Audi's much improved fifth generation A6 Avant is a large, luxurious estate that combines practicality with panache. In this form, it's even higher-tech, better finished and cleverer than before and aims to offer buyers a little more charisma and driving reward than the previous version could have. You can see why so many buyers in this segment like it.
Audi offers this A6 Avant with a wide range of engines, starting with four-cylinder options at the foot of the range. The brand thinks that ideally though, most customers will want to try the mild hybrid technology used in its two powerfully smooth six-cylinder engines - one a TFSI and one a TDI. The 3.0 TFSI V6 turbocharged petrol unit powers this estate from rest to 62mph in just over 5 seconds using its 340PS and 500Nm of pulling power, topping out at an electronically limited 155mph. More popular though, will be the 3.0 TDI diesel with 286PS. This unit delivers similar performance thanks to 620Nm of pulling power.
As before, all A6 models are exclusively equipped with automatic transmission. The 3.0 TDI unit is paired with an eight-speed tiptronic and the 3.0 TFSI with a seven-speed S tronic. Both engines channel their outputs through quattro all-wheel drive as standard. In conjunction with the tiptronic transmission, the quattro configuration is based on the more familiar self-locking centre differential format, while the S tronic transmission works with the even more efficient ultra-variant, which is capable of engaging the rear axle instantly whenever needed but decouples it during cruising to maximise efficiency. The driver can select various driving profiles via the Audi drive select system - the wide spread from Comfort through to Dynamic is even more pronounced than in the outgoing model.
The swept back rear styling means, says Audi, that it won't have to produce an extra stylised large estate model like the Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake. You might wonder though, whether this will impinge on practicality. Apparently not. The boot capacity with all the seats in place remains at 565-litres, aided by a boot floor length that's 27mm longer this time round and particularly wide, at 1,050mm. Drop the rear 40:20:40 split-rear bench and 1,680-litres of space can be freed up, again, the same as with the previous generation model. These figures can't match those of a rival Mercedes E-Class Estate, but Audi thinks potential executive buyers won't care, being attracted by the sleeker looks of this A6.
The tailgate and luggage compartment cover open electrically as standard and of course, there's the option of doing that with a wave of your foot beneath the bumper. For passengers, the cabin is more spacious than before, with class-leading front and rear elbow room and rear knee room. Up front, the dash features the black-panel design we first saw on the current A8. As there, the centre console is directed towards the driver, as is the top MMI touch response display, which almost disappears into an aluminium clip when switched off.
This, even BMW and Mercedes would reluctantly have to admit, is a beautiful piece of engineering. It always has been. The A6 Avant was, after all, the first cars in its class to offer things like bonded-in flush glazing, a galvanised bodyshell, V6 TDI power, four-wheel drive and advanced twin-clutch automatic gearboxes. And in this improved smart-suited fifth generation guise, the cleverness continues, an extra dose of visual charisma blended with high technology and premium quality unsurpassed in this sector.
This car's drawbacks, such as they are, don't appear to bother many potential buyers. No, it's still not the most spacious large executive estate in its class - but these days, it's large enough for that not to matter. Yes, the extras can be expensive, but then that's the case with any premium executive car. And it's true that the handling isn't especially aimed at driving enthusiasts, though you can go a long way towards sharpening it by tweaking the 'drive select' dynamic handling system or even by specifying the clever Sport differential. This then, is a very complete product that will doubtless continue as one of the leaders in its class for many years to come. A thorough case, if ever there was one, of vorsprung durch technic.Click here to find out more about our Audi A6 Avant range