Audi A6 Avant 2019 long-term review

Audi A6 2018 long-term review - hero front

Has Audi’s latest exec challenger raised its game as a sporting choice or all-rounder? We’re finding out with back-to-back stints in a saloon and estate

Why we’re running it: To see if Audi has finally made an executive car with the broad appeal needed to truly challenge the class best

Month 4 – Month 3 – Month 2 – Month 1 – Specs

Life with an Audi A6 Avant: Month 4

Engine not as refined as expected – 27th March 2019

Modern diesels supposedly banished the black pump’s hoary old truck-engine reputation long ago, but our Audi’s 2.0 TDI stirs dormant recollections every time the stopstart function kicks in. The rattle and grumble as the motor restarts in traffic is a touch unseemly, while a cut-out of about 15 seconds makes it barely worth the bother.

Mileage: 3351

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Making use of rear space – 13th March 2019

An adult-sized bicycle fits with the rear seats folded down, but only with a front puncture. Once repaired, the wheel must be removed for the bike to squeeze in. Also this week, I’ve missed our previous A6 saloon’s electric seat controls to easily adapt my driving position. A stiff right leg after a two-hour 90-mile trip was uncomfortable, but I won’t complain about a near-60mpg figure.

Mileage: 2490

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Does a premium car like an A6 really merit its premium outlay? – 6th March 2019

Before I joined Autocar last autumn, I had a spell as a school teacher (long story, don’t ask). I needed wheels, but money was tight, so I played it safe with a finance deal for a lightly used Toyota Aygo.

A modest choice, especially for someone who loves cars – but needs must, and there’s a reason it’s the archetypal ‘teacher’s car’. The finance was only £120 a month, running costs and maintenance were low and I consoled myself that at least I was buzzing around in what is actually a sharp piece of modern, ergonomic design. It’s now on loan to my in-laws and I’ve got a soft spot for it.

The contrast to my life today is clearly stark. I’m back working in an office, in a job that’s on familiar territory and doesn’t test my sanity (well, not often). I am commuting again – an 80-mile daily round trip – but at least I’m doing so in this Audi A6 Avant. Compared to the Aygo, it has four wheels, it’s the same colour – and that’s about it.

But as I hit the static M25 the other morning, I found myself considering this contrast in fundamental terms: just what has such a car added to my life, and now the novelty has worn off, is such luxury worth it?

When I get home at night, having spent in total about three hours behind the wheel, I’m still knackered. But the difference is I’d be completely spent if I was doing it in the Aygo.

Small cars are hard work over distance, especially on motorways. The A6 is a cocoon, the minimal road noise and Audi’s renowned interior finesse creating a calming ambience that soothes away stress, even on the stickiest of journeys. In truth, that novelty hasn’t worn off, and the same can be said for the ride. B-roads were a back-battering chore in the Aygo, but the A6 – even on conventional springs – smooths over all but the worst craters.

On motorways, I always felt vulnerable in the Aygo, a minnow among hulking trucks. It’s noticeable how little respect other drivers are willing to give you in a small car, and that is perhaps the biggest daily difference. ‘Survival of the fittest’ is the worst aspect of UK driving when you are bottom of the food chain.

Now, Audi drivers have their own reputation and one is well aware what others might be thinking as you waft along in a squat, big-grilled, sore-thumb white A6. My tendency to overcompensate by driving with a courtesy that might invoke genuine surprise in fellow road users keeps me amused. But I’m also shallow enough to revel in my new-found higher status… and with 295lb ft under my foot, the ease with which I can extricate myself from clumps of traffic has on occasion provoked smugness. Unattractive, I know, but there you go. I’m clearly reverting to Audi type.

As touched on in the last report, economy is a marvel, with more than 670 miles eked out of a tank of diesel. Then again, the Aygo was frugal, too – which is entirely its point. No, it’s the torque, comfort and ride that count most. I can’t deny, the A6 just makes life easier to negotiate. So would I go back to the humble life of a road minnow? Actually, yes. Then again, I’ve always revelled in playing the underdog.

But I’m in no hurry when the view from here is so beguiling. It’s human nature to adapt to your surroundings and now ‘premium’ is the new normal I’m intrigued to see how much I start to pick holes in the finer life. That’s human nature, too.

Love it:

Eye-catching looks First sight in the morning and when I come back to it at the end of the day. Low, fat and wide, this car has presence.

Loathe it:

…Apart from one thing The grille. It’s cumbersome and plain ugly and spoils an attractive face. Kylo Ren from Stars Wars springs to mind.

