Talk about being fully loaded, this Audi A6 Avant took it to extremes, says Andy Russell.

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Audi A6 Avant 3.0 TDI SE S tronic

Price: £40,950 (range from £32,100 to £43,480)

Engine: 2,967cc, 245PS, V6 turbo diesel

Performance: 0-62mph 6.3 seconds; top speed 151mph

MPG: Urban 39.2; extra urban 54.3; combined 47.9

CO2 emissions: 156g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 24pc

Insurance group: 34 (out of 50)

Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? Length 4,926mm; width (including door mirrors) 2,086mm; height 1,461mm

Car-makers like to make a good impression with press fleet vehicles, showing off the latest technology, so they usually feature extras. From the moment I sat in the Audi A6 Avant I knew it was loaded but until I worked through the kit list I did not realise by how much.

It was more like a mobile options showroom. Audi had almost doubled the price – taking it from a standard £40,950 to an eye-watering £78,745. Someone is going to get a great used car when you consider these options won’t hold their money!

It was so loaded with gadgets, gizmos and goodies it was hard to see the wood for the trees. Actually the wood was clear to see – £700 worth of oakwood inlays but I prefer it with leaves still on – but I was impressed with the little speakers of the £6,300 Bang & Olufsen advanced sound system rising mushroom-like from the fascia.

I appreciated the £2,600 adaptive cruise control and active lane assist, £1,450 head-up display, £1,600 front-seats massage and ventilation, £2,100 night vision assistant and pedestrian detection and the £1,180 hands-free boot-opening but would I pay my own money for them? No. At times I felt I was being driven rather than doing the driving. And the danger is you get blasé assuming the car will spot potential hazards for you.

Strip away the frippery and Audi’s A6 Avant is still very desirable – an elegant, attractive and, most importantly, practical estate. It’s not difficult to see why it is the most successful premium estate car.

Now in its seventh generation, the A6’s design is evolutionary but the big differences lie beneath the skin including Audi’s latest weight-saving measures which have shed up to 70kg, new highly-efficient engines, chassis developments, more interior space thanks to being wider with a longer wheelbase, more technology (hence those options) and a new interior.

With the best-selling entry 2.0-litre TDI SE manual at £32,100 – some £6,000 less than the options alone on my test car – it’s right on the money pricewise against rivals.

My test car came with the 245PS 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel – a lovely engine, mated to the seven-speed automatic gearbox also with manual paddle shifts, offering smooth, effortless performance across a wide rev range and a surprisingly quick turn of pace. Try as I might fuel consumption never rose above mid-30s but grotty weather prevented me stretching its legs with a good run. A 313PS bi-turbo version this year should be awesome. There’s also a 204PS 3.0 TDI V6 with a multitronic auto box and a 300PS 3.0-litre V6 petrol auto but the bulk of sales will be the uprated 2.0-litre TDI with manual or eight-speed multitronic automatic transmission.

Having driven this engine in the saloon, this would be my choice with enough punch, 50 plus MPG and tax-busting low emissions of 132g/km – good new for company car drivers who account for three out of every four sales.

The ride on SE models is more comfort-orientated than sportier S line but my test car had £2,000 adaptive air suspension but any benefit was lost by fitting £2,500 anthracite part-polished 20in alloy wheels with ultra low-profile 235 35 tyres – you felt every little bump even at speed on good A roads. On the plus side, it handles well for a big car with a confident, stable feel through corners and plenty of grip and traction from the quattro four-wheel drive system.

The A6 Avant’s real selling point is its load-lugging ability. With 565 litres of boot space with the rear seats up, the boot is slightly bigger than the BMW 5 Series but well short of the vast Mercedes E-Class. It goes back a long way and the knee-height sill makes loading easy but the shallow slope of the tailgate limits ultimate practicality. Rear seat backs split 60/40 but don’t fold completely flat on the cushions to create a 1,680-litre load bay and they’re heavy to lift upright. A central load-through flap is useful for long items.

Passengers won’t complain either with abundant legroom all round but the centre console with rear heating and ventilation controls eats into the accommodation available to a central passenger in the back.

The tasteful cabin shows Audi’s attention to detail It gets the new-look fascia which has a more modern, uncluttered look with large, clear dials and logical controls but there are lots of buttons and knobs for the multi-media information. It’s becomes intuitive once you work through the menus but you have to look down at it – not ideal while driving.

My test car proved the huge potential to personalise the A6 with options but it comes well equipped as standard. SE includes satellite navigation with a display screen which retracts into the fascia, leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, 17in alloy wheels, Bluetooth preparation, Audi’s drive select with comfort, dynamic, efficiency and auto modes for the engine, steering and automatic gearbox, rear parking sensors, engine start-stop, dynamic suspension, automatic lights and wipers, driver information system, aluminium roof rails, stability control and six airbags. S line adds 18in alloys, 20mm lower sports suspension, electrically-adjustable front sports seats and steering wheel, xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, LED rear lights, headlight washers and more sporty styling.

The Audi A6 is a hugely impressive estate car and one that doesn’t need a lot of extras to make it look and feel good. In fact, less is more.

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