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Audi A6 Avant 4.2 Quattro review (2005-2008)
Model: Audi A6 Avant 4.2 quattro
Body style: Premium 4x4 estate
Engine: 4.2-litre V8 petrol
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, quattro four-wheel drive
Date of test: April 2005
Read more Audi tests
What is it?
The range-topping V8 petrol-powered version of Audi’s larger estate model, based on the latest shape of A6 saloon. Audi’s quattro permanent four-wheel drive system is standard on this, the most powerful version in the range so far (pending the arrival of any RS6 version). On sale in the UK from April with a price tag of £44,810 for the standard 4.2 V8 version and £46,270 for the more sportily equipped S-line model, it is the high end of a 14-model A6 Avant range that starts with the manual 2.4 SE petrol at £26,510 and the manual 2.7 TDI SE turbodiesel at £28,415, both in front-wheel drive rather than quattro format. It is bigger and roomier than the previous model A6 Avant (which was in production from 1997 to earlier this year), with some extremely clever new storage options. As such it follows a very successful previous estate range that sold around 500,000 cars worldwide, with more than 66,000 A6 Avant sales in the UK.
Where does it fit?
By making the latest generation larger and better equipped, Audi has consciously moved the whole A6 Avant range up-market, closer, in their own thinking, to the ‘luxury’ segment which includes cars like their own A8, the BMW 7-Series and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. As Audi say, ‘bringing luxury to the executive class’. In that luxury arena, of course, estates are thin on the ground – so, really, the A6 Avant’s key rivals aren’t from among those bigger D segment saloons but in the mid-sized premium segment, and in the estate market those are led by the new BMW 5-Series Touring and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate, both of which offer similarly wide engine choices but neither of which can match Audi’s four-wheel-drive Quattro advantage. At the top end, our £44,805 A6 Avant 4.2 quattro SE is head to head with the 545i SE Touring at £44,375 and the Mercedes-Benz E500 Estate Elegance at £46,010. It is deliberately larger than both of them, and is now the largest estate in the class.
Is it for you?
Audi have a very precise understanding of who buys the A6 Avant. 68 per cent are aged between 35 and 54, which is slightly older than the typical A6 saloon driver. Almost all are male and married – 74 per cent of them with children. They are well educated and well-heeled: according to Audi’s figures, 23 per cent have a masters or doctorate qualification (the highest proportion for any Audi model), 47 per cent have a household income in excess of £90,000, 20 per cent own their own company. They also have an active lifestyle, with their major interests (in descending order) being listed as football or rugby (as a spectator), walking, hiking or climbing, playing golf, gardening, music, DIY, cycling, motor sport and touring. And, compared with the A6 saloon, a larger proportion of Avants are bought by private rather than company or small business purchasers, and more by older people using their own money. Which defines the practical side in a way that probably won’t surprise anybody, but the emotional side of the new A6 Avant is that it is extremely stylish, and in Audi’s opinion ‘the sportiest business estate in its class’, as well as the most forward looking.
What does it do well?
Virtually everything it sets out to do. It really is good looking, and every inch the premium product. It is stylish inside, too, with elegant shapes and visibly stunning build quality. It is roomy, front and rear, and in spite of its sporty character it is also a genuine (as opposed to ‘lifestyle’) load carrier. It is 87mm longer and 14mm wider than the BMW 5-Series Touring, and with rear seats up it has a substantial 65 litres more luggage volume (and a 10-litre advantage even with the seats down, where the BMW grabs a bit back. It is also 80mm longer and 38mm wider than the E Class estate.
It is designed to carry whatever you need to carry, with a huge range of small item stowage spaces and a brilliant rear luggage securing system using movable telescopic bars and lashing loops anchored to solid, removable pillars – so the load area can be divided longitudinally or diagonally in almost any way you could need. There’s also an optional internal cycle rack system, ski or snowboard bag, and large underfloor storage box, as well as ‘hands-free’ electric opening and closing (with pre-set opening heights) for the tailgate. But beyond that, again, there’s real performance to go with the practicality, especially in this 335bhp 4.2 quattro, with a (limited) top speed of 155mph, and 0-62mph in a very lively 6.2 seconds. And with the optional self-levelling air suspension it rides comfortably and handles sharply virtually irrespective of load.
What doesn’t it do well?
You genuinely have to look very hard to find significant fault with the A6 Avant 4.2 quattro, it just does so many things so well and virtually nothing really lets it down. Carrying-wise, the rear seats don’t fold quite flat, which is a surprising omission in an otherwise near faultless practicality score. And dynamically, if you absolutely had to find something to call a weakest link you’d probably say the steering feel is slightly dull compared to, say, the benchmark 5-Series Touring. On the biggest wheel and tyre combination there’s also a bit of harshness creeping into the ride as a penalty for the added grip, but frankly (for most drivers who’d be using this kind of car) you’d be splitting hairs. It isn’t a sports car, it’s a big, massively practical estate, yet it has a very sporty feel about it.
What’s it like to live with?
It’s a proper estate car with huge carrying capacity and enormous flexibility thanks to its clever tie-down options. It looks good, inside and out, and the build and material qualities are obvious. And it’s good to drive. The straightline performance, as quoted above, is excellent, and so are the ride and handling – especially with the spec-topping adaptive air-suspension, which gives big comfort with strong control. The 4.2 V8 is also very smooth, and the six-speed automatic is near faultless. So yes, it really is a sporty car full stop, and not just for such a large package. It’s also reasonably pocket-friendly – with a combined consumption of 23.9mpg and a CO2 rating of 283g/km. It is well equipped, aggressively priced against the key opposition, and in most versions claims the lowest depreciation lowest running costs and best benefit-in-kind figures in class. And the quattro permanent four-wheel drive models add the final dimension of being just as usable when the weather turns nasty.
Would we buy it?
If this is the area of the market that you’re searching in, it’s hard to come up with any significant reason not to buy the Audi, so in that respect the answer is an unreserved ‘yes’. The reality of this market segment almost more than any other, though, is that premium cars are bought as much for badge image and personal bias as for practicality and dynamic brilliance. You’d be doing yourself a disservice, though, if you didn’t at least try it.
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