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Audi A6 Avant: final report
On fleet since: October 2011
Total mileage: 10,426
Official combined mileage/CO2: 56.5mpg/132g/km
Actual mileage: 45.2mpg
What was great about it?
The A6 proved to be a car with great depth. We've written before about how it took ages for the Audi appeal to shine through - but, once it did, how we enjoyed the fuss-free, premium drive of Audi's big exec.
It was a trip to the Lake District that sealed it for us. The drive was long, the weather was appalling, the roads once we got near were twisty and broken. But the A6 took everything in its stride and left us feeling refreshed yet, most importantly, not bored by the end of the trip. It was a really satisfying drive and showed the car off to its best.
These qualities continued to be displayed in the following months too. The way the A6 dealt with bumps, sat super-smooth and straight at speed on the motorway, even gave us mechanical feedback from the controls that showed its quality roots, all at last proved to us why people warm to Audis.
The engine too only got better. Already smooth and linear, with a few thousand miles more on the clock it turned into an absolute treat. Turbine-smooth in the mid-range, it's no short-change option despite its four-cylinder capacity, while there was torque in reserve to shove the heavy body along with vigour too.
Space was a prime reason for running it and how this paid off time and again. From the very first trip home with our new daughter, the voluminous boot of the A6 Avant earned its stripes. We surprised ourselves with how much stuff we could take, time and again.
But perhaps more useful even than the space was the electric tailgate it came with. Operated by remote control, it sounds an extravagance but, when you've baby or shopping bags in hand, being able to open up and unload without putting either down is a godsend...
What wasn't so great?
It took months for me to click with the A6. For weeks, I couldn't get comfortable, due to the hard seats: only by setting the standard chair unnaturally high could the blood still flow in my legs after a few hours at the wheel. Then, I found the suspension too soft, the pitch into corners too severe, the steering too sensitive.
The pedals were knee-jarringly offset to the right, parking such a long car in London was a pain and the expected premium experience just wasn't there. Surprised? You bet. But then, slowly, the true abilities of the A6 outlined above started to reveal themselves.
It's still not a class-leader. The BMW 5 Series is divine and a recent drive in a Mercedes E-Class estate also shows that to be more desirable than the A6. Both have their own distinct character (sporty for the BMW, elegant for the Benz); both are better cars than the A6.
The A6 is a good car too, but it takes ages to reveal itself. Well, it does in the standard guise we drove. Select some options - adaptive suspension, posh seats, an automatic gearbox - and it becomes the instantly appealing car both the BMW and Mercedes are. More than any car I've driven recently, the A6 is very spec-dependent.
Was it expensive to run?
It didn't return the fuel economy we expected, particularly at first. Overall, it averaged 45mpg - which, when we tell others, always elicits an eyebrow raise: people are impressed. But we knew the official figures said it should be averaging 56.5mpg and it rarely got near that.
Otherwise, the A6 didn't cost us a penny
OK, enforced economy driving could see it nudge 60mpg according to the trip computer, a much more useful figure. But this was driving very slowly: unlike any other long-termer we've run, speed seems to have a significant detrimental effect on fuel efficiency.
This is undoubtedly due to the size of the A6, chiefly its large front end. It's a problem not unique to the Audi either: certainly, it's something big car buyers should bear in mind, as it's a trend that can't be fully replicated in the official fuel economy figures.
Otherwise, the A6 didn't cost us a penny. Nothing went wrong, fell off or demanded expenditure. Just as you'd expect from a brand-new car, really.
Would I recommend it to you?
I would, but with several provisos. First, you need to make sure you can get comfortable. The simple solution here is to choose optional seats, which a drive in better-stocked A6s revealed to be sublime. Taking an auto will also lessen the offset pedals too.
Second, you should perhaps choose adaptive suspension, to ensure the handling is as dynamic as you'd expect. I was struck with the wallowy feel of the test A6 at first: while it was something I became accustomed to, it would still have been nice to have a bit more roll-free dynamism.
A technically precise, fuss-free drive
But most importantly, you need time with it. Many complain Audis are a bit dull, and I concurred during my first months with the A6. It was only with many miles and many opportunities to reveal its depth that the true ability was revealed.
Audi's qualities are simple design, gorgeous interiors and a technically precise, fuss-free drive. The appeal of the latter only presents itself with time. Audi's challenge is to ensure this is revealed to increasingly time-poor potential buyers.
What am I driving now?
As reported last month, the A6 Avant has been replaced by an A4 Avant: downsizing in action. After getting used to the vast load bay and practicality of the humungous A6, I'm now doing what so many car buyers are doing and pitching down a class size. How will I get on? Well, first impressions are positive...
Report 1: Audi A6 Avant arrival
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 (this report)
Need to know
Engine: 2.0 TDI 177
Performance: 9.0secs 0-60mph/138mph top speed
Insurance group: 27E
List price: £31,340
Price as tested: £39,270
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