Audi A6 Avant 2.0 TDI SE

Can the new-look German contender win our road tester over?

If the Chrysler sums up the big and brash approach favoured by American car makers, the Audi A6 Avant is typical of the restraint preferred by German manufacturers. You’ll never miss a 300C in a crowded car park – but you could easily lose sight of the revised Audi.

The visual changes are minor, and its neat proportions and smooth lines are seriously understated. It’s also 88mm shorter than its rival, and after spending the summer enjoying the inquisitive looks of other road users in the 300C, Ross complained that the Audi felt discreet to the point of anonymity – he was clearly missing the attention! Not everyone wants to make the bold statement of arriving in the Chrysler, though, plus the A6 is much less intimidating to drive.

By way of compensation, the Avant provides a masterclass in interior design. The latest generation of the company’s excellent MMI interface controls all the major functions, including the £575 Bose surround sound stereo and the sat-nav fitted to our test car as options. The choice of materials is first rate and the whole cabin reeks of quality. Such attention to detail doesn’t come cheap, though, and the Audi has far less standard kit than the Chrysler. Specify electric front seats in the Avant and you can add £1,100 to the list price. Want them heated, too? That’ll be another £280!

So, it loses the equipment count, but the A6 matches the Chrysler for rear legroom, despite its shorter wheelbase. And while it has the smaller boot, its more usable shape makes the Audi the practical choice. In reality, the main compromise demanded of buyers choosing a prestige badge at this price comes under the bonnet. The 2.0 TDI in the A6 now features common-rail injection, but its 134bhp and 320Nm of torque are significantly down on the 300C. At the track, this translated into a predictable victory for the American car – although there’s more to this test than outright pace. On the road, the performance gap feels smaller than the figures suggest. The German estate is slower, but its CVT box delivers sharper responses, and only from a standing start does the 2.0-litre TDI feel genuinely sluggish.

From behind the wheel the Audi has different strengths, as visibility is excellent, and it’s more agile with sharper handling. Turn the wheel and the car responds swiftly and accurately, and while the steering is over-assisted, the A6 has more front-end grip. Push hard into a bend and you’ll get plenty of body roll, but it’s more composed under heavy braking, plus its revised suspension provides superior ride comfort to its rival, which features huge 20-inch alloys.

The ace up the Audi’s sleeve, though, is its fuel economy. Thanks to its smaller engine and lower kerbweight, the Avant returned 36.2mpg in our test, while its 155g/km CO2 emissions are much lower than the 300C’s. That will make it a big hit with private and company buyers alike.

The question is whether it can persuade our road tester to make the change.

Details

Price: £29,145
Model tested: Audi A6 Avant 2.0 TDI SE
Chart position: 1
WHY: Even with a smaller engine and lower spec, the A6 is a strong proposition.

Economy

On the face of it the Audi looks cheap, because it undercuts its rival – but that doesn’t account for all the optional extras needed to match the 300C. By our reckoning, you’ll have to spend around £5,000 extra to achieve that, making it the more expensive choice. You won’t get the benefit of forking out for those extras, either, as they won’t be worth as much when you eventually sell the car on. In terms of running costs the A6 comes into its own, though, thanks to its vastly superior fuel economy, longer service intervals and lower CO2 emissions. The latter benefits both private and company buyers alike.

Environment

Emitting only 155g/km of CO2, the A6 Avant is the much cleaner choice here. Add vastly superior fuel economy, and it’s the green winner by some margin.

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