Thursday 14 December 2017

Audi ups the executive ante with the all-wheel-drive Avant

How times have changed.

Not long ago, if a friend or colleague even suggested we’d be getting all hot and bothered over an estate, we’d be deeply offended – if not outraged.

Indeed, we’d still be apoplectic were it not for the fact that the offending vehicles are no longer called estates (how very dare you, sir), preferring now to be known as sports tourer, shooting brake or Avant.

They’ve shed their load-lugger label, which was always associated with farmers and urban shopkeepers.

Now the gentrification of the humble wagon has been completed, with a carriage truly fit for the country squire or the adventurous city slicker.

This metamorphosis is best demonstrated in Audi’s sumptuous A6 which combines luxury with practicality and style.

In fact, the German car giant has upped the executive ante by offering the swish Avant in Quattro – that’s all-wheel-drive to us.

Refreshed in late 2014, the A6 is now even more refined, with more powerful and efficient engines working together with either a newly-designed six‑speed manual transmission that is lightweight and low-friction or a seven‑speed S Tronic.

There’s even more Vorsprung Durch Technik as standard kit, and all models include the signature Xenon lights, MMI navigation, acoustic glass and Audi Drive Select.

We were treated to the top-end S Line which also gets 18-inch alloys, three-spoke multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, climate control, heated seats with S Line embossed Valcona leather, front and rear parking sensors and electric tailgate.

One added extra we particularly liked was the matrix lights offering 5,500 kelvins of lighting – similar to daylight (which cost €1,395). Puddle lights with the Audi circles on the driver side and Quattro on the other were fab and a must at €139.

The cabin is noting short of spectacular, with soft hide perfectly complemented by brushed aluminium.

Build quality, as expected, is second to none, and the retractable seven-inch driver information screen adds a really classy touch.

Powering our test car was the new super-frugal Ultra diesel unit which generated 190bhp and a sprightly 0-100kph sprint of under eight seconds.

Impressive figures, considering it’s hauling almost two tonnes in kerb weight alone, yet still it manages to return an eye-watering 55mpg (5.1 litres/100kms) and annual road tax of only €280.

The drive and handling were a bit of a mixed bag as the extra grunt does not manifest itself immediately.

One really had to switch to dynamic mode (which alters the throttle, gear ratios and steering) before the A6 responded properly. That may be down to the extra weight of the Quattro system, but the extra horsepower had to dig deep.

One thing that is particularly impressive is the 7-speed S-Tronic automatic gearbox which is quite simply sublime. Seamless changes timed to perfection add to the executive feel of the A6, as does the new suspension set-up which makes motorway driving a joy.

The springs are made of glassfibre-reinforced polymer (GFRP), saving around 4.4kgs, reducing fuel consumption and cutting road vibration.

You also have the reassurance of Quattro should the weather or road conditions take a turn for the worse.

So, the big question is, would we considered buying an Avant?

Most certainly, but with the Quattro costing just south of €57,000, it’s probably better to doff the hat (albeit a deerstalker) to the well-kitted S Line and put the deposit down on a nice holiday.

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