Audi A6 Avant 3.0 TDI review
The growth of the Audi brand globally and in the UK has been astonishing. Members of the royal family are Audi customers - enough said. But how good is the new Audi A6 Avant?
The latest generation Audi A6 Saloons and the Avant estates were launched during 2011 and the latest Allroad Avant all-terrain estate models are just going on sale with deliveries starting in July.
Although the A6 in all its forms is not the brand's best selling model range it is what they call their 'bedrock model', the range that Audi says most portrays the premium-ness of the brand.
This growth has been brought about by the desire to own an Audi and by adding more new models in new model sectors - what they call their 'product firework'. In our market last year it was another record one for sales and already in 2012 they are forecasting another record year with around 124,000 new cars being sold.
Audi A6 Avant
Although roomier with a longer wheelbase and more body width than the outgoing A6 Avant, the new generation version is sleeker, more technologically-advanced and more efficient thanks to state-of-the art construction processes which reduce weight by up to 70kg.
The composite use of aluminium sheet, cast aluminium and cold and hot rolled steel has resulted in the weight reduction, a core move these days to improve fuel economy and performance whilst reducing CO2 emissions and improving fuel consumption.
Audi A6 Avant practicality
The five door, full five seater Avant also has more load space with a carrying capacity of 565-litres with the rear seats in use and up to 1,680-litres with the rear seats folded.
Unfortunately due to the comfortable cushioning used for the rear seats they do not fold down completely flat so loading long items can be a bit of an uphill task if the full length of the load area is needed.
Much of the drivetrain, lightweight body design technologies and the latest in driver aids are cascaded down from the Audi A8 limousine and the A7 five door executive Fastback.
Although marginally shorter and lower than the outgoing model, the new A6 Avant is wider and with its lower stance gives it a sporty and much more imposing and edgier appearance.
Audi A6 Avant equipment
The roomy interior has a cocooning style with its 'wraparound' dashboard linking neatly to the styling of the front doors and then onwards throughout the large cabin.
As usual with expensive Audis the feel and the build qualities are impeccable. Supportive seats are upholstered as standard in Milano leather so the first impressions on entry are of sumptuous luxury.
There is the usual array of driver assist items including the Multi Media Interface with its 6.5-inch retractable monitor and large central control knob fitted as standard. MMI provides easy and intuitive access to the high quality audio system, the Bluetooth phone connectivity and the SD card-based navigation system.
This system can be upgraded to incorporate Google Earth mapping and data from the sat-nav system, when upgraded, will supply advanced information to the car's systems about the road coming up so optimising gear change points on automatic transmissions, headlight beam layout and much more.
The list of optional driver aids also includes a night vision assistant employing a thermal imaging camera to highlight 'warm-blooded' road users in front of the car, a head-up display projecting key information onto the windscreen so that it appears to float about 2.5 metres ahead and a park assist system which automatically takes care of the steering function for the driver when manoeuvring into parallel or perpendicular parking spaces.
More familiar options such as the Audi side assist blind spot warning system and the Audi lane assist lane departure detection system are also available.
Audi A6 Avant trim levels
Two specification levels, SE and S line, are offered in the UK with SE being the most popular and the choice of 60% of users.
All A6 Avant versions have alloy wheels, leather upholstery, cruise and front and rear parking controls, Drive Select with Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Efficiency modes, SD-based satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone preparation, split/folding rear seats and light and rain sensors.
S line models add larger 18-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lamps, sports suspension, upgraded Valcona leather upholstery and an exclusive S line exterior and interior styling treatment.
From the options list customers can choose features such as comfort seats with heating, cooling and massaging functions, acoustic glazing, supple leather trimming for the centre console, a £6,300 multi-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system with 1,200 watts of power, TV reception and various connectivity upgrades for the MMI system.
Audi A6 Avant prices
My first driving experience with the lightweight A6 Avant estate with its heavyweight executive car image, was at the press launch last September with the least expensive and predicted best selling version, the 2.0-litre TDI, four cylinder turbodiesel,177PS, SE with manual transmission and a price tag of an appealing, in this sector, of £32,100. Beware a look at the extra cost options list can add thousands of pounds to this price.
