If you want simplicity, look at the A6’s bare-bones UK engine line-up. There’s just two choices initially, with a slow drip-feeding of further options coming later. Both are, rather unfashionably, diesel. One’s a silky V6 (badged 50 TDI), but we’re trying the volume seller here: the venerable 2.0-litre 40 TDI in 201bhp form.
It’s fractionally improved in every sense over the old model: there’s slightly more power, a little more torque and subtly better efficiency figures. Despite the size and weight it has to move here, it’s an engine that’s very well-matched to the Avant, in part thanks to the standard seven-speed dual-clutch 'box. Other than some hesitance when pulling smartly away from a standing start, its changes are smooth and predictable, keeping the motor in the sweet spot between response and refinement. It's necessary, as the motor becomes a touch too vocal when really pushed.
It means that, like the old car, the base A6 makes a slightly better case for itself as an all-rounder compared to the six-pot unit which, while more cultured and noticeably more brisk, struggles to justify a chunky £9000 price hike and is lumbered with a decidedly less slick eight-speed Tiptronic box.
Like the saloon, the A6 Avant’s mild-hybrid tech operates largely imperceptibly. The engine-off coasting is unnerving initially, but the system always restarts the moment you brush the throttle. It also adds refinement to what is already a cabin pleasingly free of wind, road and unwanted engine grumble.
While there’s no weak link in the engine range, we recommend you choose carefully with the suspension options. We tried the standard springs with adaptive dampers back-to-back with the optional air suspension, and found the former (when left in auto damping) offers a more consistent compromise between tidy body control and a taut, yet isolating, ride. The air system is surprisingly unsettled at lower speeds and is worth avoiding as a result.
Comfort has improved, then, and so has agility - at least on the cars we drove fitted with the rear-steer system. Turning the opposite way to the fronts by an angle of up to five degrees at speeds below 34mph and reducing the turning circle by 1.1m, it’s markedly easier to manoeuvre at low speeds than competitors. At higher speeds the rear wheels turn with the front, boosting Autobahn-ploughing stability.
Don’t think this suddenly transforms the A6 Avant into a thrill-seeking sporting estate, because it doesn’t. This is still a car that majors on composure over fun, with neutral cornering behaviour and little in the way of entertainment. Its sheer width limits progress on anything other than wide, sweeping A-roads, although all of the Audi’s rivals are similarly afflicted.
Best, then, to enjoy the way the A6 feels completely unfazed by any situation you throw it at. It’ll rarely put a grin on your face, but the precise steering and prodigious grip levels are about as confidence-inspiring as cars in this class get. At the same time, its ability to eat up long distances and have you emerge in total comfort is up there with this category’s finest offerings.