Model/Engine size: 2.0 TDI SE (177 PS)
Fuel economy combined: 56.5 mpg
Green-Car-Guide rating: 9/10
If you’re looking for a large, stylish, and economical executive estate, then the Audi A6 Avant 2.0 TDI, capable of 56.5 mpg, should fit the bill.
It wasn’t too many years ago that you’d have been lucky to find such a car that returned 30 mpg , never mind over 50 mpg. To have a car that can do this and that also has all the design appeal of an Audi is a real bonus.
The A6 Avant offers added practicality over and above the A6 saloon. Having said that, although the load space stretches a long way between the tailgate and the rear seat, you won’t be able to pile up lots of things high in the boot, as the fastback styling means that this isn’t the most cavernous of estates.
However, being the biggest load carrier isn’t the point of this car; it’s designed to munch the miles on the motorway in a very efficient manner while providing a highly desirable interior environment and a stylish exterior – and it achieves this brief in a very capable fashion.
On the outside, it doesn’t look hugely different overall from previous Audi A6 Avants; it’s mainly the new headlights which make this A6 appear more dynamic than its predecessor.
The interior is where Audi shows what it’s best at. It has an extremely well designed cabin, with materials that both look and feel very upmarket, ranging from the steering wheel to the effective mix of interior surfaces. Cars such as the A6 show that Audi is probably leading the field in the area of interior design, and multimedia technology is now also a central part of this environment.
Every A6 now comes with satnav as standard, and the screen magically rises up and out of the dashboard. You also get a large space between the rev counter and speedo which features additional navigation instructions. The controller for the satnav is very much like the BMW iDrive system, well positioned near the handbrake, and it works well.
If we were to be really picky, we’d prefer to be able to adjust heating functions with just one switch, rather than having to touch two different controls to change the ventilation and fan settings. And the start button is on the left of the gear lever, which is not the most accessible place for a right-hand drive car.
If you’re spending most of your time behind the wheel on motorways, you won’t be disappointed. The days of noisy diesel engines are well gone; the 2-litre turbodiesel and six-speed manual ‘box combination in this A6 Avant is excellent, resulting in a quiet and refined mode of transport, with sixth gear providing low revs on motorway journeys, and you’d be hard pushed to tell this was a diesel if you were a passenger in this car. However from the driver’s seat, the excellent levels of torque will remind you which fuel pump to pull up next to.
Not that you’ll be pulling up at fuel stations very often; with a 65-litre fuel tank and over 50 mpg, this A6 has an excellent driving range, potentially approaching 800 miles if driven carefully.
This range proved very useful for our trip to a cottage half way up Cadair Idris in West Wales. The A6 provided perfect spacious, comfortable and planted transport on motorways and A and B roads, when it also displayed an excellent ride quality. It was only the very last leg of the journey where the one main weakness of the Audi showed up. The A6 is front-wheel drive, and our basic belief is that cars of this size and class should never be front-wheel drive.
Having been previously composed at all times, when asked to do what was required of it for the last few miles to the cottage – drive up steep hills that were either cold and damp, or actually covered in ice – the A6 started to struggle. With front-wheel drive and without winter tyres, it would lift up its front end and the wheels went searching for grip, resulting in torque steer and very flustered progress in terms of traction – and a very different customer experience from the same car on most other roads. The steering on the new A6 is improved over the previous model in terms of its feel, but when the front wheels aren’t in contact with the road this doesn’t count for much.
This experience is likely to have been made worse by having luggage in the boot, making the front end of the car even lighter. But we’d still invite Audi to offer this engine with the quattro four-wheel drive system to make the perfect all-round efficient estate car.
Our last two A6 press cars were both excellent in terms of coming close to their official miles per gallon figures; we had less success with the Avant, perhaps because much of the driving was through hilly Wales and the car was usually carrying some sort of load. Reaching 50 mpg was just about possible, but you’d have to be driving very carefully to achieve the official 56.5 mpg figure.
Standard features to aid the car’s efficiency include brake energy recuperation, an intelligent alternator, an air conditioning system which saves 8 g/km of CO 2 , and an automatic engine start-stop which eliminates idling. However we found that the start-stop system didn’t operate very often during our week with the car.
Our SE trim test car had lots of kit and technology – some of it standard such as the satnav, leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, automatic headlights and wipers, and front and rear parking sensors. However be aware that it’s very easy to add at least £10,000 to the basic £32,100 price by the addition of various options. Our test car had options such as electric front seats for an additional £1310, bi-xenon headlights (£1240), four-zone air conditioning (£680), front sports seat (£665), 18-inch alloys (£630), and a power-operated tailgate (£545). All the options took the total price to £41,735.
If you want more power than the entry-level 2-litre TDI engine, there’s also a 3.0-litre bi-turbo TDI and a 3.0-litre petrol unit. There’s also an A6 Allroad 4×4, but this only comes with a 2.7 or 3-litre V6 diesel, or a 3-litre V6 petrol – the most economical of these models can only manage 39.2 mpg, which is way short of the 56.5 mpg of the front-wheel drive 2.0 TDI.
The Audi A6 Avant 2.0 TDI is practical, desirable and efficient. It’s highly capable of eating long distances on the motorway while carrying four or five people and their luggage, and it provides a very attractive environment for driver and passengers.
We’re less enthusiastic about such a car being front-wheel drive; apart from the handling implications, the driving experience is less refined due to the front wheels being asked to both steer and deliver the power. As Audi doesn’t ‘do’ rear-wheel drive, perhaps it should consider offering a four-wheel drive option with this engine. If the fuel economy could be kept on the right side of 50 mpg, which should be possible if an Evoque can manage 49.6 mpg, then this really would mean that the A6 would be the perfect all-round estate car that could do everything.
As it is, the A6 Avant 2.0 TDI gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 9 out of 10; the scrabbling of the front wheels up cold and damp hills in mid-Wales being our only main issue. If you’re going to stick to motorways and dual carriageways rather than the countryside then there’s very little to fault this car.
Audi A6 Avant 2.0 TD I
Fuel economy extra urban: 62.8 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 46.3 mpg
emissions: 132 g/km
Green rating: VED band E – first year £0
Weight: 1640 Kg
Company car tax liability (2011/12): 19%
Insurance group: 26
Power: 175 bhp
Max speed: 138 mph
0-62mph: 9 seconds
• Read our Audi A6 2.0 TDI road test