Audi A6 marries tech with convention to prove diesel’s worth

In a new car scene predominated by compact and medium sector contenders of all types, Iain Robertson suggests that it is too easy to overlook the dependable large car sector, which is populated by its Germanic rivals, a Swede, a Brit and a Japanese manufacturer.

Ever since Audi adopted its single letter/single number model naming policy, the stalwart A6 has provided a (just) sub-5.0m saloon, Avant (estate) and allroad line-up. Delightfully spacious, possessing an unerringly superior build quality, the latest estate car in 50TDi quattro S-Line form is engagingly handsome and bridges the gap between A4 and A8 models. Its key rivals are the Merc E-Class, BMW 5-Series Touring, Volvo V60, Jag XF and Lexus ES (no estate), which underscore its place in the class.

Conventionality is king in this segment, although Audi digs into its Group’s technological capabilities to result in weight-saving construction (steel substructure, with aluminium elements) and fuel-saving mild hybrid aspects. In fact, the familiar 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel (meets EU6 ‘clean’ legislation) produces a moderate 282bhp, allied to 457lbs ft of torque, which enables a 0-60mph acceleration time of just 5.2s, before topping out at a restricted 155mph. It is mated to an efficient 8-speed automatic transmission (with Tiptronic paddles/manual shifter).

To suggest that it is eager would be an understatement. It uses that trough of mid-range punch to make overtakes an effortless breeze. It is exceptionally refined, thanks to partial encapsulation of the engine and first-rate noise suppression. However, its most vital statistic is the 50.4mpg official combined fuel economy and a mere 146g/km CO2 emissions. Carrying a list price of £51,870 (pre-discount) means that road tax will be supplemented with a hefty annual penalty for the first five years that is common for the class but which needs to be factored into any running cost considerations.

Naturally, the Avant possesses an accommodating 530-litres of boot space, which almost trebles in practical capacity, once the rear seats are split-folded to increase the deck length. With the seats erected, the amount of rear occupant space is limousine-like. Of course, the front of the cabin is also capacious and exceedingly comfortable, being clad in a leather/Alcantara combo. Mood lighting is applied tastefully and the three digital screens (configurable ahead of the driver; touchscreen atop the centre stack, also configurable; and one for heating/ventilation controls just below) add a touch of class to the stitched leather dashboard.

The driver can also select one of four driving modes, although I felt well-supported and the car felt eminently capable in the default Comfort setting, its electronic damper control compensating for any changes in road surface to provide a firm but resilient ride quality. Grip levels are exceptional and the quattro all-wheel drive system provides expected slip-free traction, regardless of weather conditions. Final credit goes to the outstanding LED headlamp array, which, on ‘auto’ setting, adjusts constantly to provide glare-free night-into-day illumination.

The A6 Avant is priced class-competitively (the test car featuring £11,560’s worth of ‘extras’) and, if you desire a practical and well-proportioned estate car, it more than exceeds expectations.

MSG Summary

Classy, elegant and comfortable, the A6 Avant is a fine contender for large car honours, where high-end space and practicality are the key requisites.

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