Mileage: 1854

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Life with an Audi A6: Month 3

Blue sky driving – 13th February 2019

Driving to and from work in the darkness of a depressing British winter means I can’t always enjoy one of the Audi’s less obvious strengths. But at the weekend, pottering about in the daytime, it struck me how the plethora of glass makes the cabin a light and uplifting place to view the world. It’s also a reminder that privacy glass isn’t an option that’s for everyone.

Mileage: 930

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We’ve swapped our lavishly equipped saloon for a lower-spec estate. Any regrets? – 6th February 2019

Saloon or estate? Perhaps it’s an age thing, but these days I’d usually go for the estate, especially when it comes to the options on offer from Germany’s Big Three. Function over style is an equation of zero relevance at this end of the market. In fact, the ‘bread van’ choice is often the more striking.

Is that the case with the pair pictured above? Totally subjective, of course, but my eye errs towards the lugger. From the front, they appear identical anyway, but it’s the tapering rear end that does it for me.

So it was only with the slightest pang of regret that I bid farewell to the muscular A6 50 TDI and ushered an expectant welcome to the swooping Avant, despite the lower spec referenced in its designation as a 40.

Out goes the steroidal 3.0-litre V6 and in comes the steadfast 2.0-litre inline four, pulled by regular front-wheel drive rather than all-round quattro dynamism. The S-tronic gearbox has seven cogs to the tiptronic automatic’s eight, it rides on 18in Bridgestones rather than 19in Pirellis, and the sweet force of 0-62mph acceleration in 5.5sec is swapped for a more uneventful 8.3sec.

The embarrassment of expensive options, which raised eyebrows with a few readers, is off the table, too. Instead of nearly £20,000 worth of extravagance, our Avant’s list fills only a few lines rather than half a page: Technology pack (£1495), a larger fuel tank, up from 63 to 73 litres (£115), suspension with damping control (£1150) and a panoramic glass sunroof (£1950) that has already proven a hit with the kids in the back. Glass and light are copious.

Of the 50’s extras, what I’m already missing are the striking 5-V-spoke alloy wheels (the 40’s almost look plastic in comparison), the dynamic all-wheel steering, the sci-fi bling of HD matrix LEDs that can’t fail to impress/wind up other drivers, and the comforting cushion of adaptive air suspension. Even with the damping extra on the Avant, traditional steel coils are inevitably less composed over the B-road craters the Avant will be negotiating on a daily basis for the next few months.

Still… first-world problems, eh? The intent is only to describe, not to complain. How could I? Big load-lugging Audis are renowned for their good looks, composure and comfort – and whatever the spec, this fifth-gen A6 lives up to the regal lineage.

Just a week into life with the 40, a few early impressions spring to mind. First, I’ve yet to trouble a fuel forecourt and won’t need to for a few days yet. The 50 had proven pleasantly frugal for its size and heft, thanks in part to mild hybridisation. Benefiting from the same system, which saves the engine work at cruising speed, the 2.0-litre four is little short of a marvel in this respect.

In real-world terms, over 11 weeks, it cost an average of £74 to brim the 50’s 63-litre tank each week, to log an average of 438 miles. It will be interesting to see how that all changes thanks to the Avant’s larger tank and smaller engine.

Another key observation reflects the only significant black mark against the V6, and one that never ceased to prove troubling. Pick-up from a standstill at busy junctions and roundabouts often caused the heart to flutter a little faster. ‘Lag’ in the motoring lexicon is usually associated with turbos from another age, but it’s the best description for the V6’s initial lethargy. Squirt the 2.0-litre four and the contrasting reaction isn’t perfect – but the response is vastly better. Still, it seems odd such a point should be raised at all for cars of this price and sophistication.

At this juncture, the hunch is we’ll find more that is preferable about the estate in the coming months. The extra space capacity – a still generous 530 litres for the saloon versus 565 for the Avant – certainly won’t go to waste. ‘Broad appeal’ is on the brief, and it really shouldn’t be lacking.

Love it:

NO FEAR OF CABIN FEVER Trademark refinement of interior offers unblemished comfort over distance. Spec downgrading is noticeable, but negligible.

Loathe it:

FIVE INTO A6 DOESN’T GO Teenager reports middle rear seat is hard and space is tight – although two small-person booster seats either side don’t help.

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Life with an Audi A6: Month 2

Colourful interior ambience – 16th January 2019

Experiments with driving modes have proven diverting, more for the bling in the cabin than any great variations in handling. Dynamic mode is most pleasing, its red pin lights proving ‘very Death Star’ in the dark. More usefully, the optional four-wheel steering has impressed, enabling the A6 to turn so much tighter than our family S-Max in confined spaces.

Mileage: 5566

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Why ignoring driver alerts isn’t always – or perhaps ever – a good idea – 2nd January 2018

Colin Chapman’s old adage generally tends to serve me well: “Don’t worry, it’ll be all right.”

