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08/07/2009 06:16 | By MSN Cars

Audi A6 Avant 2.7 TDI review (2005-2011)



Audi A6 Avant (© Audi)

Overview:

Model: Audi A6 Avant 2.7 TDi
Bodystyle: Five-door estate
Engine: 2.7-litre V6 Diesel
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Date of Test: February 2005

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What is it?

Avant is Audi for estate, and the A6 range would not be complete without one. The previous generation outsold the saloon and the German company expects this car to do so too. Like the saloon, it is significantly bigger than before, bigger even than the Mercedes E-Class estate and almost encroaching on Audi’s A8. But it's not a load-lugger at all costs. The rear window is now more steeply raked, echoing the A3 Sportback, with a loading bay focusing on practicality and usability, rather than the desire to swallow washing machines. The Avant introduces Audi’s new adaptive air suspension system, potentially solving our biggest gripe with the saloon model - the stiff ride. Engines and specifications mirror the saloon, prices are around £1,600 higher.

Where does it fit?

In the executive estate car sector, Germany rules. Audi, BMW, Mercedes. Swedes Saab and Volvo get a mere look-in, but the rest are nowhere. With the A6 Avant, Audi is firing at the BMW 5-Series Touring and the aforementioned Mercedes, so offers an equally extensive engine range and array of trims. Two things make the Audi unique though; the availability of quattro four-wheel drive and a CVT automatic gearbox that is as economical as a manual - key for company car tax. Although, as Audi points out, a higher proportion of people buy the A6 Avant with their own money compared with the saloon; the company likes these customers, as they are older, richer and more highly educated.

Is it for you?

The Avant is all about boot. At 1,660 litres in total, it is spacious, but also lavishly trimmed and, for a boot, really rather smart. There are optional dividers and muddy-shoe carriers, integrated bicycle racks and even a fold-out mat that covers the rear bumper, so the dog doesn't scratch it, or so you can sit on the bumper without muddying your slacks. Fill the load area completely and you'll be grateful for the optional air suspension's self-levelling feature, while you can also raise or lower it too, via the slightly complex MMI controller. Incidentally, cars with air suspension sit lower than standard cars, so look better.

What does it do well?

The launch of the Avant coincides with the introduction of Audi’s new 2.7-litre V6 diesel engine. Our Avant was so equipped and, no matter how clever the load area, the engine is the star. Linear in power delivery, it revs like a petrol engine, has no ‘surge’ or tail-off as you approach the red line, doesn’t grumble, drone or vibrate, basically acts like a petrol engine – but with muscle car levels of torque. It is a super unit and the six-speed manual gearbox was light and easy to use too; a little rubbery but without the iron-man clutch of its BMW 525d rival. And, on the Spanish roads of the launch, the ride quality was much-improved, even over sections that haven’t been repaired in decades. All the stiffness and energetic rumble of UK cars is gone, but there’s barely a trace of wallow in its place. If it performs as well over here, air suspension will be a must-have, such is the transformation.

What doesn’t it do well?

The steering is too light, unnervingly so when parking. It’s very easy and accurate, but the weighty driver-pleasing response of a BMW is lacking. The handling is also safe and secure but doesn’t have that ‘edge’. Over country roads, you’ll be amazed at its abilities and, thanks to the air suspension, composure, but frustrated that it doesn’t talk to you more. You notice it’s a wide car over twisty roads, while parking sensors are a must if you’re to tuck that lengthy rear into spaces neatly. Also, a very minor gripe; some of the fake ‘wood’ of the test cars was hideous. Hopefully it won’t come to the UK.

What’s it like to live with?

There are various designs of front seat available, covered in different trims; we liked the standard part-leather finish of S-line models. However, in left-hand-drive models, the driver felt curiously close to the steering wheel, even with the reach set far away, though otherwise comfort was faultless. It is not quite as good in the back, where perhaps a little more space is expected given the size of the A6. It is not a revelation to say the build quality is brilliant, even by Audi’s lofty standards, but refinement is spoiled by wind rustle from the A-pillars at speed.

The electronic parking brake is easy to use when you stop though, but combined economy of over 40mpg means you won’t have to that often; the Avant has a 70-litre fuel tank and a 600-mile range. And the boot? With its array of kits to secure the load, be it bags or bikes, you can’t fault it. The optional electric tailgate is also neat; pre-set the lift so it doesn’t hit the up-and-over garage door.

Would we buy it?

We really like the looks of the Avant model, with an almost fastback-like profile to the rear that reflects Avants of old. It is more practical than the saloon too, enough in our eyes to offset the £1,600 premium charged – particularly as it will be worth more when used, too. The 2.7-litre TDI is a stormer and probably the best in the range; do not feel short-changed if you can’t stretch to the 3.0-litre TDI, as this is probably preferable. And Audi seems, with the new air suspension system, to have significantly improved the A6’s ride quality. Overall, it is a very desirable car, but it would be a close call between this and the BMW5-Series Touring, which has superior handling and steering, if a less-strong engine. On balance, the Audi’s styling, image and engine may just win it.

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Specs

Engine: 2.7-litre V6 turbodiesel
Power: 180bhp@4000rpm
Torque: 280lb/ft@2000rpm
0-62mph: 8.3 seconds
Max speed: 139mph
Economy: 40.3mpg (combined)


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