First drive: Audi A6 Avant
- Wednesday, 28 September 2011 / 4:17pm UTC
Audi has dominated the large, premium estate car market for years with the A6 Avant, and the company has high hopes for this fourth-generation car which offers more interior space, greater economy and better performance than the model it replaces.
All the A6s have a steel/aluminium body. The main structure is a fairly conventional steel monocoque, but the front suspension turrets are cast aluminium, as are several other components under the skin and 20% of the exterior panelwork. As a result, Audi says the A6 is up to 20% lighter than a convential steel car of the same size - which gives the big estate class-leading performance, economy and CO2 figures.
The biggest seller in the new range is the 177PS 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine, mated to a six-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive. A Multitronic CVT is optional. There's a 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel with 200PS and the Multitronic transmission, and a 245PS version with quattro four-wheel drive and the S-tronic dual-clutch gearbox. Petrol engines are increasingly rare, but you can get a 300PS 3.0-litre TFSI V6 with quattro and S-tronic. A bi-turbo 313PS TDI is due for launch in February 2012.
All the A6s impress with a tidy, tastefully-trimmed cabin which offers leather and satnav as standard. The diesel engines are quiet and smooth, with performance ranging from acceptable (in the 2.0-litre) to distinctly rapid (in the more powerful of the two 3.0s), while the 3.0-litre TFSI is faster still but pays an inevitable fuel consumption penalty. The Multitronic CVT auto suits the V6 turbodiesel well, making for swift and unobtrusive progress, and the S-tronic dual-clutch transmission has fast, smooth gearchanges.
There are few demerits, but they're significant ones: in the manual cars the clutch is long of travel with indistinct bite, the variable power assistance for the steering feels more like an intermittent fault than a driver assistance feature and road noise dominates the soundscape in all the A6 Avants - particularly if you spend £2500 on the optional 20in alloy wheels wrapped in slivers of 35-series rubber. If comfort and refinement are a priority, you would be better off keeping the standard 17in wheels and spending the money on air suspension, another entry on the extensive options list.
Those niggles apart, the A6 is a worthy opponent for premium estates from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, and it won't be long before it's a best-seller.