The Lotus founder wasn’t averse to blind faith, according to his regularly frazzled staff, and often things were indeed “all right”. But sometimes they weren’t – and I’ve discovered the same, unfortunately, is true for me. I thought of Chapman’s optimism as I stood shivering behind a barrier on the M3 early on a Friday morning as an endless stream of rush-hour traffic swooshed past. The Audi A6 currently stranded 50 yards up the hard shoulder had told me with an alarming ping that ‘air pressure is low in right rear tyre’. Had I listened? Had I heck. It would be all right.

“I don’t mean to tell you how to suck eggs,” said Mark, the cheerful chap from the AA, who’d arrived after a pleasingly short 30-minute wait. No, it’s okay, go on. “If you’d stopped when the alarm came on, we could have saved the tyre.”

The tell-tale gouge in the Pirelli P Zero clearly suggested I’d run over something sharp and probably metallic. But the deterioration in the sidewall was my own doing, thanks to running the tyre flat in my hopeful efforts to make it to work (for a busy press day, in my defence).

The Audi had tried to warn me more than once. Following the initial ping, another sounded with a glaring red message warning of a major fault in the usually magical air suspension, before a final missive declared the wheel bolts were loose. They weren’t, but the white lie did the trick and I admitted defeat. Yes, lesson learnt, Mark: when the shiny new car tells me something in an urgent manner, next time I’ll listen.

In further defence (come on, you expected this bit), perhaps my doubts were sewn by the regular false alarms on my daily drive: emergency braking I don’t require, front sensors suddenly flashing up as out of action in slow traffic I’ve been crawling among for ages. Such occurrences are by no means exclusive to this A6, but it hadn’t exactly helped me build a relationship of trust with the Audi – although we seem to have a new, deeper understanding since the puncture incident.

On a happier note, our bond had already been strengthened on our first significant long-distance trip together with (some of) the family on board. The teenagers were busily revising for GCSE mocks, so only the three-year-old twins joined Mrs Smith and I for a much-needed weekend away to the Cotswolds. A perfect opportunity to stretch the Audi away from the tedium of the daily commute beckoned.

Booster seats and four little legs were never a serious challenge to the bounteous rear passenger cabin, but what about the small mountain of stuff we’d be carting west? No bother. The 530-litre boot swallowed our clutter, including two junior bikes, without even the hint of a belch. Such family jaunts probably weren’t foremost in the intentions for this regally comfortable executive saloon, but it’s perfectly suitable – especially with that air-assisted ride adding to a sense of serenity not even disturbed by the peacekeeping Disney soundtrack of Frozen, Moana and the like.

Since our introduction to the A6, readers have commented on the eye-watering list of luxury options included on our test car, and I’ll return to these in future reports. In reality, some would be simply unnecessary – but I must admit, the all-wheel steering is a grower. Road placement and grip only improve with confidence and there is further satisfaction to be found with this car beyond the pampering of the interior’s refined comfort. Perhaps that’s another sign of a deepening trust in this accomplished, mature performer. I’m in good hands.

Love it:

A LESSON IN ECONOMY Consistently good economy, assisted by mild-hybridisation, ensures just a single weekly pit stop despite high commuter miles.

Loathe it:

ERRANT ENGINE RESPONSE Lack of initial throttle response from a standstill followed by a sensation of all-at-once power delivery remains disconcerting.

Mileage: 5213

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Life with an Audi A6: Month 1

A semi-unwelcome reminder – 21 November 2018

The problem with the long-term memory display is that it’s a telltale of just how much time I spend commuting: more than two whole days in just three weeks – at an average speed of just 28mph. Still, can’t complain. Each day I look forward to it, such is the soothing aura of refinement. The daily grind has never been so calming.

Mileage: 1557

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Welcoming the A6 to the fleet – 7 November 2018

The white-van driver toots, then motions to wind the window down as we crawl along the chocker A316. Uh-oh… but it’s fine. “What engine is that?” he calls. “3.0-litre V6,” I reply. “Is that the new one? Very nice, mate.” Thumbs-up, a smile and we return to our vastly contrasting automotive cocoons. This striking Audi A6 evokes a response, just as is intended, and its regeneration is clearly something of an event to those tuned in to premium-class saloons.

Audi’s target across the new A6 range is to challenge both the driving dynamism of the BMW 5 Series and the all-round brilliance of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Quite a task, then. Our intention in the coming months is to discover whether it has pulled it off, which means sampling more than one of these executive liners. A stint in the Avant estate will follow before our time is up.

