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Car reviews - Audi - A6 - Avant 5-dr wagon range

Our Opinion

We like
Styling, build quality, refinement, cain quietness, interior design, ergonomics, engine performance, CVT and Tiptronic transmissions, innovative cargo solutions, safety features, standard equipment list, value
Room for improvement
Not as commodious as E-class, lacks steering response of 5 Series and E-class

29 Jul 2005

PREMIUM Volkswagen Group brand Audi may well have experienced 11 consecutive years of record sales globally and it’s true that, coming off a low base in 2004, its Australian sales growth so far this year has outstripped both BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

But it's been well documented that the ‘other’ German brand is yet to make serious inroads into the market share enjoyed by Australia’s established luxury segment leaders in BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Audi Australia recognises it’s the challenger, however, and so its customers stand to benefit from greater equipment levels and lower prices (and therefore better value) as Audi attempts to tempt luxury vehicle buyers its way.

That approach is most obvious with the new A6 Avant range, which represents the fifth generation of a model series that began in 1977 with Audi’s first 100-based wagon, which went on to spawn a whole market segment that continues to draw European buyers in huge numbers. In fact, in some European countries, some Audi wagon models outsell their sedan counterparts.

Of course, that’s never been the case in Australia, which continues to be more of a US-style sedan market. Hence, the humble station wagon has never been a big seller here, and luxury iterations thereof are even more of a niche proposition for imported brands.

But the company that started Europe’s estate-car craze hopes to change all that, and Audi Australia will use wagons like the new A6 Avant as part of a major new strategy to position itself as a premium lifestyle brand with stylish, sporting models aimed at well-heeled families.

After driving the new A6 Avant on the twisty but overcrowded roads during its launch in Katoomba, NSW, it’s clear the newest Audi is worthy of consideration by anyone in the market for BMW’s 530i Touring or Mercedes-Benz’s range of E-class Estates. Or indeed, as Audi hopes, by those considering a luxury SUV.

From the V-shaped bonnet and coupe-like roofline to its sexy LED tail-lights, the new A6 Avant commands a presence even more convincingly than its rivals, despite the fact BMW's newest representative also went on sale this month.

But the biggest news in the new A6 Avant is a much larger and more flexible cargo area which, at 565 litres, is larger than the 5 Series wagon’s (500 litres) but smaller than the Benzes (690 litres). With the rear seats folded, the E-class is still king at a cavernous 1950 litres, compared to the Audi’s 1660 and the BMW’s 1650.

But the A6 wins out in practicality terms. On top of de rigeur wagon fare like a plethora of tie-down points and 12-volt power outlets, plus a sliding compartment cover and multi-configuration luggage net, the A6 adds an innovative new cargo accommodation system. Incorporating two longitudinal outboard rails, to which a clever telescopic barrier is attached, the system allows users to configure the rear load space in a number of ways.

There’s also an adjustable strap for securing items to the side, and a removable floor that reveals a water-resistant, washable floor compartment – under which there still resides a full-sized spare wheel. It’s well thought-out, well executed and highly effective in preventing items like shopping bags spewing their contents across the cargo compartment.

Likewise, the Avant is just as roomy up front or in the second row as its two major rivals, and Audi hallmarks like a wide range of seat adjustment, appealing interior design, high-class cabin materials and top-notch fit and finish make the A6 Avant a pleasing place to be.

Of course, this Audi is also as quiet as they come, the impression of solidity is ever-present and it ride quality seems every bit as luxurious as the Benz’s – despite suspension tautness that approaches that of the sporty 530i Touring.

Two petrol V6s cover the bases for A6 Avant, with a sweet-spinning 2.4-litre V6 delivering enough performance to justify saving the $20,000 premium the 3.2-litre V6 version attracts.

The latter, of course, offers abundantly more power and torque, and being an all-new V6 from Audi, is also quieter, more refined and high-tech than the 2.4.

Also due to power the A6 sedan and smaller A4 sibling, the new direct-injection 3.2 FSI engine is virtually as powerful but offers more torque than BMW’s unique new magnesium-alloy 3.0-litre straight six, while the vastly more expensive E350 Estate offers more power and torque again.

While the 2.4 drives through Audi’s responsive continuously variable transmission, the 3.2 is mated to a slick-shifting six-speed auto with manual override and standard steering wheel-mounted shift paddles plus, of course, quattro all-wheel drive.

Equipment levels are high in both variants, extending to full leather trim, powered front seats, power windows/mirrors, stylish polished alloy roofrails, an electric park brake, automatic Xenon headlights and windscreen wipers, eight airbags, stability control, climate control and foglights.

Priced $13,500 lower than the equivalent E240 Classic, the front-wheel drive 2.4 Avant represents good value but lacks the dynamic ability of the Benz.

Similarly, the 3.2 Avant offers similar performance to both the 530i Touring and E350 Estate at a saving of almost $10,000 and $25,000 respectively, though the A6 lacks the steering finesse of BMW’s finely honed 5 Series.

Where the other Germans will carve a consistent cornering line from turn-in to exit, the A6 needs a little more anticipation and commitment to maintain similar cornering speeds. But its mid-corner grip and general road-holding is never in question, especially in quattro guise.

With equipment and safety features on par with both rear-drive German rivals, Audi’s confidence-inspiring quattro all-wheel drive system comes as a bonus – particularly for those that frequent Victorian snow fields, where snow chains are compulsory for two-wheel drive vehicles.

Throw in an array of the advanced options – such as adaptive air suspension, adaptive headlights, keyless entry/starting, tyre pressure monitoring and radar cruise control, and the A6 Avant mounts a solid case as a viable German estate alternative.

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