If you want your estate to look more restrained than the brash XF Sportbrake, then the Audi A6 Avant should fit the bill. The model in our pictures is in SE trim, while the S line version we tested adds a subtle bodykit, different lights front and rear, plus 18-inch alloy wheels.
Overall, the Avant has a clean look, although because Audi’s styling is so uniform these days, it’s hard to tell at a glance if you’re looking at an A6 or the smaller A4.
Inside, we’ve become accustomed to Audi’s first-class build quality, and the A6 Avant’s cabin is no different. The controls work with precision, and the standard-fit sat-nav screen glides smoothly out of the dash. There’s plenty of space for passengers, although foot space in the middle seat is restricted, thanks to the large transmission tunnel that’s designed to take the four-wheel-drive system of quattro models.
At the back, the 565-litre boot is the largest here, but it’s only five litres ahead of the BMW’s. The levers to fold the rear seats are conveniently located right by the tailgate opening, and with the seats down there’s 1,680 litres of space. But that’s only five litres better than the XF’s maximum capacity.
It’s easy to get comfortable at the wheel, even though electric seats are another option, and the 2.0-litre diesel is hushed when you fire it up. Move the gearlever into drive, and this smoothness continues, but a power deficit to its rivals here meant the A6 Avant was the slowest at the test track. However, it wasn’t exactly sluggish, while the Audi had the best braking in damp conditions.
On the road, the Multitronic CVT auto is a bit of a letdown, as it tends to cause the engine to drone when accelerating, although it’s not that intrusive. The biggest problem the A6 Avant has is its ride. The standard S line suspension is stiff, and sends shocks and bumps through the cabin. Fortunately, Audi lets you opt for the more forgiving standard SE suspension at no cost, or you could get self-levelling air-suspension for £2,000.
That’s just one cost you’d need to factor in when considering the A6 Avant. While the XF comes with lots of kit, you’d need to raid the long list of options to upgrade the A6 to the same level, and this will quickly cancel out its small list price advantage.
As for running costs, the margins between the A6 and XF are very slim, with economy, emissions, depreciation and company car tax burdens all very closely matched. With such narrow margins being fought for, the slightest advantage could be key...