Audi has always been white hot on comfort and toasty on tech – but has it got what it takes to add flavour to the ingredient that has too often come up bland? Sport is in Audi’s genes after all those years of Le Mans domination, but somehow it hasn’t always translated to the road. In this class, it’s beyond time that it does. We start with this, the diesel S Line saloon, with all the bells and whistles that add an eye-watering £19,670 to the base price.

That 3.0-litre V6 is good for 286bhp and a whopping 620lb ft of torque, topping out at (apparently) 155mph. Economy is measured at 48.7mpg (we’ll certainly be testing that), with CO2 emissions rated at 150g/km. An 80-mile round-trip daily commute is a good place to start for a car intended to revel in long-distance cruising, and in our first week, more than 540 miles are logged – in a state of zen-like serenity.

That’s saying something, given the slog includes a sticky stretch of M25. Here, the automatic handbrake and engine cut are silently blessed every day. Idling in traffic has never been so placid, in Alcantara tranquillity. The firm but posture-friendly seats, the tactile finish of both hard and soft surfaces, the pleasing glow from the sharp dashboard, instrument cluster and large navigation screen, augmented with a personal soundtrack of BBC 6 Music on the sonorous Bang & Olufsen optional sound system… it’s like a personal daily spa in a five-star hotel. Homely? Absolutely not. But the clinical sense of cool detachment is a comforting novelty right now. Yet few want to live in a hotel forever, no matter the standard of pampering. Let’s see if glacial perfection wears thin.

The supple ride from the adaptive air suspension contributes to the calm, as the family attest on a weekend chauffeur trip to Brighton for a spot of 16th birthday shopping. The teenagers grin with usually hard-to-win approval at this slice of the finer life. The A6 is born for straight and true highways.

But what about on the pockmarked British B-road? There’s plenty of opportunity to find out in the bucolic Surrey Hills in the coming months, not least on the rutted puncture trap that leads to home.

Here, that clever air suspension truly exceeds expectations. Roads that usually rattle our innards are reduced to barely a ripple. This is one novelty that won’t wear off.

So much for tech and comfort. How about that dynamism target? Well, early doubts have crept in. The first niggle to take root is the significant delay between squeezing the right foot and something actually happening. The eight-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox is a marvel once moving, with torque apparently endless in whatever gear it has chosen. But when a squirt is most needed, from a standing start at a busy junction or roundabout, or when pulling out to overtake something slow on a straight bit of A-road, the lack of urgency is mildly troubling. Then that diesel torque suddenly kicks in and it all starts happening. It’s a little disconcerting, but perhaps we need to learn how to get the best from it.

A lightness of touch, especially on curving A-roads, certainly seems essential. The all-wheel steering hasn’t inspired confidence so far. Perhaps experimentation with the dazzling (and slightly daunting) array of dynamic options will refine our faith. But awareness of the A6’s imposing dimensions is never heightened more than on such roads. Threading through busy Brighton streets is a breeze, but out in the open, the A6 doesn’t encourage you to hustle. Better to take your time and go with the flow.

So has Audi combined chauffeur levels of zen with a wow factor Allan McNish could relate to? We endeavour to find out. Either way, that BMW and Mercedes rivalry is a tension the A6 cannot escape. Then again, if you respond to blue steel supermodel elegance like our friend in the white van, does it really matter? There is much to enjoy here. True love might well thaw the frosty facade as we draw into winter.

Second Opinion

The A6 can come across as a bit of a cold fish, but I suspect it to garner lasting affection from the Autocar team. I also suspect our car’s optional air suspension will be largely responsible for that. It lends the cabin a churchlike ambience on motorway schleps but with little if any trade-off in body control on B-roads. On the subject of B-roads, I also predict there will be days when Damien wishes he’d got his hands on a 5 Series instead.

Richard Lane

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Audi A6 50 TDI Quattro specification

Specs: Price New £50,470 Price as tested £70,825 Options 20in 5-V-spoke alloy wheels £950, quattro with Sport differential £1550, black glass operating buttons £325, head-up display £1450, City Assist Pack £1375, Tour Pack £1950, 360deg camera and front/rear sensors £700, dynamic all-wheel steering £1950, MMI Navigation plus £1495, HD Matrix LED headlights £600, storage pack £100, privacy glass £475, LED interior lighting pack £275, acoustic glazing for side windows £525, adaptive air suspension £2050, panoramic glass sunroof £1750, electrically adjustable exterior mirrors £150, auto climate control £825, adaptive windscreen wipers £375, Bang & Olufsen sound system £800

Test Data: Engine V6, 2967cc, twin-turbo, diesel Power 282bhp at 3500-4000rpm Torque 457lb ft at 2250-3000rpm Kerb weight 1890kg Top speed 155mph 0-62mph 5.7sec Fuel economy 48.7mpg CO2 151g/km Faults None Expenses None

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Source: Autocar

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