Audi A6 Avant review
The Audi A6 Avant is a masterclass in fine packaging, offering a sumptuous cabin and the latest technology, all wrapped up in a sleek and sophisticated exterior. It means that the A6 Avant can rival – maybe even edge ahead of – many of its competitors from BMW, Mercedes and Volvo, especially now that Audi has rectified most, if not all, of our complaints about the driving experience.
The 2.0-litre 40 TDI version is a terrific all-rounder, while the 3.0-litre V6 50 TDI is the choice for crossing continents. Overall, there’s much to like and not a lot to dislike about the A6 Avant, which is why we think it’s the most complete Audi estate ever built. Still want that SUV?
5 Feb, 2019
The Audi A6 Avant’s interior might not offer the wow factor of the cabin designs found in the Lexus GS or Mercedes E-Class, but the fit, finish and general ambience are all class-leading. The design is borrowed from the A8 saloon, with a clean and uncluttered dashboard housing a pair of large, modern touchscreens.
It’s genuinely hard to find fault with the interior design. Everything feels nice to the touch, the buttons and switchgear feel reassuringly solid, while the leather and plastics used in the fabric are first-rate. If we told you that our single gripe would be the quality of the headlining fabric, you’ll appreciate that we had to search hard for faults.
You can opt for an extended leatherette pack, which adds a nicer finish to the door armrests and centre console, while a full leather pack, which adds Nappa leather to the upper instrument panel, door shoulders, door armrests and centre console, is available for £1,000. It’s touches such as these that edge the A6 Avant closer to the A8’s domain.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
There are two screens in the A6 Avant, plus a third if you opt for Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit, which is available as part of the £1,500 Technology Pack.
In standard form, the driver is greeted with an 8.8-inch top display (10.1-inch if the Technology Pack has been specified) and an 8.6-inch screen located below the main one. It takes a while to get used to, but you’ll soon find yourself accustomed to the layout.
Infotainment and navigation functions are controlled via the top screen, while the lower screen is used for comfort and convenience features, such as climate control and ventilation.
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The top screen will be familiar to anyone who has used a tablet device, as it features smartphone-style tile apps, which can be dragged and dropped to create a customised display. The haptic and acoustic feedback isn’t too dissimilar to that of the latest iPhones.
It’s a good system, but it loses points for the fact that it requires you to take your eyes off the road. At least the voice recognition is one of the best in the business, enabling you to carry out most tasks without removing your hands from the wheel.
Audi’s Virtual Cockpit is a fantastic piece of kit, replacing the traditional instrument cluster with a 12.3-inch full-colour digital display. The 3D navigation map is worth the price alone, while the enlarged upper screen and wireless phone charging make the Technology Pack a must-have upgrade.
The A6 Avant has been designed to cover long distances in a quiet and sophisticated manner, and is not, in its present guise, the first choice for buyers in search of keen dynamics. For that, the BMW 5 Series Touring and Jaguar XF Sportbrake remain the prefered choices, although the gap is narrower than before.
That said, sporty Audi S6 and RS 6 models will follow in the future, so hold on until then if you fancy a more performance-led Audi estate. In the meantime, it’s best to approach the A6 Avant as a smooth operator.
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We’d avoid opting for the S line’s 20-inch alloy wheels, because even with the optional £2,000 air suspension (50 TDI only), the car crashes into potholes and shimmies over rough surfaces. Better, we think, to stick with a smaller wheel size and enjoy a smoother, more cosseting ride.
You can also equip the 50 TDI models with dynamic all-wheel steering. At low speeds, this £2,000 upgrade turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts, reducing the turning circle and minimising the effort of the driver. At higher speeds, the counter-directional rear steering improves handling and stability, and makes the car feel more responsive.
It’s very good, but it can’t solve one of the A6 Avant’s traditional weaknesses: numb steering. It’s accurate enough but is totally devoid of feel and is, perhaps, where you’ll find the largest gap between the A6 and the 5 Series.
