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Click for pictures“If you’ve got it,
  flaunt it. And what
  better way to do
  that than in Audi’s
  new A6 Avant 4.2
  quattro SE...”

When all of the 2005 new car sales figures are collated and ratified, it will come as no surprise to find that most German brands will have done very well in the UK. This is against the industry trend that saw 2005 UK car sales fall at their fastest rate for 11 years, due mainly to retail customers deserting the showrooms. With sales shrinking to below 2.5 million, the overall market fall — at over five per cent — is the biggest drop since 1994.

Of the German brands that have done very well, Audi have recorded their best year ever in the UK with over 81,000 sales — an increase of 100 per cent in just six years. They have now completed six consec-utive years of record sales. And for 2006, Audi has already started their latest sales offensive by introducing S line sports versions for their A3, A4 and A6 ranges.

In addition, they will also be able to compete in sectors where prev-iously they have had no representation. The order books are already open for the new Q7 seven-seat SUV that will go on sale this summer. And with the introduction of the new mid-engined R8 quattro, Audi will also enter the thoroughbred sports car market for the first time. The eagerly awaited all-new Audi Allroad quattro is another welcome intro-duction for 2006 accompanied, as it will be, by additional derivatives for current model ranges.

Audi's great rivals, BMW, will also be posting record UK sales showing them breaking the 100,000 barrier for the first time. And while VW should just about break even this year in the UK, they are now back
in first place as the best selling brand in Europe.

Although Mercedes have had lean times due to outdated models, engines, reliability issues and indifferent customer service, their recovery programme is now showing signs that they are well placed
to pull back in 2006 the small loss in UK sales they suffered in 2005.

The British public have taken a real shine to the Audi brand, hence the increase in their sales. Audi's marketing and brand awareness programmes are clearly aimed at the well-heeled and equally to the emerging 'aspirational' customers who use either company or family money to pay for their vehicles.

Audi are not shy about cultivating a following in the upper crust of executive car users. Carefully targeted appearances at film premieres with courtesy cars, sponsorship of Polo, their own expensive jewellery range and even their own TV channel has pushed the Audi name in front of the right people. Whereas previously these customers would have been long-term BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar and Range Rover owners, it is quite usual these days to see the well-off driving an Audi of one sort or another. In fact, even 'The Royals' have succumbed to the up-market image that the Audi brand has carefully nurtured in the UK —
a trend started by Diana, Princess of Wales, who was often seen driving her Audi A4 Convertible.

The Audi A6 range of saloons and Avant estates competes for sales against the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class, and whilst the A6 isn't as sharp to drive as the rear-wheel drive 5 Series or as roomy as the E-Class, it is the Audi brand that now makes these models a 'must' for the affluent sector of UK society. No manor house, country estate or business executive's car park is complete without one or two — or even three — of them.

One of the latest additions to the A6 range is the Avant 4.2 quattro SE with adaptive air suspension. Whilst the A6 Avant range does start
at a reasonable 26,950, once you start thinking about models such as the Avant 4.2 quattro the price quickly soars to 44,610. Add in the optional new air suspension, satellite navigation, TV, BOSE sound system and all the other essential goodies and the on-the-road price of my test car had broken through the 50,000 ceiling to an eye-watering 52,970.

Most smart buyers — particularly company car users — will opt for either the 2.7-litre or, preferably, the 3.0-litre, TDI diesel engines. However, the Avant 4.2-litre V8 petrol powerplant with a Tiptronic six-speed automatic transmission and quattro four-wheel drive will be the Audi most visible outside the luxury homes of private executives and on country estates.

This muscular power unit produces 335bhp and 310lb ft of torque so you'd be disappointed if it wasn't very fast. You won't be disappointed because it is very fast, responsive, flexible and refined with a sporty exhaust tone. It will crack the benchmark 0-62mph in just 6.2 seconds — excellent for a large and heavy estate car — and the top speed is
a limited 155mph. Fuel consumption — I do not use the word economy for obvious reasons — returns around 23.9mpg on a good day.

The power delivery to all four wheels is excellent, due in part to the Tiptronic six-speed autobox with Drive and Sport modes that really do makes best use of the massive amount of torque provided by the V8 engine. With this level of power on tap, there are no unwanted gearchanges on winding roads.

The Quattro four-wheel drive system sharpens up the rather loose handling experienced with front-wheel drive Audis. In normal conditions the power is split 50:50 between the front and rear wheels, but the drive will automatically provide as much as 75 per cent of the power
to the front or rear axle in extreme acceleration conditions.

The speed related electronic power steering does not give the feed-back or precise control of that in the BMW 5 Series. By comparison
it feels vague, and you don't feel very involved when you drive this Audi in a spirited manner.

However, the new adaptive air suspension provides a cushioned ride, ironing out the bumps, and it automatically adjusts the ride height the faster you go. As an executive car, it is a delight to ride in and far more comfortable than any luxury 4x4 SUV.

With a double floor load area providing up to 1,660 litres of space and a load area over one metre wide, the A6 Avant is an impressive estate car.

The interior of the car is luxurious and comprehensively equipped throughout. The facia panel lights up at night like the flight deck of a Jumbo Jet. Add in some of the costly options such as the DVD navig-ation system and TV and communication systems and you have a motoring package that cannot fail to impress your executive friends.

The cost of purchase, expensive options and high running costs will
not be considered as reasons not to purchase an executive car of this stature. Reasons to buy one are many and include its 'aristocratic' executive status, outstanding build quality, roomy cabin, refinement, comfort and a huge load area. So the A6 Avant 4.2 quattro SE is likely to become the car to have in 2006 for those who want to flaunt their status or wealth. — David Miles
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Audi A6 Avant 4.2 quattro SE Tiptronic | 52,970
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 6.2 seconds
Test MPG: 23.9mpg | Power: 335bhp | Torque: 310lb ft

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----------------------------------------------------- Audi A6 Avant 4.2 quattro