By Steve Berry
Family estate cars have taken a bit of a beating in recent years with the ever-growing number of family-sized SUVs available.
However, business users have tended to stick with the more traditional estate for sheer practicality and motorway-cruising refinement.
Among the best of them has always been Audi’s A6 Avant. As a premium estate it’s certainly refined, has bags of space for both passengers and cargo and the diesel variants achieve impressive economy too.
The very latest Audi A6 Avant builds on all those positives as well as adding plenty of style and new tech to make sure it stays ahead of the competition. Jaguar’s XF Sportbrake may be slightly prettier but the Audi has it beaten in virtually every other area and it takes the fight to the Mercedes E-Class Estate and BMW 5-Series Touring in convincing style.
Audi’s latest styling cues are there, from the large, open front grille to the ‘saw-tooth’ rear light clusters.
The profile is athletic with a roofline that doesn’t slope so much that it would take away practicality in the rear and the large, sporty wheel arches give it an overall purposeful stance – especially on my S Line model which comes with a lowered-suspension setup.
Available in three trim levels – Sport, S line and Black Edition – the latest A6 Avant comes with a choice of petrol or diesel engines and starts from £42,160 for a Sport 40 TDI S Tronic with a 204 PS diesel engine and front-wheel drive.
There is also 3-litre, 50 TDI V6 diesel unit which outputs 286 PS (Quattro only) as well as a 45 TFSI petrol unit with 245 PS and Quattro 4-wheel drive.
And yes, I find Audi’s new badging confusing too, but so long as you remember the higher the number, the more powerful the engine, you shouldn’t go wrong.
My test car was a 286 PS A6 Avant 50 TDI S Line Quattro which took 4 of us on an overnight trip to Bristol and Bath. Luggage space (565 litres) was more than enough for 2 large suitcases and a couple of day-bags while the 2 rear passengers were impressed with the amount of leg and knee room available as well as ride comfort.
Up front you won’t find much to complain about either as the A6 interior is lifted directly from the superb A7 which means a top-notch layout with premium materials used throughout.
The dual-screen infotainment on my Technology Pack equipped model looks superb with the lower screen controlling climate settings as well as the front heated seats. Maybe a little more fiddly than physical buttons, but the haptic ability does help.
The Virtual Cockpit, fully digital dash display is the best available in my opinion as it’s so easy to navigate, is crystal clear and makes the best use of its integration with the infotainment system.
The S Line front sport seats – finished in grey leather and Alcantara – hold you very well and I suffered no aches or pains even after almost 4 hours of driving.
On the road the V6 diesel is beautifully smooth and quiet making long motorway journeys a pleasure. If you want to test out the 0-62mph sprint time of 5.7 seconds then you’ll find it a little more vociferous, but it never gets rowdy. The 8-speed Tiptronic transmission is a little dopey at times with some hesitancy if you should floor the accelerator but overall it allows for a very relaxed and jerk-free drive.
Steering weight is spot-on even in Comfort mode with Dynamic mode loading up the overall feel nicely for those A-road blasts where you’ll find the A6 Avant surprisingly agile, although the quattro system no doubt helped here.
Acoustically and Aerodynamically, the new A6 Avant slips through the air very stealthily indeed. It must be the quietest estate available with barely a whisper from the tyres penetrating the cabin. “Refined” is a word that you can’t overuse when describing the A6.
Drive mode selection is easy from a button on the centre console giving you a choice of Auto, Comfort, Dynamic, Efficiency or Individual. Efficiency makes best use of the A6’s mild-hybrid system and this helped me to achieve an overall figure of 49 mpg on our 400-mile trip. Impressive for an (almost) fully-loaded 3.0-litre diesel estate that also carries the extra weight of a 4-wheel-drive system.
Overall, I found this 5th generation Audi A6 Avant to be very impressive on every level. Levels of comfort are outstanding as are the quality of fit and finish. Technology is also impressive with driver aids and infotainment still being class-leading.
Even Audi’s tendency toward the conservative when it comes to styling didn’t cause any concerns here as the A6 Avant, like its saloon stablemate, looks a little more aggressive, a little more like Audi want the car to look dynamic even when stood at the kerbside – and that is very welcome.
AT A GLANCE: Audi A6 Avant 50 TDI Quattro S Line
OTR Price: £54,625
Engine: 3.0 turbo diesel
Power: 286 PS
Transmission: 8-speed Automatic
0-62mph: 5.7 secs
Top Speed: 155mph
Combined Economy: 39.2 mpg
C02: 150 g/km