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Audi A6

Everyone seems to be raving about diesels these days, but that doesn't mean we should forget about the old faithful, petrol. Oil-burning technology has taken a quantum leap in recent years, but big strides are also being made with gasoline units.

This top-of-the-range A6 Avant gets plenty of goodies, but its biggest asset is the engine. It's an impressive powerplant, yet you don't pay too much at the pumps for this sparkle. Add a big boot and you have a practical estate car. If only Audi would make it ride as smoothly as the FSI motor accelerates...

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Everyone seems to be raving about diesels these days, but that doesn't mean we should forget about the old faithful, petrol. Oil-burning technology has taken a quantum leap in recent years, but big strides are also being made with gasoline units.

To prove it, Audi has developed a brand new powerplant for its recently launched A6 Avant. The 3.2-litre V6 engine uses FSI (Fuel Stratified Injection) technology, which squirts petrol directly into the cylinder to boost performance without sacrificing economy.

It's the first time the system has been used in an engine this large, as scaling up the technology is not easy. In smaller capacities, we've criticised FSI for not being especially refined, but here it works well. The engine sounds good under acceleration, yet remains refined when travelling at speed.

Mid-range performance is decent, with 330Nm available from as low as 3,250rpm, which is impressive for a petrol unit and makes for easy motorway driving. However, the ride takes the edge off the appeal. The A6 skips over bumps too much - a shame, as the rest of the car is so comfortable. You certainly can't fault the interior, though. The front seats offer plenty of under-thigh support and the rear comes with acres of legroom. The boot is impressive, too, and while the seats don't fold totally flat, there's no wheelarch intrusion on the loadspace.

There are neat rails running along the floor which, depending on what attachments you buy, allow you to secure all sorts of pieces of equipment or baggage. For example, there is a sliding bar that holds your luggage securely in place, or a bicycle rack option. However, none of these add-ons comes cheap. Even the reversible mat - shiny on one side, woolly on the other - for protecting the boot carpet costs £75. A luggage net is standard kit, though, as are four hooks on which to hang your shopping bags.

Such features help to make this a capable estate car. And although it's the diesel powerplants which are expected to be the volume sellers of the A6 line-up, the V6 petrol engine is a worthy addition to the range.

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