New Audi S6 Avant 2019 review
It's out with petrol and in with diesel as the new Audi S6 Avant boasts a 344bhp electrically assisted six-cylinder TDI unit
The new Audi S6 Avant is an incredible all-rounder that almost perfectly fulfils its brief as a fast, fun family wagon. Diesel power suits it well and the driving experience hasn’t suffered as much as you might imagine. We just wish the standard version was available with the air suspension fitted to our test car.
The new Audi S6 Avant has arrived in the UK, and the big news is that it’s now features a 3.0-litre diesel engine, rather than a powerful turbo petrol like before. That might sound odd, given that this fuel is rapidly falling out of favour, but the logic behind the change is sound.
The new turbocharged V6 diesel engine is assisted by a 48-volt mild-hybrid system, which is an interesting aside, but not the main event. That would be the torque figure of 700Nm, which is the secret to the S6’s incredible performance.
There’s just a little turbo lag before the engine comes to life, but in the middle of the rev range performance is stunning. It feels beyond muscular and somehow falls into proper performance territory. It doesn’t have the high-revs thrills a petrol engine can provide, but for many buyers this sort of power delivery is spot-on.
It’s brilliant for the kind of driving S6 Avant owners are likely to do, as well. For a start, the S6 is a superb motorway cruiser; refinement is very good at any speed, and the powerful engine means overtaking is never a problem. Making swift progress is effortless.
It’s really comfortable too – our car was fitted with air suspension, which is very supple in Comfort mode. It keeps potholes and rough roads from upsetting the chassis, without compromising body control too much. Its stiffer modes are fine, but we found that the softer set-up works best on British roads.
It’s a shame it’s only available on the more expensive Vorsprung model in the UK, though. We haven’t tested the standard springs, but given the huge price hike to this model (it’s a staggering £79,745 on the road) we’d probably stick with the cheaper car regardless.
The S6 isn’t just about touring, because as a sporting model it also has to be fun to drive when you leave the motorway and find a back road. The S6 Avant delivers on this – it’s agile and has loads of grip, plus precise steering that’s satisfying to use. It’s not as engaging as a BMW 5 Series Touring, as the steering in the Audi is a bit too light and the driving position isn’t as good, but the S6 is still very enjoyable on a flowing, twisty road.
The powertrain is excellent, with the punchy engine mated to a smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox. It’s at its best when cruising, as it sometimes gets the ratios wrong when driving quickly, but changing gear manually is a good solution as the gearbox is responsive to use. The four-wheel drive layout means there’s no shortage of grip as you power out of bends, too.
Where the diesel engine really makes an impact is when it comes to available range. On a long trip in the S6 Avant we saw over 40mpg on the trip computer, indicating a range close to 600 miles before having to stop for fuel.
Then there’s the practicality of the Avant body – a 565-litre boot and huge amounts of space in the cabin for passengers, means it’s incredibly versatile. Fast estate cars like the S6 have always appealed due to their wide range of ability, and the Avant nails this. It also has a sublime cabin with high-quality materials and a superb infotainment set-up.
There are a few problems, though. For a start, the price of the Vorsprung model is high – even considering the quality engineering you get as standard. Then there’s the tacky add-ons – the exhaust pipes on the back are completely fake and there’s a V8-like noise added in Dynamic mode – it’s not annoying, but sounds contrived.
Finally, there’s the competition from the lesser Audi A6 Avant in 50 TDI form, which isn’t that far off in terms of performance, yet costs around £10,000 less than the standard S6 Avant – and £30,000 less than the Vorsprung model. It’s not quite as good to drive on a country road, but for everyday driving, it’s the more sensible option.