Audi A6 Avant 40 TDI Sport

New es­tate as­sessed

Autocar - - THIS WEEK - LAWRENCE AL­LAN @lob­al­lan

It has a big job on its hands, this car. Audi is pitch­ing it as some kind of ‘one size fits all’ model. To sat­isfy the prac­ti­cal­ity needs of the mar­ket, it has grown in width, height and wheel­base length. It is, how­ever, shorter thanks to cropped over­hangs.

Along­side a dizzy­ing ar­ray of new cabin and driver as­sis­tance tech, the A6 also joins the lat­est A7 and A8 in adopt­ing mild-hy­brid sys­tems across the range. The re­sult is an av­er­age ef­fi­ciency gain of 10% over the old car.

The A6 Avant plays up to the well-worn Audi cliché: it’s a class chal­lenger that builds on its pre­de­ces­sor in every area with an ex­ceed­ing level of pol­ish, but very lit­tle sur­prise and de­light. That’s not a black mark by any means, though. Ex­ec­u­tive es­tates are meant to be con­sum­mate all-rounders and, on that ba­sis, it’s up there with the best.

We’ll let you make up your own mind on the styling. Audi makes lots of noise about the steeply raked rear win­dow line, claim­ing it negates the need to offer a ‘shoot­ing brake’ op­tion yet doesn’t im­pede on boot space. The 565-litre boot is longer but no big­ger over­all than be­fore. Rear head and leg room have im­proved sig­nif­i­cantly, though.

The in­te­rior is quintessen­tially Audi. Fit and fin­ish are al­most with­out fault, the ma­te­ri­als feel suit­ably high-end and even mi­nor switchgear op­er­ates slickly.

There’s one rather cru­cial ex­cep­tion to this, though. The new MMI Touch dual-screen lay­out has at­tracted crit­i­cism from us in the past, and it’s no dif­fer­ent here. The hap­tic feed­back works, but it of­ten re­quires a sec­ond or even third stab be­fore it re­acts and is need­lessly tricky to op­er­ate on the move. The eyes-up sim­plic­ity of the old ro­tary con­trol dial is sorely missed.

If you want sim­plic­ity, look at the A6’s bare-bones UK en­gine line-up. There are just two choices at launch and both are, rather un­fash­ion­ably, diesel. One’s a V6 (badged 50 TDI) but we’re try­ing the vol­ume seller here: the ven­er­a­ble 2.0-litre 40 TDI in 201bhp form.

De­spite the size and weight it has to move, it’s very well matched to the Avant, in part thanks to the stan­dard seven-speed dual-clutch gear­box. Other than some hes­i­ta­tion when pulling away, its changes are smooth and pre­dictable, keep­ing the mo­tor in the sweet spot be­tween re­sponse and re­fine­ment.

It means that, as with the old car, the base A6 makes a bet­ter case for it­self as an all-rounder than the sig­nif­i­cantly pricier six-pot, which is lum­bered with a de­cid­edly less slick eight-speed Tip­tronic ’box.

The new mild-hy­brid tech op­er­ates largely im­per­cep­ti­bly. The en­gi­ne­off coast­ing is un­nerv­ing ini­tially, but the sys­tem al­ways restarts the mo­ment you brush the throt­tle. It also adds re­fine­ment to what is al­ready a cabin pleas­ingly free of wind, road and en­gine grum­ble.

Al­though there’s no weak link in the en­gine range, we rec­om­mend you choose care­fully with the sus­pen­sion op­tions. We tried the springs with adap­tive dampers back-to-back with the air sus­pen­sion and found the for­mer of­fers a more con­sis­tent com­pro­mise be­tween tidy body con­trol and a taut, yet iso­lat­ing, ride. The air sys­tem is sur­pris­ingly un­set­tled at lower speeds and is worth avoid­ing as a re­sult.

Com­fort has im­proved, then, and so has agility – at least on the cars we drove fit­ted with the rear-steer sys­tem. But don’t think this sud­denly trans­forms the A6 Avant into a thrillseek­ing sport­ing es­tate. This is still a car that puts com­po­sure be­fore fun, with neu­tral cor­ner­ing be­hav­iour and lit­tle in the way of en­ter­tain­ment. Best, then, to en­joy the way the A6 feels un­fazed by any sit­u­a­tion you throw it at. It’s cer­tainly among the most pol­ished ex­ec­u­tive of­fer­ings, but the ever-dominant BMW 5 Se­ries Tour­ing re­mains a bet­ter drive.

Re­fine­ment on the move and a roomy, feel-good in­te­rior are key A6 Avant strengths

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