Premium quality usually means prestige prices – but does opting for a luxury brand guarantee you a reliable car? We subjected the Audi A6 Avant to a rigorous stripdown test to find out – and after more than 60,000 miles behind the wheel, we’ve got all of the answers. So, how did our 2.7 TDI get along?
The big Audi made a strong first impression thanks to its winning combination of comfort, practicality and refinement. Its big boot – 1,660 litres with the rear seats folded – helps make it the perfect family car, and the extra storage space beneath the floor is really useful. Don’t pay extra for an example with the automatic tailgate, though, because it’s too slow to be genuinely helpful.Reliability
Up front, the 180bhp diesel engine provides an impressive blend of pace and economy. However, at the sign of rain, we noticed a couple of the A6’s weaknesses. First was the rain sensor for the windscreen wipers, which triggers at the slightest hint of moisture. Then there’s the car’s poor traction: pull away too enthusiastically on wet roads, and the front wheels spin very easily.
For anyone planning to tow, the quattro model is a far better bet – although you’ll need to add at least another £750 to your budget to pick one up second-hand. The front left electric window didn’t take that long to play up, either. Audi has since changed its design, but we eventually needed a replacement control unit.Engine
On the road, the 2.7-litre V6 diesel is first class. It’s strong, responsive and very fast, and also manages to provide surprising economy. Around town, the car’s large 12.1-metre turning circle can make manoeuvring laborious.
Yet the A6’s performance is still impressive – especially when you consider the result of our stripdown. According to our experts, the powerplant looked as though it had only just been run-in after covering 62,336 miles.
It took nearly three months for any serious faults to become apparent.
A creaking noise during fast gearchanges told us that the six-speed transmission wasn’t in the best of health. Supplier Getrag opted to fit a complete replacement. This proved to be unnecessary, as subsequent analysis revealed that only the third-gear synchromesh was broken.
A fresh gearbox fixed the noise, but didn’t improve the shift quality. The automatic is clearly the better option, although used prices reflect this – you’ll pay as much as £2,000 more for one second-hand.
Even with the troublesome manual, there was no disguising the diesel‘s long-distance abilities, proving the latest A6 is better to drive and more refined than its predecessor.
However, while long journeys were extremely comfortable, finding our destination was often beyond the Audi, as the sat-nav system was constantly playing up. At 25,379 miles, a new aerial and control unit provided temporary relief. But after 58,397 miles, it was back to its old tricks.
The control unit had packed up again – but this time, Audi knew why. A damaged pipe in the rear wash-wipe system allowed water to drip on to its delicate electronics. This pipe has now got an extra sleeve to prevent it from happening again. Maintenance
Still, in spite of these glitches, our A6 turned out to be very reliable during the course of our 60,000-mile test. We didn’t suffer a single breakdown, and only had to endure one unscheduled trip to the garage.
The Avant also passed our end-of-test stripdown with flying colours. As mentioned, our experts were particularly impressed by the condition of the engine, which was ready for another 60,000 miles. What’s more, we didn’t once need to top up the engine oil, and despite the criticism aimed at the transmission, the new gearbox stood up to the rest of the test without a hint of a problem. The only thing was that the brake pads and discs needed replacing again.
In reality, there’s little to put buyers off a second-hand version of the German firm’s executive load-lugger. A facelift is due next summer, when the A6 will get LED daytime running lights, plus a host of other cosmetic additions – and these will only serve to make used examples of this model even cheaper than before.
Checklist after 60,000 miles
8,997/Complete gearbox replacement under warranty.
20,174/All brake pads replaced.
25,379/Replacement of sat-nav control unit under warranty.
41,750/New brake pads and discs all-round.
58,397/Fresh electric window control unit for the front left door. Sat-nav replaced again. Both jobs under warranty.
62,969/Adjustment of tailgate and replacement foglight fitted.
The replacement of the burned-out third gear synchromesh turned out to be unnecessary, while the repeated failure of the sat-nav system has been traced to a section of pipe that can leak water onto the set-up’s DVD player. The defective electric window is a common fault caused by a build-up of dirt – the circuit board has been redesigned to direct dirt away from it.
Measured at 2,979 miles/62,336 miles
0-31mph – 3.5 seconds/3.7 seconds
0-62mph – 9.1 seconds/9.6 seconds
0-80mph – 15.1 seconds/15.9 seconds
Braking distance from 62mph (cold/warm) – 37.9/38.0 metres/38.9/38.2 metres
Economy – 37.6mpg/39.2mpg
Internal noise at 30/62/80mph – 58/65/68dB/59/64/69dB
As our figures show, the outright performance of the Audi actually deteriorated over the course of our test. Most modern vehicles get faster with age, but the A6 didn’t. The 0-62mph sprint took half-a-second longer when we tested our load-lugger at 60,000 miles. However, the fuel consumption did improve from 37.6mpg to an impressive 39.2mpg by the end of our time with the car.