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Audi A6 Avant 3.0 TDI SE Multitronic

Click to view picture gallery“The A6 is Audi’s ‘bedrock model
  the range that Audi says best
  portrays the premium-ness of the
  Audi brand. Members of the royal
  family are Audi customers

  enough said
...”

LAUNCHED DURING 2011, the latest generation Audi A6 saloons and Avant estates must be doing something right, as they're all part of the astonishingly vigorous growth of the Audi brand, both globally and here in the UK.

Everybody, it seems, wants to own an Audi — and with the constant stream (what Audi call their 'product firework') of new models brought to market there's one for every need.

In the UK, Audi's A6 five-door estates outsell the BMW 5 Series Touring and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate. As with the A6 saloon, the Avant estate is available in two trim levels: SE and S line. There are more choices — five — when it comes to engines, all with more power, better fuel economy, and lower emissions than those they replace. All also have start-stop, energy recuperation, and fast-warming oil functions which, compared to previous generation A6s, reduce fuel consumption and CO2 by as much as 18%.

These new generation
Avants — despite being
roomier with a longer
wheelbase and
more body width —
are sleeker, more technologically-advanced
and also
more efficient...”
The five engines are: 174bhp 2.0-litre TDI turbodiesel; 201bhp 3.0 TDI; 241bhp 3.0 TDI quattro; the just-launched 308bhp 3.0 twin-turboed TDI quattro; and a single petrol-drinker — the 295bhp 3.0 TFSI quattro. These latest seventh-generation A6 Avants cost between 32,100 and 43,480.

These new generation Avants — despite being roomier with a longer wheelbase and more body width — are sleeker, more technologically-advanced and also more efficient, helped by their state-of-the art construction processes, which reduce weight by as much as 70kg.

The five-seater Avant now has more load space: 565 litres with the rear seats up; 1,680 litres with them folded down. However, due to the rear seats' comfortable cushioning, they don't fold completely flat and loading longer items that need the full length of the loadbay can be a bit of an 'uphill' push.

Open a door and first impressions are of sumptuous luxury — heightened by the supportive seats upholstered in Milano leather. With its 'wraparound' fascia linking neatly to the styling of the front doors and then onwards throughout the large interior, the roomy cabin has a cocooning style. As usual with expensive Audis, the feel and the build qualities are impeccable.

There's the usual collection of 'driver assist' equipment, including the Multi Media Interface and retractable 6.5-inch monitor, fitted as standard. MMI provides easy and intuitive access to the high quality audio system, the SD card-based navigation system and the Bluetooth phone connectivity. This system can be upgraded to incorporate Google Earth mapping; when upgraded, data from the SatNav will supply advanced information to the vehicle's systems about the road coming up so automatic transmission shift points can be optimised, as too can the headlight beam pattern and much more.

SE spec Avants have alloy wheels, leather upholstery, cruise control and front and rear parking sensors, Drive Select (with Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Efficiency modes), SD-based SatNav, Bluetooth phone preparation, split/folding rear seats and auto lights and wipers.

S line models add 18-inch alloy wheels, Xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights, sports suspension, Valcona leather upholstery and an exclusive exterior and interior S line styling treatment.

The latest A6 feels very
nimble for its size;
more agile too (thanks
to its new lightweight bodyshell).
It offers a good blend of
comfort and control
with virtually
no body roll during
cornering...”
The options list offers even more goodies: comfort seats with heating, cooling and massage functions, acoustic glazing, a 6,300 1,200-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system, TV and various connectivity upgrades for the MMI system such as Google Earth.

Additional extra-cost hi-tech driver aids include a thermal imaging camera that highlights warm-blooded road-users in front of the car, a head-up display (projects 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 when parking in parallel or perpendicular bays. More familiar driver aids such as Audi's Side Assist Blind Spot Warning and Lane Assist Lane Departure Detection systems are also available.

My first one-to-one with the new lightweight A6 Avant estate was six months ago with the predicted best-seller, the 174bhp 2.0-litre TDI SE with a manual 'box and a 32,100 price tag. Be warned though, extra-cost options can easily add thousands to this price.

I have just enjoyed a longer spell with the new 201bhp six-cylinder 3.0-litre turbodiesel mated with Audi's excellent multitronic eight-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission. And what a partnership this responsive engine (295lb ft of torque from only 1,250rpm) makes with the seamless multitronic.

The added 'grunt', strength, refinement and responsiveness of this 3.0-litre unit easily justifies the extra purchase cost over the 2.0-litre. When it comes to fuel economy, the 2.0-litre returns 40.4mpg in real-life (officially 56.5mpg) whereas the 3.0-litre multitronic averages 41.9mpg (54.3mpg officially). With fuel consumption so close, the stronger 3.0-litre engine is not just the best option; it's also nicer and more responsive to drive.

And, of course, significantly quicker — a 143mph maximum speed and zero to 62mph in a sharp 7.4 seconds (so 5mph and a full two seconds faster to 62mph than the smaller four-cylinder 2.0-litre). Which is why, other than the extra purchase cost, the 201bhp 3.0-litre engine would be my engine of choice in an A6 Avant.

“All A6 models have
Drive Select as standard
which allows the driver
to tailor the steering
and throttle responses,
as well as the
suspension settings, and
also the gearchange
points on automatic
models
...”
The latest A6 feels very nimble for its size; more agile too (thanks to its new lightweight bodyshell). It offers a good blend of comfort and control with virtually no body roll during cornering. The electronic power steering is sharp to react and precise even though, 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 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 running on 18-inch wheels. If comfort is a priority then, from experience, I would steer clear of the S line specification with its harsher 'sports' suspension set-up.

All A6 models have Drive Select as standard which allows the driver to tailor the steering and throttle responses, as well as the suspension settings, and also the gearchange points on automatic models; all desirable functions, especially when they're included in the price.

Against? The rear seats do not fold completely flat but there is still huge load space, and I couldn't achieve the official fuel economy figure. For: Well priced, high level of standard equipment, lightweight construction, fuel and CO2 efficient, supreme build quality, classy, comfortable and roomy interior, and very quiet.

I am frequently asked, "What's the best car on sale today?" Given the numerous body types, engine options, price categories, and brand values, it's an impossible question to answer.

However, what I can say is that, in my opinion, in the premium estate car sector, the Audi A6 Avant with the 201bhp 3.0-litre engine is the best, offering as it does the best overall package for most people buying in this market segment. The rear-wheel drive BMW 5 Series Touring might be the sharpest handling estate in this sector; the Mercedes E-Class the roomiest for load space. But, overall, it's the 3.0-litre A6 Avant that gets my vote. — David Miles

Audi A6 Avant 3.0 TDI SE Multitronic | 37,730
Maximum speed: 143mph | 0-62mph: 7.4 seconds | Overall test MPG: 41.9mpg
Power: 201bhp | Torque: 295lb ft | CO2 136g/km