The improved version of Audi's fifth generation A6 Avant is a large, luxurious estate that combines practicality with panache. It'll have its work cut out dislodging BMW and Mercedes estate models in this segment but it's hard not to love the care and attention that's clearly been lavished on this car.
Audi may not be too far ahead of its arch-rival BMW in terms of overall sales but in one segment at least, the Ingolstadt maker comprehensively beats its closest rival: that of large, luxurious Executive-class estates. Their A6 Avant out-sells the rival BMW 5 Series Touring nearly two-to-one and is even further ahead of estate versions of other key segment competitors like Mercedes' E-Class and the Jaguar XF. What then, might the marque achieve with a car that's smarter, safer and clever? This one, the fifth generation A6 Avant. This isn't the biggest model in its segment but for many buyers, it offers the most complete all-round proposition in terms of model choice, practicality and technology, which explains why the other German brands take this contender so seriously. It's claimed to be the most complete large load carrier Audi has ever made. Let's check it out in this improved form.
Audi offers this A6 Avant with a wide range of engines but nearly all of them are 2.0-litres in size and feature mild hybrid tech. The base 40 TFSI is front-driven with 204PS, with the same engine also available in the pricier 45 TFSI quattro in 245PS form allied to 4WD. The mainstream alternative is the 40 TDI diesel, putting out 204PS and only offered in quattro form. The 2.0 TFSI petrol engine reappears again in a plug-in hybrid petrol model, the A6 50 TFSIe, with a combined output of 299PS and an electric driving range when fully charged of up to 40 miles. At the top of the range sit two bespoke sporting models. The S6 quattro uses Audi's 3.0-litre six cylinder TDI diesel engine in a 350PS state of tune. And the top RS 6 quattro (an Avant-only variant) has a 4.0-litre TFSI twin turbo V8 with 600PS, the result being 600PS, 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds, 124mph in 12 seconds and one queasy looking Labrador. As you'd expect in this segment, all A6 models are exclusively equipped with automatic transmission. That'll be a seven-speed S tronic gearbox, unless you've opted for the S6 or the RS 6 (in which case the transmission will be an 8-speed tiptronic set-up to handle the extra torque). In conjunction with the tiptronic transmission, the quattro configuration is based on the familiar self-locking centre differential format, while the S tronic transmission works with more efficient 'ultra' technology, which is capable of engaging the rear axle instantly whenever needed but decouples it during cruising to maximise efficiency. On all models, the driver can select various driving profiles via the Audi drive select system - with 'efficiency, 'comfort', 'dynamic' options, plus 'auto' if you can't make up your mind and 'individual' if you want to set your own throttle, steering and gearshift parameters.
This fifth A6 Avant generation model got a final round of subtle changes in mid-2023, with minor changes to the Singleframe front grille, new side air intakes and a revised rear diffuser. Otherwise, things are much as before, with taut surfaces, sharp edges and striking lines, plus a long bonnet, a long wheelbase and short overhangs. The swept back rear styling means, says Audi, that it won't have to produce an extra stylised large estate model like the old Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake. You might wonder though, whether this will impinge on practicality. Apparently not. The boot capacity with all the seats in place remains at 565-litres, aided by a boot floor that's long and particularly wide, at 1,050mm. Bear in mind though, that this drops to just 405-litres with the 50 TFSI e Plug-in Hybrid version. Drop the rear 40:20:40 split-rear bench and in a conventionally-engined model, 1,680-litres of space can be freed up, again, the same as with the previous generation design. It's 1,535-litre with the PHEV version. None of these figures can match those of a rival Mercedes E-Class Estate, but Audi thinks potential executive buyers won't care, being attracted by the sleek looks of this A6. The tailgate and luggage compartment cover open electrically as standard and of course, there's the option of doing that with a wave of your foot beneath the bumper. For passengers, the cabin is more spacious than before, with class-leading front and rear elbow room and rear knee room. Up front, the interior updates are subtle. The dashboard and roof lining are now finished in black, the multi-functions sports steering wheel features contrast stitching and and footrest and pedals are finished in stainless steel. As before, the dash features the black-panel design we first saw on the current A8. As there, the centre console is directed towards the driver, as is the top MMI touch response display, which almost disappears into an aluminium clip when switched off.