Audi A6 Avant 3.0-litre TDI
But now I have enjoyed a longer spell with the new 3.0-litre, six cylinder 204PS (201bhp) TDI turbodiesel engine mated with the excellent multitronic eight speed twin clutch seamless automatic transmission and what a partnership this responsive engine with 295lb ft of torque from only 1,250rpm makes with an auto box.
The price is a not inconsiderable £37,730 but choosing the same engine with the six speed manual gearbox will reduce the price by £1,530.
The benefit of this engine of course is more progressive power and more torque instead of 175bhp and 280lb ft over the 2.0-litre TDI unit. That added 'grunt', strength, refinement and responsiveness makes the extra purchase cost worthwhile.
Audi A6 Avant 3.0 TDI running costs
There isn't a great deal of difference either with tax penalties because the 3.0-litre unit with the multitronic gearbox only emits 136g/km of CO2 emissions so the company car BIK tax cost is now 21 per cent and VED road tax £120.
The 2.0-litre TDI version with the auto gearbox has CO2 emissions of 135g/km so BIK tax and road taxes are virtually the same as the 3.0-litre unit.
When it comes to fuel economy the 2.0-litre unit will officially return 56.5mpg but only 40.4mpg on my test drive last year. The 3.0-litre version I have just tried over a longer spell officially returns 54.3mpg with the auto box but in real life returned 41.9mpg.
Audi A6 Avant 3.0 TDI performance
So running costs in terms of fuel is more or less the same which for me makes the stronger 3.0-litre engine the best option, it is just nicer and more responsive to drive.
It is also significantly faster as well with a 143mph top speed against 138mph for the 2.0-litre TDI and zero to 62mph takes 7.4 seconds, two seconds faster than the smaller four-pot engine.
Other than the extra purchase cost the 3.0-litre 204PS unit adds up in all ways to being my engine of choice in the A6 Avant.
Audi A6 Avant 3.0 TDI first drive
The new lightweight bodyshell has definitely given the latest A6 more agility and its feels very nimble for its size. It has a good blend of comfort and control and being well balanced has virtually no bodyroll during cornering.
The electronic power steering also benefits from the improved agility and is sharp to react and precise. But like other energy saving steering systems it doesn't convey as much feedback to the driver as the previous generation hydraulic only types.
The Drive Select system, which includes a choice of suspension settings, does a good job of ironing out all but the worst of the potholes even with the larger 18-inch wheels option fitted to my test car. From experience I would steer well clear of the S line specification though with its harsh sports suspension.
All A6s have Drive Select as standard which allows for the tailoring of the steering and throttle responses as well as the suspension settings and in addition gearchange points for auto gearbox models. Nice functions to have included in the price.
I am often asked, "What is the best car on sale today"? An impossible question to answer when we have to compare body types, engine options, price categories and brand values. What I can say is in the premium estate car sector the Audi A6 Avant with the 3.0-litre 204PS engine is the best, in my opinion.
It offers the best overall package for most people buying in this sector and it is a very good ambassador model for the Audi brand.
The BMW 5 Series Touring with its rear wheel drive might be the sharpest handling estate in this sector, the Mercedes E-Class the roomiest for load space, but overall the A6 Avant 3.0-litre gets my vote.
Audi A6 Avant 3.0-litre TDI SE 204PS Multitronic.
3.0-litre, V6, direct injection turbodiesel with intercooler, 201bhp, 295lb ft of torque from 1,250rpm, front wheel drive through an 8-speed twin clutch automatic transmission.
143mph, 0-62mph 7.4 seconds, 54.3mpg (41.9mpg on test), CO2 136g/km, VED road tax £120, BIK company car tax 21%.
L 4,926mm, W 2,086mm, H 1,461mm, load area 565 to 1,680-litres.
Well priced, high level of standard equipment, lightweight construction, fuel and CO2 efficient, supreme build quality, classy, comfortable and roomy interior, very quiet.
Rear seats do not fold completely flat but there is still huge load space, could not achieve official fuel economy figure, stay away from the extra cost options which will add significantly to the final price although some of this cost will be recovered due to the high demand for 'used' high spec A6 models.