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Long-term tests

Audi A6

For convenience, most people get their car serviced at the nearest dealer. But when it was time for our long-term Audi A6's first check, we visited a garage 140 miles away... in another country.

  • Smooth and powerful engine, cruising ability, huge boot, quality cabin, sat-nav, French servciing
  • Over-firm ride, grabby brakes UK service costs
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For convenience, most people get their car serviced at the nearest dealer. But when it was time for our long-term Audi A6's first check, we visited a garage 140 miles away... in another country.

Our closest showroom, Audi Victoria in London, wanted £368 for the work, which comprised only oil and filter changes. Disgusted, we phoned round for a better price, and East Kent Audi in Canterbury quoted us £300. Then we wondered how much it would cost to take the car to a franchised dealer across the Channel. So, as part of an Inside Story investigation (issue 864), I logged on to www.audi.fr and called Auto Expo in Dunkirk, France. Despite the language barrier, the service manager was very helpful and patient.

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But most pleasing was the price: 301 euros, or £203 - £165 less than Victoria Audi charged. The huge difference is due to the London labour rate being £150 per hour compared with only £41 at Auto Expo! Using phrases from a free translation website, I booked the car in, then ordered a day-return P&O ferry crossing for only £20.

Finding Auto Expo was easy, using the A6's excellent Europe-wide DVD sat-nav. On arrival there was no waiting - I handed in the keys, and the technician got straight to work.

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In the meantime, I headed to Dunkirk's famous beach. Chilling out at the seaside and lunching at a proper French restaurant certainly beats sitting in a waiting room drinking instant coffee and reading old magazines! When I returned to the dealership, the work was completed, the car washed and that all-important official stamp had been added to the service log. In broken English the mechanic explained there was a slow leak from a faulty joint in the A6's engine coolant tube. He didn't stock the part, so it still needs replacing.

Apart from that inconvenience, I was very pleased with the service I received in France. The atmosphere there seemed more friendly and relaxed than at a UK garage - maybe that's because I wasn't dreading the bill quite so much. After taking into account the ferry crossing and the added fuel cost of driving to France, I had saved £133. Also, for the first time ever, rather than being a chore, getting the car serviced was actually a bit of an adventure.

Second opinion

The trip to France was a welcome change of scenery for the A6. In my hands it is normally piling up the miles on UK motorways. And it continues to impress as a long-distance cruiser. The cabin pampers you, while the glorious diesel engine has so much torque, the car powers past slow traffic with a prod of the right foot.
David Johns, editor-in-chief

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