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, this is one of the sector’s most sensible, highly accomplished cars.
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 313bhp monster that’ll hit 60mph in 5.3 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 £33,000 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.