Audi A6 Avant 40 TDI Sport
New estate assessed
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