Audi A6 estate performance
The engine line-up will be expanded later, but for now there are just two options: a 201bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel (illogically badged 40 TDI) and a 282bhp 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel (50 TDI).
The 50 TDI generates huge shove from relatively low revs, so feels effortlessly quick much of the time. However, even in Dynamic mode, its eight-speed automatic gearbox can be a bit slow-witted when pulling out of junctions or if you suddenly ask it to kick down.
For most people, the 40 TDI will be the better choice, because it offers lower fuel consumption and emissions, yet still has enough grunt to haul a fully loaded car with ease. A seven-speed automatic gearbox is standard with this engine, and while it can also leave you hanging when you’re looking to pull away swiftly from stationary, it’s fine on the move.
Audi A6 estate ride
There are four suspension options to choose from. Entry-level Sport trim gets standard steel springs and dampers, S line models get the same, but stiffened and lowered, while for a extra charge you can upgrade to adaptive suspension that comes with switchable dampers that can be softened or stiffened to suit your mood. Adaptive air suspension is an even pricier option, but it's not available on the lowest-powered 40 TDI.
In terms of the non-adaptive set-ups, both deliver a supple enough ride over large bumps, such as sleeping policemen, but even the softer ‘standard’ springs tend to thump over sharper-edged potholes. This in itself is not particularly irksome, but it’s what the suspension does after a bump – which is spring back up like a jack-in-a-box – that quickly becomes tiring, because you get pitched forwards and backwards in your seat.
Therefore, we'd definitely recommend you opt for the adaptive dampers. They’re reasonably priced, are available even on the lowest-powered 40 TDI and, despite still being on the firm side, deliver a far more sophisticated balance between control and compliance. They also deal with broken stretches of asphalt more effectively, while also controlling body movements over dips and crests extremely well.
If you regularly travel with the boot heavily loaded, however, it’s worth considering the air suspension, because this provides self-levelling instead of letting the car sit down at the back, but otherwise we wouldn’t go beyond the cheaper adaptive set-up.
Audi A6 estate handling
While the A6 Avant doesn’t scythe through bends with the precision of a Jaguar XF Sportbrake, it mostly handles predictably and securely.
We say mostly, because the 40 TDI sends all of its power to the front wheels – something that can cause the steering wheel to tug unnaturally in your hands under acceleration.
There are no such problems in the 50 TDI, which comes with Audi’s traction-enhancing quattro four-wheel drive system.
Optional rear-wheel steering turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts at low to medium speeds, reducing the turning circle by more than a metre and making the car quicker to change direction, while at higher speeds it turns the rear wheels in the same direction as the fronts to enhance stability.
Audi A6 estate refinement
The A6 Avant is a relaxing motorway cruiser, because it’s brilliant at shutting out wind and road noise, and both engines settle right down when you’re driving at a steady speed.
Those engines also feature mild hybrid technology, where the energy that would normally be lost under braking is instead recycled to allow brief periods of engine-off coasting that conserves fuel.
A bonus of this technology is that it makes the regular engine stop-start system smoother. But there are still a couple of areas of refinement where the A6 Avant is behind the BMW 5 Series Touring.
When the car is in its most responsive Dynamic mode and you’re accelerating, the 3.0-litre engine sounds coarser than you might expect; meanwhile, regardless of setting, the 2.0-litre unit sends some buzz back through the accelerator pedal. However, the latter engine is still smoother than its Jaguar and Volvo equivalents.