A worthy challenger for the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes E-Class.
Editorial Note: It’s been years since Audi sold the A6 Avant in the United States. But with a redesigned model hitting the roads in Europe (and our continued hope that Audi sees the light and returns this versatile model to the U.S. market), we’re reposting this review of the 2019 Audi A6 Avant from the German edition of Motor1.
What is it?
As you can see, this is the five-door wagon version of the new Audi A6. Outside of Europe, the Avant hardly plays a role, but here in particular, dealers are longing for this car. The five-door A6 is probably the most important vehicle for Audi next to the A4 Avant. Add the brand-new 2.0-liter, four-cylinder TDI (and more) to the bill and you’ll know 90 percent of all new A6s will roll out of the factory.
Now, there is the additional problem that the competition in this class is incredibly strong and mature. The BMW 5-Series, Mercedes E-Class, and Volvo V90 are all great, extremely capable wagons in their own way. In other words, this Audi had better be darn good.
In order to guarantee this, the A6 Avant relies on the platform and technology (or, one might say, technology overkill) of its A8, A7 and A6 sedan siblings, which are also still in their infancy. This includes high-tech treats such as the new mild-hybrid engines with belt-starter generator (V6 units also boast a 48-volt on-board power supply and a lithium-ion battery), rear-wheel steering, and the new MMI touch-response infotainment with the two large displays in the center stack.
In addition, you may have noticed that the new A6 Avant has become an extremely attractive fellow. I don't want to tell anyone what to like, but Audi's old advertising slogan, that “beautiful station wagons are called Avant,” applies here – at least in my humble opinion – better than it did last time.
Um, just about everything. But let's get to the topic that probably interests Avant customers the most: Exactly, how much space does this thing have?
Well, the new A6 station wagon hasn't gotten much bigger than its predecessor. It increases in length to 194.4 inches (0.47 inches), in width to 74.4 inches (0.94 inches) and in height to 57.5 inches (0.23 inches). The wheelbase grows minimally to 115 inches.
Nevertheless, the interior is noticeably roomier than before. Above all, backseat passengers can look forward to more freedom for various limbs. Audi promises 0.82 more inches of legroom, more headroom and, incidentally, the airiest rear seat in its class. After a detailed seat test it remains to be seen if this is the best in class, though, but there's plenty of room and the rear seats are wider than in a 5-Series Touring.
Despite the more dashing roof line, the cargo hold remains exactly on the same level as the predecessor with 19.95 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 59.32 cubes with the seats folded. Anyone who needs a lot of space should therefore continue to look towards the E-Class Estate. Part of the reason we like the E-Class more is because the A6’s rear seat no longer folds completely flat, leaving a decent step when stowed. The low loading sill, on the other hand, is good, as is the standard electric, foot-activated tailgate and an increased loading width of 41.4 inches between the wheel arches.
You have probably guessed that the A6 Avant, like its upper-class brothers and sisters, has every assistance system imaginable (there are 39… seriously). Driving yourself to a large extent, adjusting the speed before roundabouts, place-name signs and the like – no problem at all. If you like to pull a trailer with your station wagon (Ed. American readers, this is a common thing in Europe.), you can now also get a towing assistant. The A6 Avant takes two tons on the hitch.
Which engines are there for the start?
We already know the two 3.0-litrer V6 diesel engines with 231 horsepower and 368 pound-feet of torque and 286 hp and 457 lb-ft from the A8, A7 and A6 sedans. Hot off the presses and certainly most interesting for the overwhelming majority of (corporate) customers is the new 2.0-litre TDI with an aluminum crankcase. It delivers 204 hp and 295 lb-ft, should reach 62 miles per hour in 8.3 seconds and get by with 52 U.S. miles per gallon (on the European test cycle, obviously).
In Germany it's more of a marginal phenomenon, but especially important for China and the United States (of all places): the new 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 245 hp and 272 lb-ft of torque. It reaches 62 mph in 6.8 seconds, but consumption has not yet been determined. The two four-cylinder engines have a 12-volt on-board power supply, but still sail between 34 and 100 mph, switch off the engine at speeds below nine mph, and switch it on again just as imperceptibly when power is needed.
The V6 petrol engine with 340 hp supplements the A6 Avant portfolio at the beginning of 2019. The S6 with 450-hp twin-turbo V6 should also follow in the first quarter of 2019. A bit later there will be another RS6 with a twin-turbo V8 (but almost certainly not for the U.S. market)
How does it drive?