But overall, the A6 Avant could represent the best compromise in the segment, being better to drive than the E-Class Estate and with a greater sense of occasion and suppleness than the 5 Series.
Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
In time, Audi will offer a wide range of petrol and diesel engines, but for now, your choice is limited to two diesel units. There’s a 201bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel badged 40 TDI and a 3.0-litre V6 diesel called 50 TDI.
Both offer very different characteristics, not least because the smaller 40 TDI is paired with a seven-speed S tronic transmission and front-wheel-drive, while the 50 TDI comes with an eight-speed tiptronic gearbox and all-wheel-drive. Both use a 48-volt mild hybrid system, but more on this in the next section.
One could argue that the 40 TDI exists to meet emissions targets, but it’s no slouch. In fact, it’s the more responsive of the two engines and it is better to drive than the more powerful 50 TDI.
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With 202bhp on tap, the 40 TDI will hit 62mph in 8.3 seconds, before going on to reach a top speed of 149mph. It helps that it’s lighter than the 50 TDI, while the S tronic dual clutch transmission responds with snappy gear changes when you put your foot down.
Not that the 50 TDI doesn’t hold some appeal. Thanks to 282bhp and 619Nm of torque, the 0-62mph time is polished off in a hot hatch-baiting 5.7 seconds, before the rapid estate hits a top speed limited to 155mph.
Unsurprisingly, it pulls strongly through the rev range, for the most part emitting just a distant hum, although there’s a satisfying soundtrack from the V6 when you’re pressing on. Sadly, the traditional automatic transmission doesn’t respond as swiftly as the S tronic, which serves to dilute the driving experience.
The A6 Avant is loaded to the rafters with active and passive safety systems, so it was no surprise to see it awarded a maximum five-star safety rating by Euro NCAP. When the A6 saloon was tested in 2018, it received a 93 per cent rating for adult occupant protection, 85 per cent for child protection, 81 per cent for vulnerable road users and 76 per cent for safety assist technology.
Autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning are standard across the range, as are multiple airbags, cruise control and a rear-view camera. Safety upgrades are available in the form of options packs, including a £2,000 Tour Pack, comprising adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, high-beam assist and lane departure warning with emergency assist.
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A £1,400 City Assist Pack adds blind spot assist, pre-sense in the event of a rear-end collision and cross traffic assist. Further options include park assist, head-up display and a £2,200 Night Vision Assistant, which displays a thermal image of the car’s surroundings, highlighting people and animals.
The latest A6 Avant is too new for us to judge its long-term reliability, but Audi finished 18th out of 27 on the list of the best and worst car manufacturers in our 2018 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey.
Audi offers a standard three-year, 60,000-mile warranty on the A6 Avant, which is beginning to look a tad miserly. Rivals Mercedes-Benz and BMW don’t limit the mileage, while non-premium manufacturers offer five- or seven-year packages.
On the plus side, it’s possible to upgrade to a four- or five-year new car warranty, while extended warranties are available from £200.
Fixed-price service plans are a cost-effective way of paying for maintenance, with two consecutive services available for a fixed price. You’ll pay around £470 upfront or £26 a month over 18 months for the 2.0-litre (40 TDI) diesel engine and £600 or £33 a month for the 3.0-litre (50 TDI) diesel engine.
The five-seat Audi A6 Avant is the kind of car that will appeal to buyers who don’t see the value in a high-riding crossover or SUV. That said, a rugged A6 Allroad version complete with raised ride height is available. Please see our separate review on the off-road A6 Allroad.
Audi has given the A6 Avant a more rakish look than before, but thanks to greater width and an extended wheelbase, greater gains have been achieved with regard to cabin space.
