The car Audi A6 Avant 2.0 TDI Ultra S line S tronic
Run by Barnaby Jones, digital reviews editor
Needs to Commute from Surrey to the What Car? office in Middlesex, make regular weekend trips to Somerset and Devon to see family and friends, and fit all sorts of detritus in the boot
Run by What Car? since December 2014
Why this version?
We’ve gone for the most popular Audi A6 Avant, which means a tax-efficient 2.0-litre diesel engine (badged Ultra) combined with the S tronic automatic gearbox. This keeps company car tax bills down (the A6 sits in the 21% tax bracket) and fuel economy up (a seriously impressive claimed average of 64.2mpg).
Of course, the A6 Avant combines the luxuriousness of an executive car with the practicality of an estate, so it’s the office go-to car for any weekend away. Besides, with my regular trips to see family in Somerset and my girlfriend’s parents in Devon, the A6 spends much of its time on motorways with a bootful of luggage. Add a weekday diet of cross-town commuting and the A6 is being thoroughly tested.
Audi A6 Avant specification
All A6 Avants come with leather upholstery, sat-nav, four-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, a DAB radio and a powered tailgate. That’s a lot of desirable equipment, but our car is the semi-sporty S line version, which adds sportier body styling than entry-level SE versions, plus larger wheels (standard 18-inchers in our car’s case, but you can go for 20-inch ones if your wallet and spine permit), lowered and stiffened suspension, full-LED headlamps and sports seats.
To that we added the automatic gearbox for £1530, the £1625 Technology Pack (upgraded sat-nav with online functionality, plus a colour screen between the dials in the instrument binnacle), heated front seats for £300 and Floret silver metallic paint at £655.
Long trips are the A6’s forte, because it’s certainly happiest on the motorway. There’s little engine or wind noise, but the best thing is how solid and composed it feels at speed; the suspension simply deals with ruts and bumps without allowing the car to be deflected off line. It sounds like a small point, but not having to make tiny adjustments to the steering every few seconds to keep the car in the middle of its lane means you can relax and let the miles slip away.
In fact, the only thing that spoils the calm is the amount of road noise on coarse surfaces, but this is noticeable partly because the A6 is so quiet the rest of the time.
The ride is a little firm around town, but it’s not uncomfortable, and the effortless steering and automatic gearbox help make the A6 relaxing to drive. When your mood and the conditions allow, though, the big Audi can also be hustled down a twisty road at a fair old lick.
The engine is the star of the show for me, though: it’s seriously smooth and quiet, even from cold, and has plenty of low-rev shove. It rarely leaves me wanting more performance, so I’d seriously question the need for a more powerful version.
The gearbox changes gear quickly and smoothly, but it’s not perfect; in an effort to keep CO2 emissions as low as possible, the ’box shifts to the highest gear that the engine can cope with. This is fine in most situations, but when you want to accelerate moderately, there’s a momentary pause while the gearbox selects a lower ratio, then the car accelerates slightly more quickly than you wanted it to. It’s a small point, but it can be annoying – and I’m not the only person to have remarked on it.
Another small point is how much space the A6 Avant takes up. It's a long car, which can make parking tricky. It’s also pretty wide, and the door mirrors stick out a long way, so I fold in the driver’s one every time I park in a narrow spot. This takes a fair old shove and seems slightly unbecoming in an executive estate car, so I wish I’d gone for the optional electrically folding mirrors.
Naturally, you’d expect such a big car to be suitably large inside. However, while the A6 Avant is spacious, it’s not quite as commodious as the exterior dimensions would have you believe.
It’s certainly big enough for most everyday situations, though. There’s masses of space up front, and two tall adults will be happy in the rear seats (a third person will feel hemmed in and have to sit on the hard middle seat).
The boot is also a good size, but the Avant’s sloping roofline does cut into the available space. It’ll still swallow a family’s holiday luggage, but you’ll have to go for the huge Mercedes E-Class Estate if you’re in the antique furniture business.
There’s plenty of useable storage space dotted around the cabin, though, and the boot comes with a full complement of straps and lashing points.
The A6 Avant is practical in other ways, too. The boot lip is the ideal height for resting a walking boot on to tie your laces, while the open tailgate provides good protection from the wind.
Another thing that isn’t in question is interior quality. Everything you can see and touch reeks of class; it’s a mixture of plushness and robustness that makes you feel good about simply sitting in the cabin.
It’s a dark interior, though, which can feel slightly oppressive when it’s murky outside. Our S line model’s standard black headlining doesn’t help, and nor does the black leather upholstery. Silver leather is a no-cost option, but lighter trim can be difficult to keep clean, and besides, the black interior goes well with the silver exterior paint.
The optional panoramic glass sunroof would have helped brighten things, but it costs £1250 and it’s only on particularly dreary days that I wish we’d gone for it on our car.
Audi A6 Avant mpg
Our real-world True MPG tests show the A6 Avant Ultra can manage 43.5mpg on average, and our own figures are close to this. It’ll do 40-45mpg on a motorway run, while town driving results in mid-30s to the gallon.
A large (73-litre) fuel tank also means that fuel stops are few and far between. The A6 will easily do 600 miles on a tank of diesel, and closer to 700 if you drive with maximum economy in mind.
Audi A6 Avant problems
Truth be told, there’s precious little wrong with the A6. In fact, the biggest annoyance so far is how long it takes the climate control to clear the windscreen of condensation on a cold morning.
A couple of colleagues have also said they couldn’t get totally settled in the driver’s seat, but it’s not something I’ve had a problem with – in fact, I find the seat particularly supportive and comfortable on long journeys.
The Audi A6 Avant’s price
The list price is the best part of £37k, which sounds like a lot for an estate with a 2.0-litre diesel engine (even one with an Audi badge and as much equipment as our S line model). When you factor in the optional extras we went for, the price just busts the £40k barrier, at £40,515.
This is a company car first and foremost, however, and a 40% taxpayer will have to part with about £255 a month, which makes it a relative bargain. It’s not quite such good value on a contract hire deal, but a monthly bill of around £435 is still competitive.
Audi A6 Avant 2.0 TDI Ultra S line statistics
Target Price £32,104
Mileage to date 9250
True MPG 43.5mpg
Emissions/company car tax 115g/km/21%
0-62mph 8.5 seconds
Top speed 140mph
Insurance group 33
Typical quote £865