BMW teams up with Italian styling gurus at Pininfarina for slick new coupe
Audi A6 Avant 2.0 TDI SE: arrival
On fleet since: October 2011
Total mileage: 2,551
Official combined mpg / CO2: 56.5mpg / 132g/km
Actual mpg: 40.1
Engine: 2.0 TDI 177
Performance: 9.0s 0-60mph / 138mph top speed
Power/torque: 177hp @ 4,200rpm / 280lb.ft @ 1,750-2,500rpm
Insurance group: 27E
List price: £31,340
Options fitted: Ice Silver metallic paint (£750), storage package (£105), 18-inch alloys (£630), bi-xenon headlights (£1,240), lighting package (295), DAB digital radio (£410), Audi music interface (£260), 3-spoke Sports steering wheel (£115), load area fixing kit (£135), through-load facility (£210), heated front seats (£390), power-operated boot lid (£545), CD changer (£440), 4-way electric lumbar support (£295), Pre-sense basic (£260), deluxe 4-zone automatic air conditioning (£680), Driver's Information System (£410)
Price as tested: £39,270 232
Gallery: Audi A6 Avant 2.0 TDI SE
Read more long term tests
Pros: Good looking with subtle detailing, premium cabin, practicality, swallows a baby seat no problem
Cons: Hard seats mean painful legs after long journeys, poor economy, intermittent stop/start
Why are we running an Audi A6 Avant?
I really liked my Renault Megane Coupe, but now, it's not quite up to the job. Why? Because I've recently become a dad, to baby Daisy, meaning the Megane's narrow boot opening and dark rear cabin (plus its lack of rear doors) mean it's just not practical enough. It still has all the space I need, but the access isn't ideal and as all new parents know, it's hard enough getting ready for trips without encountering further obstacles along the way...
So, what better time to run one of the biggest mainstream estates on sale? The all-new Audi A6 Avant has just gone on sale, following the saloon model that was launched earlier in the year. I've been lucky enough to get one of the first in the country, in (easily) best-selling 2.0 TDI guise, to see how it fares in the lives of a newly-expanded family.
The MSN Cars Audi A6 Avant spec is simple: SE as it's the UK favourite, in manual-gearbox guise as that gives the best fuel economy and CO2 figures. With long distances to be covered, good economy is important.
There's a brace of options too, all charged with making life easier. The DAB is a particular coup for me as I'm a big BBC 6Music fan, while xenon lights and heated seats are perfect now the winter has arrived. 18-inch wheels look good too and the £115 for the Sport steering wheel is a bargain.
Audi's understated, evolutionary styling is well established now: the brand doesn't jump from one theme to another, but gradually evolves its sleek modern look. That's why people proclaim new Audis look like the the ones they replace when they're launched. Indeed, that's just what happened with this A6.
It didn't immediately take my breath, then. Know what, though? Already, the true lines of the new model are starting to show through. It's very much a design that grows on you, and is gradually starting to do this. When I see the old A6 Avant now, I think just that - old.
Inside, the new A6 has a much more avant-garde dashboard than the old one, yet one still built to the same fanatical Audi standards. The detailing is gorgeous and was appreciated from day one, with the aircraft-style centre console proving particularly reassuring. There's just something so inherently feel-good about pressing the cool-touch metal starter button on a cold morning...
Boy, does it feel big, too. The seats are set high, which helps visibility, something that's crucial as the A6 Avant is also very long and wide. Jumping from the compact-feel Megane has been something of a culture shock and it's taking me time to acclimatise to having something so much larger parked outside.
One thing that struck me after my very first journey, tough, was the seat comfort. Or, rather, lack of it. After my first two hours behind the wheel, I was in a bit of discomfort, thanks to a feeling of restricted blood supply in my legs and under-thigh support that felt like it was being jammed right into the back of my thighs.
On subsequent journeys, I've started shuffling with restlessness after 45 minutes and, on one late-night two-hour run, I was actually in a little bit of pain at the end of the trip. Why? I've concentrated hard, and reckon it's down to super, super-hard seats plus that real excess of under thigh padding.
Factor in the badly offset pedals that afflict all right-hand drive Audis, which results in legs canted to the right, and you've something that is currently winning little ergonomic praise. This, from a large premium executive car that's meant to be made for the long-distance autobahn run? You can see why I'm puzzled.
I'm going to give it time, though. At the moment, I've raised the seat up high, which seems to have levelled it off and reduced the discomfort (albeit while also leaving me towering high up in the car), and also plan to give it time and see if the seat itself softens. It's certainly something to talk about, though - and that's not all for niggles. Economy, as you'll see, is also causing ructions...
What do you get for your money?
The UK Audi A6 lineup is pretty well equipped even as standard. Audi's core model range is made up of SE and S line trims, with both getting the must-have essentials of leather seats, sat nav and climate control. To this basic spec, Audi has added £7,930 of options to our SE model.
Some of this I could do without: the ski-carrier bag is currently sat in my garage, for example. But others, as mentioned, are crucial - and I'm already discovering that one of these, the electric tailgate, is on that list. When hands are full of baby and shopping, being able to remote-open the boot and easily dump the bags in the boot really is a godsend...
Since Daisy arrived, I've become very appreciative of things I previously didn't consider. The boot, for example, is not only very richly trimmed (the carpet is superb quality) but also highly practical. Sliding the pushchair in is child's play thanks to the low sill height and there isn't even a hefty lip to drag it over either.
There's an abundance of space too, that's proving very handy. Indeed, throughout, this is a super-large car, with a cavernous rear and mass of stowage space inside to keep it all tidy too. For long-distance travel, the A6 Avant is a very well-designed place to be indeed.
What's next for the Audi A6 Avant?
We've already taken the Audi up and down the motorway with some frequency, and plan to continue this in the super-busy run up to Christmas. This, hopefully, will see fuel consumption improve from its current mediocre average.
I, see, am an eco geek and have posted pretty eco average economy stats in all my previous long-termers. Not yet the Audi, though: it's averaging just 40.1mpg, despite all those easygoing motorway treks. That's way off the 57.6mpg average, not to mention the extra-urban figure of 62.8mpg.
A stop-start system that usually doesn't stop-start perhaps isn't helping here. Many a trek through town has seen me stop at light but the engine not turn off, for some reason. In my Golf Bluemotion long termer, the engine was near-hyperactive in switching itself off whenever it got a chance. Why isn't the Audi doing the same? One to watch.
So, there's a bit of work to be done. Here's hoping overall economy improves, and fingers crossed I crack the seat comfort as well. There's a lot to like in this understated premium estate, but if fundamentals like this get in the way, then it's going to be hard to truly warm to it. Come back next month then, to find out how I'm getting on...
Report 1: Audi A6 Avant arrival (this report)
Report 2: Audi A6 Avant month two
Report 3: Audi A6 Avant month three
Report 4: Audi A6 Avant month four
Report 5: Audi A6 Avant month five
Report 6: Audi A6 Avant final report
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