Time for two very different takes on the hot-hatch formula to face off
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The Top Gear car review:Audi A6 Avant
For:Classy cabin, 4wd and masses of space
Against:Still not the best to drive and it's mighty expensive once specced
3.0 BiTDI  Quattro S Line 5dr Tip Auto
Ginormous V6 torque and mighty grip mean this A6 Avant is ideal for hooning around
So much cooler than the Q5 – and it does everything that car does for less cash. Why buy anything else?
What we say:
A practical way to shift a lot of kit, but there are other ways to get more enjoyment from doing so
What is it?
One of Audi’s staples in a range that is increasingly confused with samey niche models, the A6 Avant is a large, refined and spacious estate in the old-school mould. It’s not particularly interesting to look at, although it can be (and often is) blinged to the nouveau-riche max with S line trim and massive alloys. The best cars, however, are modest diesel workhorses that offer the most comfort, refinement and economy. All-new in 2011, it’s just been facelifted ready for 2015, but you’ll be hard pushed to notice.
Never Audi’s strongest suit, the new A6 Avant is firm, perhaps fractionally too much so, compared to rivals from BMW and Mercedes, although of these top three cars in the class the Audi does at least have a slightly more sporting mindset than the E-Class. There is plenty of weight to the steering but it lacks any real feel. Having said that, with the benefit of permanent four-wheel drive there is no end of grip to be enjoyed here and the A6 can be punted hard and early out of an unwinding corner with the sort of abandon unthinkable in its rear-wheel rivals. The best version we’ve driven is the 3.0-litre BiTDI twin turbo, and it’s a 320bhp monster that’ll hit 60mph in 5.2 seconds.
But comfort is far more important to the majority of A6 owners and this new model is a step on for Audi. Refinement is excellent with wind, road and engine noise all very nicely insulated against.
On the inside
Audi’s exceptional mastery of the interior continues with the new A6, with a classy, comfortable and exacting finish to every part of the cabin. The dashboard is nicely de-cluttered by the MMI controller down by the gear lever, but that said, the overall impression here is still fussier than BMW’s iDrive-oriented effort, and it takes a while to navigate quickly.
In the back there’s tonnes of space, of course, with headroom to spare and a lovely overall airiness. The boot, at 565 litres, is fractionally larger than the already massive 5-Series Touring, too, but both lag some way behind the frankly ridiculous E-Class estate. Hikers are missing presumed dead in there.
Audi ownership is notoriously expensive. Perhaps they would say ‘reassuringly’. Like Stella Artois but without the attendant pub brawl. Any car that costs nearly £34,000 before you start adding on your favourite bits and pieces (like a £1,370 panoramic sunroof) is always going to be a serious undertaking for the private buyer, although residual values will be strong. As a company car, however, it makes a lot of sense thanks to some smaller, more frugal diesel engines that will bring daily running costs right down.