Tuesday 12 December 2017

A wagon fit for a squire or even a top-flight exec

Luxury comes in the shape of the Audi Avant, where a wave of your foot opens the boot, writes Philip Hedderman

AVANT GARDE: Audi is becoming increasingly popular among business executives
AVANT GARDE: Audi is becoming increasingly popular among business executives

There was a time when the estate was the preserve of the village squire or local antiques dealer.

A Volvo 240 was usually the carriage of choice, complete with red chequered picnic blanket and tweed deerhunter hat.

Not any more.

Thanks to some slick marketing and name changes, the 'Sports Tourer' or, in this case, the Audi Avant, is now more likely to be found in the executive car park than outside the town hall on bric-a-brac day.

For a premium of around €3,100 you get all the luxury and dynamic of the saloon coupled with the versatility and space of the biggest SUV on offer today.

The Avant has the best built cabin of the executive marques.

It puts the boot into its rivals with 565 litres of space in the rear, and with the back seats folded this almost trebles to 1,680.

A clever mix of sliding rails and nets ensures that whatever the load, shopping etc, it stays secure and intact.

One noteworthy feature and (sure to be adopted by the Koreans next year) is the gesture-controlled boot release.

It opens the tailgate by simply waving your foot under the bumper, leaving your hands to grapple with awkward bags, small children, or, in most cases, both.

Closing is equally handy -- a flick of a button on the boot lid and down she comes.

Inside you'll find leather upholstery and techno wizardry everywhere, including Audi Drive Select which allows the driver to change the driving dynamic of the car -- all displayed on a seven-inch colour screen.

A generous level of kit comes as standard and includes parking sensors, cruise control, multi-function steering wheel, climate control, rain and light sensors and chrome roof rails.

So it ticks all the right boxes for styling and quality, but how does it drive?

Well, flawlessly.

The 3.0 litre all-wheel drive Quattro has no real rivals. The 5 series 530D is an amazing car, but is just not in the same league as the Audi.

You just can't compare 2WD with 4WD -- especially not in one as finely tuned and responsive as the Quattro.

The grip and handling are such that this giant has the agility of a much smaller hot hatch.

The 245bhp diesel hits 100kph in just over 6.3 seconds and has a top whack of 250kph while returning an impressive 48mpg.

Thanks to stop/start technology and reduced weight, the emissions are kept down to 156g/km -- meaning annual road tax of €447.

It is the cure to the SUV hangover -- it does everything a big 4x4 does only there's no guilt. It has the economy of a city car while garnering the respect of the most hardened environmentalist.

The only real chink in the armour is the lack of an extra two seats.

Most of the big D4 tractors have fold down tot-sized pews in the back.

Another little gripe is the rear seats don't actually fold down flat (maybe they are too plump) -- but it is flagged as a trademark in cheaper estates.

There is also a hideous spacesaver spare wheel which is the ultimate passion killer of any luxury car that's suffered a flat.

If the Quattro is proving a bit rich then the manual 2.0 litre TDi could be the man with a 177bhp delivering economy of 56mpg and road tax of €156.

This carriage will make up the majority of sales in Ireland but don't be too surprised if the Quattro takes a few SUV scalps -- especially if we get a repeat of the Arctic conditions of last year.

A little bird tells me that Vorsprung Durch Technik doesn't sleep and it is only a matter of time before we see a 2.0 litre Quattro Avant.

Prices for the A6 Avant start at €45,650.

The Quattro on test cost €60,050.

Sunday Independent

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