Would it shock you to hear that the A6 Avant isn’t really different to drive than the A6 sedan? Since we aren’t necessarily dealing here with an ascetic sports car, the 143 extra pounds the Avant carries really doesn't matter. The more practical of the two A6s is also available with four different suspension setups. In addition to adaptive air suspension, you can also order a version with adaptive dampers, traditional dampers, and a sports suspension with traditional dampers that drops the ride height 0.78 inches.
I had the pleasure of testing the first two setups. They both did their job very well. That doesn't mean that the A6 Avant dribbles away like a 5-Series Touring. It is still a bit too stiff and its too synthetic for that. Most of the time it’s very light, but when it firms up, it’s too strong and unnatural, especially in dynamic mode.
All this doesn't change the fact that the new car is more agile than its predecessor. The A6 Avant goes pleasantly flat into bends, and of course it pushes itself out of corners with plenty of grip and neutrallaity, especially with all-wheel drive. A little tip: If it's feasible in terms of budget, treat yourself to the new rear-wheel steering. Audi’s dynamic steering reinforces the described steering feeling somewhat, but it makes the car so much lighter, more lively and gives you a turning circle on the level of a small car (36.4 feet, 3.3 feet less than the standard Avant).
The driving comfort of the new A6 Avant is clearly more focused on comfort than dynamics. Even with the 21-inch wheels of the various test cars, it rolled down the road harmoniously and cushioned all small and large nasties with extreme ease. With the new A7, there were still problems on the very large wheels, which Audi has quite obviously eliminated. It’s sublimely quiet too.
And the engines?
The new 2.0-litre turbo responds well and is absolutely fast enough for most occasions. Its problem is one that most four-cylinder petrol engines have in large cars – the numbers on the speedometer move very quickly, but somehow the engine feels a little bit too strained and noisy, exhibiting a typical four-pot roar.
If you're the classic left-lane driver and spend most of your car life on the motorway, there's still nothing like the 286 hp diesel. Strangely enough, the A6 Avant with this engine growled more, and was louder and more unpolished than I remembered. The Q8, for example, had much better manners. So, it's best to try it out yourself before you buy it.
My recommendation therefore clearly goes to the new four-cylinder diesel. I even drove it "only" with front-wheel drive and never really had the feeling that I needed more power (although the 440-pound weight savings over the V6 TDI with Quattro probably had something to do with that). Front-drive and a 2.0-liter four makes the car feel noticeably lighter. And the engine does the rest, with very smooth running, little vibration, good thrust, and excellent interaction with the seven-speed dual clutch.
What is it like inside?
The quality of workmanship in the A6 Avant is absolutely excellent right down to the last corner of the interior. It also looks as if something high-tech has been packaged in the most beautiful possible way. But if you’ve been in a modern Audi, I'm not telling you anything new.
In my opinion, the new infotainment with the 10.1-inch screen at the top and the 8.6-inch screen for the climate control at the bottom is very intuitive to operate, fast, and razor sharp graphically. The interaction with the 12.3-inch instrument cluster results in an extremely capable and ultra-modern operating system. Only the voice control had a few problems every now and then (which is true just about everywhere). However, one must also say that a BMW 5 Series or the Mercedes E-Class are also damn good in this respect. In the end it remains a matter of taste which infotainment suits you best.
A word about the seats: The "standard" leather seats in the A6 Avant are excellent. The optional S-Line sports chair, on the other hand, seemed much smaller and more uncomfortable.
Should I buy it?
In this class with these competitors, this is probably more a question of personal taste than anywhere else. The new Audi A6 Avant isn’t as fun to drive as a BMW 5 Series, has less boot space than an E-Class Estate and may seem a bit clinical to some. When it comes to high-tech, assistance systems and the like, these cars are basically on even footing.
However, the Audi probably looks best, has a glorious interior with excellent infotainment and at the same time is very accurate, precise, and highly comfortable going down the road. Almost like an A8 with a much more suitable rear. All in all, a very good and polished mix. The recommendable A6 Avant 40 TDI with 204 HP starts at 51,650 Euro ($60,038 at today’s rates). For comparison: The 190-hp 520d Touring costs at least 52,800 Euro ($61,375) and the 194-hp E220d Estate is available from 50,903 Euro ($59,170).
Conclusion: 8 out of 10
Beautiful, spacious cabin
Solid 2.0-liter TDI
Agile but emotionless
V6 diesel doesn’t sound great
Voice control is occasionally difficult