The A6 Avant is 4,940mm long, 1,890mm wide and 1,470mm high, creating a cabin that is larger than the previous model. The E-Class is wider and taller at 2,065mm and 1,475mm respectively, but the A6 is 7mm longer.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
The Audi A6 feels noticeably larger than its A4 sibling, perhaps even more so in the Avant. The feeling of space is enhanced by the more minimalist approach to the cabin, although the wide centre console running between the two front seats can make it feel a little snug in the front.
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Not that the driver or passengers will find any reason to complain about the amount of headroom and legroom. Indeed, legroom is up by 17mm over the old model, although the middle rear passenger will still have to sit with feet either side of the transmission tunnel.
Our only real complaint concerns the limited storage options. The door pockets are a little on the small side, while the storage bin between the front seats is a little shallow. Aside from the two cup-holders, there isn’t a great deal of storage space on the centre console. At least the rear seats feature a pair of storage nets.
The boot in the new A6 Avant might be 19mm longer than in the old model, but you still get the same 565 litres of luggage space with the rear seats folded up and 1,680 litres with the 40:20:40 split-and-fold rear bench folded down. Buttons in the boot enable you to fold the rear seats from the back of the car.
The boot space as a whole is less than you’d find in the BMW 5 Series Touring (570 litres) and Volvo V90 (575 litres), and significantly less than the class-leading Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate (640 litres). It’s a bit miserly with the seats folded down, too, with the 5 Series extending to 1,700 litres and the E-Class to a cavernous 1,820 litres.
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On the plus side, the standard-fit electric tailgate opens to reveal a large and wide opening, including a loading width of 1,050mm. The boot also includes a handy standard-fit luggage compartment system, comprising a rail system to organise luggage and shopping, lash down points and, if you opt for the £100 storage pack, a cargo net.
An optional sensor is available for the tailgate, which enables it to be opened using a swipe of the foot – handy if you’re arriving back at your car with bags full of shopping.
An electrically swivelling trailer towing hitch is available for a little over £800 and includes trailer stabilisation with electronic stability control. Both diesel models have a braked trailer load limit of 2,000kg, which is good enough to pull a large caravan.
Both diesel engines offer, on paper at least, extremely good fuel economy, with the 40 TDI delivering up to 60.1mpg on a combined cycle. Even the six-cylinder 50 TDI offers as much as 48.7mpg.
In both cases, opting for the larger 20- or 21-inch alloy wheels will put a dent in the fuel economy, dropping to 57.6mpg and 47.9mpg for the 40 TDI and 50 TDi respectively. Stick with the 18- or 19-inch rims if you’re hoping to maximise fuel economy.
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The fuel efficiency is thanks, in part, to a mild hybrid system, which recovers energy during braking and enables engine-off coasting at speeds of between 34mph and 99mph.
Unsurprisingly, the 40 TDI is the cheapest to tax, although, with a starting price of £40,000, all models attract the £310 VED five-year supplement for high-end cars. CO2 emissions of 124g/km mean a first-year rate of £205 for the 40 TDI, followed by five payments of £450. In the case of the 50 TDI, the first-year rate rockets to £830, but levels out to £450 in year two.
The 40 TDI in Sport trim is the cheapest A6 Avant to insure, slotting into insurance group 36. There’s no premium penalty for upgrading to the Technology Pack, but the S line model is slightly more expensive, sitting in group 38 of 50.
You’ll pay more to insure the 50 TDI models, although all models sit in group 42, regardless of whether you opt for Sport or S line. In all cases, the A6 Avant is more expensive to insure than the BMW 5 Series Touring (groups 30 to 41), and roughly the same as the E-Class Estate at the top level, although the cheaper Mercedes models creep into the lower 30s (groups 30 to 44).
Larger cars tend to depreciate faster than smaller vehicles, which is a factor working against the A6 Avant. On the other hand, the Audi badge tends to slow depreciation, giving the A6 range three-year residual values of 41-46 per cent.
The practicality of the Avant should ensure values remain higher than the saloon models, but be wary of splashing out on too many optional extras. While some can add value, or at least make the car easier to sell, many will not translate to extra value on the secondhand market.