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Audi A6 Avant 2.0 TDI SE

Click to view picture gallery“Sleeker, more technologically-
  advanced and more efficient,
  Audi’s large prestige estate, the A6
  Avant, is priced from 32,100 and
 
will help keep Audis UK sales lead
  over BMW and Mercedes...”


THE NEW A6 SALOON WAS INTRODUCED in April this year and deliveries to customers of the seventh generation Avant begin in November. Only around 1,000 A6 Avants will be available in the UK this year but they're already sold; however, close to 5,000 A6 Avants will be available in 2012 so better put your order in now!

Five engines are available, all mainly with more power, better fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions than the engines they supersede all have start-stop, energy recuperation and fast-warming oil functions which, compared to the outgoing models, reduces fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by as much as 18%.

Most popular will be the 174bhp 2.0-litre TDI turbodiesel which is expected to account for three-quarters of all Avant sales. Other powerplants include the 201bhp 3.0 TDI, the 241bhp 3.0 TDI quattro, the 308bhp 3.0 twin-turboed TDI quattro (due in February), and the 295bhp petrol 3.0 TFSI quattro.

“Much of the A6 Avant’s
lightweight body
design technologies,
drivetrain, and the latest
in driver aids, have
cascaded down from the
executive
A7
Fastback and the A8
limousine
...”
Prices for the A6 Avant start at 32,100 that buys you one of the best-selling 2.0 TDI SE models. The range-topping 3.0 TFSI quattro cost 43,480.

Thanks to a wider body and a longer wheelbase, the incoming A6 Avant is roomier than the outgoing one yet manages to appear sleeker. The full five-seater Avant also offers more load space: with the rear seats in use there's 565 litres available for luggage and, with them folded, as much as 1,680 litres although because of the rear seats' comfortable cushioning, they don't fold completely flat.

Much of the A6 Avant's lightweight body design technologies, drivetrain, and the latest in driver aids, have cascaded down from the executive A7 Fastback and the A8 limousine, and these state-of-the art construction processes have reduced the A6 Avant's weight by up to 70kg. And it's also more technologically-advanced and more efficient.

With its lower stance, the new A6 Avant manifests a sportier, more imposing and edgier look. Inside, the 'wraparound' dashboard creates a cocooning style. As usual with expensive Audis, the feel and the build qualities are impeccable. Seats are supportive and upholstered in Milano leather and the first impressions on getting aboard are of sumptuous luxury.

You'll find the usual array of driver-assist kit including the Multi Media Interface with a retractable 6.5-inch monitor and large, easy-to-use central control knob. Audi's MMI set-up ensures easy and intuitive access to the high quality audio system, Bluetooth 'phone connectivity and the SD card-based navigation system that can be upgraded to incorporate Google Earth mapping and data from the SatNav. When upgraded, it supplies advanced information to the car's systems about the road ahead so optimising automatic transmission gearchange points, headlight beam layout, and much more.

Other optional driver aids include a night vision system with a thermal imaging camera that highlights 'warm-blooded' road-users in front of the car; a head-up display projecting key information onto the windscreen (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 items such as Audi's Side Assist blind spot warning system and Lane Assist lane departure detection system are also available.

“As usual
with expensive Audis,
the feel and the
build qualities are
impeccable. Seats are
supportive and
upholstered in Milano
leather and the first
impressions on getting
aboard are of
sumptuous luxury
...”
The Avant comes in two trim and equipment levels: SE and S line. All A6 Avant versions come as standard with leather upholstery, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, Drive Select (Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Efficiency modes), SD-based SatNav, Bluetooth preparation, split/folding rear seats, auto lights and wipers, and alloy wheels.

Top spec S line models add Xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lamps, upgraded Valcona leather upholstery, sports suspension, 18-inch alloys, and an exclusive S line exterior and interior styling treatment.

There's more desirable cabin kit on the options list, including comfort seats with heating, cooling, and massage functions, supple leather trimming for the centre console, acoustic glazing, a 6,300 multi-speaker 1,200 watts Bang & Olufsen system, TV reception, and various connectivity upgrades for the MMI system.

Tested here is the least expensive (and predicted best-selling) A6 Avant, the 32,100 174bhp 2.0-litre TDI SE with a manual transmission. Business user-choosers will be pleased to learn that this particular model has a lower BIK rating of 19%, due mostly to the reduction of tailpipe emissions by 13% over the previous 167bhp 2.0 TDI unit. Road tax is £115 per year and the Combined Cycle fuel economy is an official 56.5mpg, although my real-life, first drive fuel consumption was 40.4mpg.

On the road, the new A6's lightweight body has undeniably given it more agility and it feels very nimble and well balanced for its size, serving up a good blend of comfort and control with virtually no body-roll during cornering. The electronic power steering also benefits from the improved agility, and is precise and sharp to react. However, like other energy saving steering systems, it doesn't convey as much feedback to the driver as did the previous generation hydraulic-only types.

The coil spring steel suspension does a reasonable job of cushioning the occupants from our weather-torn road surfaces although bumps and potholes are not totally absorbed. The extra-cost (2,000) air suspension with Comfort, Dynamic, and Auto modes might help soften the impact slightly, but in my experience the air system takes the edge off the sharp handling.

“All A6s also have
‘Drive Select’
as standard —
this allows for the
tailoring of the steering
and throttle responses
and, in addition,
gearchange points on
automatic models.
A nice function
to have included
in the price
...”
All A6s also have 'Drive Select' as standard this allows for the tailoring of the steering and throttle responses and, in addition, gearchange points on automatic versions. A nice function to have included in the price.

This latest version of the four-cylinder 2.0 TDI engine is, for most of the time, the best and most sensible powerplant. Its 174bhp and 280lb ft of torque (from 1,750rpm) is made better as it's linked to a slick, six-speed manual 'box that really is a delight to use.

Only hard acceleration raises the engine note but 'in the cruise' it's relaxed and very quiet. The high torque copes well with the long-legged, fuel-saving overdrive sixth gear without necessitating changing down a gear to regain momentum. The 138mph top speed is more than adequate, as too is the nine-second zero to 62mph acceleration time.

If engine size and performance is important, then the 241bhp 3.0 TDI diesel unit with the all-weather quattro and the S-tronic auto/sequential manual 'box might be worth considering it costs 40,950. Interestingly, quite a number of 'country folk' in my Cotswolds part of the world do choose the A6 Avant with this drivetrain not to impress the neighbours but because it copes so well with wet, icy and muddy roads as well as giving added grip when venturing down farm tracks or across muddy field car parks.

Against? The SE's suspension cannot absorb the worst thumps and bumps from potholes and the S line specification is even firmer; rear seats do not fold completely flat; and I could not achieve the official fuel economy figure.

On the plus side it's well priced, has a high level of standard equipment, is fuel- and CO2-efficient, has supreme build quality with a classy and roomy interior and it's very quiet.

The new A6 Avant, from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail, both inside and out, is an impressive package perfectly suited for today's executive customers who still want luxury cars but are no longer prepared to incur out-of-proportion motoring costs. David Miles

Audi A6 Avant 2.0 TDI SE | 32,100
Maximum speed: 138mph | 0-62mph: 9 seconds | Overall test MPG: 40.4mpg
Power: 174bhp | Torque: 280lb ft | CO2 132g/km