the dash when you start the car and some seriously lavish dashboard trim options. The dials are easy to read and the controls are mostly intuitive, although the MMI (Multi Media Interface) takes a little getting used to. The S6 gets subtle logos, diamond quilted sports seats and flashes of aluminium detailing to separate it from the rest of the range.

Our rating: 5

3.Practicality

Some estates sacrifice space for the sake of style, but the A6 Avant juggles these competing demands better than most. There’s 565 litres of space with rear seats upright, five litres more than in a BMW 5 Series Touring. Fold the seats down (levers either side of the boot do the job) and there’s 1,680 litres to fill. That’s ten litres more than in the BMW. However, the Audi can’t match the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate, with its massive 1,950-litre load bay. Passengers have plenty of room, too, with more rear legroom than in the old A6 Avant.

Our rating: 4

4.Ride and handling

Standard cars come with conventional springs and dampers, but Audi expects a quarter of buyers to shell out the extra money for optional air suspension. The air-sprung cars do ride better than regular models. With either form of suspension, Audi Drive Select gives drivers the choice of softer of firmer settings to suit the road or the driver’s mood. Think twice before choosing one of the lower slung S line models, as the ride is very firm, especially on the optional 20-inch alloy wheels. Handling is neat and composed, but there’s not enough feedback from the steering wheel to draw the driver into the action. Quattro four-wheel drive models give useful extra traction on slippery roads – something which is particularly evident on the S6. Combined to its electronic locking differential and torque vectoring system, the four-wheel drive turns this sports estate into a formidable all-weather weapon.

Our rating: 3

5.Performance

From launch there was a choice of three diesel engines and one petrol, with a powerful 3.0-litre bi-turbo diesel introduced at the end of 2011. The top seller is expected to be the 175bhp 2-litre diesel. It may be the least powerful engine in the line-up, but there’s still plenty of muscle for overtaking. The least powerful of the 3-litre diesels has 26bhp more than the 2-litre, but it’s the six-cylinder engines’ smoothness and refinement which make it worth considering over the smaller engine. There’s also a swift 3-litre TFSI supercharged petrol. For heavyweight punch combined with impressive economy look no further than the new 3-litre twin-turbo TDI, which hits 62mph in just 5.4 seconds. It sounds good for a diesel, too. The performance flagship, however, is the S6. It’s muscular 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine may make it a niche choice on our shores, but there’s no doubting it’s a sublime motor. Effortlessly quick thanks to prodigious (405lb/ft) pulling power; its 4.7 second 0-62mph time is enough to rival even purpose built sports cars.

Our rating: 4

6.Running costs

Thanks to its light weight (aluminium is used extensively to save a few kilos) highly efficient engines and some clever technology, the A6 Avant is one of the cleanest and most efficient large estate cars. The 2.0-litre diesel leads the way, returning 57.6mpg and emitting just 129g/km of carbon dioxide. That puts the car in band D for Vehicle Excise Duty and the 18 per cent bracket for company car drivers. Even the thirstiest regular model, the 3.0 TFSI, manages a respectable 34.5mpg and 190g/km of CO2. Resale values should be among the best in class, too. As expected, the S6 is the most expensive to run in the range, but a combined fuel consumption of 29.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 226g/km, are not excessive considering the size of the engine and the performance on tap.

Our rating: 5

7.Reliability

The standard of build and finish is first rate, and if the same attention to detail has been applied to the parts you can’t see then the Avant should prove durable. The old A6 was a solid performer in customer satisfaction and reliability surveys, which bodes well for the new model.

Our rating: 4

8.Safety

The A6 was awarded the full five stars when it was crash tested by Euro NCAP. No corners have been cut in the specification: as well as the usual airbags and stability control, buyers can choose optional kit like a lane departure system which warns if the car is wandering and gently steers the car back in line, and automatic braking which slows the A6 if the driver fails to spot a slower vehicle ahead.

Our rating: 5

9.Equipment

The A6 Avant range is simpler than before, with a straight choice between SE and S line models. The SE has 17-inch alloys, tyre pressure monitoring, leather seats, cruise control, climate control and a luggage rail fixing system. For an extra £2350, S line models add 18-inch alloy wheels, S line body styling, Xenon headlights, sports suspension, sports seats with electric adjustment, brushed aluminium interior trim and a three-spoke multi-function steering wheel. Debuting on the S6 is Audi’s latest gadget, Active Noise Cancellation. Using four integrated microphones, the system listens to the ambient noise levels and plays ‘anti phase’ noises through the stereo speakers to counteract any unwanted intrusions, i.e. from the engine or a passing lorry. Audi claims a noise reduction of 75%, which is hard to quantify, but the almost eerie quiet of our test car’s cabin spoke volumes (pun intended) as to its effect.

Our rating: 4

10.Why buy?

If you want an estate car which looks great yet is still practical, the A6 Avant should be on your shortlist.

Our rating: 4

Expert review 4.2stars

  • Exterior4
  • Interior5
  • Practicality4
  • Ride and handling3
  • Performance4
  • Running costs5
  • Reliability4
  • Safety5
  • Equipment4
  • Why buy?4

Our recommendations

Best on a budget:

A6 Avant 2.0 TDI SE

Economical, but still a strong performer

Best-seller:

A6 Avant 2.0 TDI SE

All the car most buyers need

Blow the budget:

S6 Avant 4.0 TFSI Quattro

Fantastic performance in all weathers

Some estates sacrifice some space for the sake of style, but the A6 Avant juggles these competing demands better than most