Expect a premium of just over £2,000 to own an A6 Avant over the saloon body style. That means asking prices starting from around £46,000. As ever, this car's three key rivals will be the Mercedes E-Class Estate, the BMW 5 Series Touring and the Jaguar XF Sportbrake. If you want the A6 Avant 50 TFSI e Plug-in Hybrid, you'll need to budget from just under £57,000. You'll need to get your A6 Avant's spec right. Your dealer will want you to add the optional 'Technology Pack (another £3,000), which brings a Bang & Olufsen Premium Sound System, multi-coloured extended LED interior lighting, a 360-degree camera with top view, the brand's 'Park Assist with Parking aid plus' set-up and a Head-up display. If you want to go further, the 'Technology Pack Pro' option (£6,000 more on mainstream models) adds four-zone climate control, a panoramic sunroof, USB-C ports in the rear, heated rear seats, Advance Key keyless entry and a 'Parking Assist Plus' with Remote park functionality. Across the range, there are four suspension set-ups: the conventional steel spring suspension, the sport suspension, the suspension with damper control and the adaptive air suspension, also with controlled damping. 'Progressive steering', which becomes even quicker and more direct as the steering angle increases, is standard. And dynamic all-wheel steering can also be added to further enhance this agility. Plus you can add in various autonomous driving features. Audi connect online services provide clever 'car-to-X services' traffic sign and hazard information. They use the swarm intelligence from the Audi fleet and network the Audi A6 with its environment.
All engines in this fifth generation A6 feature the brand's mild-hybrid technology. Here a belt alternator starter (BAS) works together with a lithium-ion battery, enabling the A6 to coast at speeds of between 34mph and 99mph in the interest of fuel economy and to initiate its start-stop function earlier - at speeds of 13mph and below. The engine is restarted from standstill predictively as soon as the vehicle in front starts moving. During deceleration, the BAS recovers up to 12 kW of energy. Let's get to the WLTP figures. The volume 2.0-litre 40 TDI diesel Avant manages 48.7mpg on the combined cycle and 151g/km of CO2. The 40 TFSI quattro petrol saloon variant delivers combined fuel economy of up to 38.2mpg (depending on wheel size and trim choice) and CO2 emissions of up to 167g/km. The 45 TFSI quattro petrol saloon variant delivers combined fuel economy of up to 36.2mpg (depending on wheel size and trim choice) and CO2 emissions of up to 178g/km. Go for the A6 50 TFSI e Avant plug-in hybrid petrol variant and, thanks to this derivative's possible 40 mile combined WLTP-rated all-electric driving range, you can enjoy a tax-beating CO2 return that's WLTP-rated at up to 33g/km. The combined fuel figure is up to 201.8mpg. We'll finish by covering the warranty. All cars in this class get three years of cover, but whereas BMW and Mercedes don't limit your mileage in this period, Audi rather meanly restricts you to 60,000 miles. Optional extra-cost packages can extend the cover to either four or five years.
This, even BMW and Mercedes would reluctantly have to admit, is a beautiful piece of engineering. It always has been. The A6 Avant was, after all, the first cars in its class to offer things like bonded-in flush glazing, a galvanised bodyshell, V6 TDI power, four wheel drive and advanced twin-clutch automatic gearboxes. And in this improved smart-suited fifth generation guise, the cleverness continues, an extra dose of visual charisma blended with high technology and premium quality unsurpassed in this sector. This car's drawbacks, such as they are, don't appear to bother many potential buyers. No it's still not the most spacious large executive estate in its class - but these days, it's large enough for that not to matter. Yes, the extras can be expensive, but then that's the case with any premium executive car. And it's true that the handling isn't especially aimed at driving enthusiasts, though you can go a long way towards sharpening it by tweaking the 'drive select' dynamic handling system or even by specifying the clever Sport differential. This then, is a very complete product that will doubtless continue as one of the leaders in its class for many years to come. A thorough case, if ever there was one, of vorsprung durch technic.