- 2.0-litre TDI and 3.0-litre TDI Quattro tested
- More kit, less weight, better mpg and CO2 figures
- Smaller engine forecast to make up 75% of sales
This is the fourth-generation A6 Avant and it promises a lot, particularly for the company car driver.
It's not much of a secret through: the last version comprehensively outsold the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class estates. Audi says it expects that trend to continue with this latest version.
The new model, like the A6 Saloon, represent progress in all departments. Power and torque is up, emissions are down, fuel economy has been improved thanks largely to a lighter construction, there's more space and there's more kit. Predictably, it'll also cost you more. Prices now range from £32,100 to £43,480.
We tested what are expected to be staple models in the range: the 2.0-litre TDI - a model expected to make up 75% of Avant sales - and the 3.0-litre TDI Quattro, which will be a default choice for company car drivers who want the kind of driving capabilities that will allow them to get to work in harsh wintry conditions.
On the road, there's little to complain about. They both offer good levels of grip, a firm but compliant ride, little body roll around corners and decent performance. The 2.0-litre will get to 62mph in 9.0s while the 3.0-litre will do the benchmark sprint in 6.3s. Both do the job in a businesslike fashion and if you were unkind you might consider the A6 less engaging than its rivals. The main complaint centres around the steering feel which is a little rubbery. That said, the overall driving experience is competent and a small inadequacy in the steering department is no deal-breaker.
Both models are great motorway mile-munchers and they both offer decent comfort and kit levels. Interestingly, we enjoyed driving the 2.0-litre with the manual gearbox the most because it just seemed a little more engaging, but we would expect the majority of A6 Avants to come with an automatic box.
All models get Audi's drive select system that allows you to adjust the gearchange, steering and throttle response according to the conditions. You can leave it in auto, which represents a compromise between the comfort and more sporty dynamic setting, but if you want to set the car up to your own personal preference you can do so with the individual setting. The reality is you have to have very high sensory abilities to tell the difference between the three settings but in dynamic you can feel the steering firm up and it does feel more responsive.
So what do you get for your money if you opt for an A6 Avant? First of all there are just two trims to choose from: SE and S line. With the entry level SE you get 17-inch alloy wheels, Audi drive select system, tyre pressure monitoring, parking assist, roof rails, Bluetooth, sat nav, leather upholstery, cruise control, dual-zone climate control and multi-function steering wheel.
If you spend £2,350 more you get 18-inch alloys, body styling, xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, headlight washers, sports suspension, upgraded leather upholstery, electric lumbar support, and a three-spoke multi-function steering wheel.
It is possible to spend a near fortune on other optional extras such as night-vision safety, active lane assist and adaptive cruise control - indeed the fully loaded 3.0-litre model we tested would have cost a mighty £78,000 with all the added extras on.
Still, as a company car the Audi A6 Avant trumps its rivals in terms of monthly running costs. If you go for the 175bhp 2.0-litre TDI SE with an eight-speed auto box you'll pay £223 a month in company car tax if you are on a 20% tax rate. That's because the 20% Benefit-in-Kind rating is better than the Mercedes and the BMW thanks to its impressive CO2 emissions of 132g/km. Fuel costs will be relatively low because it is pretty frugal. Official average fuel economy is claimed to be 56.5mpg.
If you opt for the more expensive 242bhp 3.0-litre TDI Quattro with the seven-speed S Tronic gearbox, which we also drove, you'll enjoy the class-leading 25% BIK tax band which means you'll pay £339 a month if you are paying 40% in tax. Again, fuel costs won't be that prohibitive because it boasts an average fuel economy of 47.9mpg.
In essence, the A6 Avant is a smart, yet affordable option. Both models we drove are extremely capable but dynamically they aren't as much fun to drive as the 5-Series and they don't offer quite the same levels of comfort, or the amount of bootspace, as the 5-Series and the E-Class.
As an all-rounder, though, the A6 Avant will do the job perfectly well. If you do opt for that over the Mercedes or the BMW, you won't feel shortchanged.
BMW 5-Series Touring
Great to drive, comfortable, plenty of gizmos to choose from.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class estate
Comfortable cruiser that's ideal for the travelling executive.
Volvo V70 estate
A left-field alternative with solid build quality and excellent comfort.