Audi A6 Avant hybrid review
There are plenty of plug-in hybrid SUVs, but how does petrol-electric power suit a traditional large estate?
- Strong performance
- Fantastic interior
- Affordable to run
- Quite expensive
- Reduced boot space
- Not as fun to drive as a BMW
Drivers of large premium-brand estate cars such as the BMW 5 Series Touring, Mercedes E-Class Estate and Audi A6 Avant have long turned to diesel engines to offer the combination of strong power, smooth cruising ability and decent fuel-efficiency demanded by their high-mileage driving profiles. But today, petrol-electric plug-in hybrid has ousted diesel as the fuel of choice in the class – especially for company-car users.
We’re already familiar with the plug-in hybrid Audi A6 in traditional four-door saloon form; here we’re trying it as a more practical five-door estate to see if it’s worthy competitor to the BMW and Mercedes models above – not to mention the plethora of plug-in hybrid SUVs that are increasingly favoured by buyers over estates.
The hybrid A6 Avant uses exactly the same hardware as its saloon counterpart – and promises identical efficiency and electric range to that car, too. So there’s 14.4kWh of usable battery capacity for just over 40 miles’ claimed range using the electric motor, backed up by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine to give total outputs of 295bhp and 370Nm of torque. That’s sufficient for a swift 6.3-second 0-62mph time, despite the A6 Avant TFSI e tipping the scales at a portly 2,150kg.
This setup isn’t really about flat-out acceleration, though; it’s intended to make everyday driving smoother and easier by replicating the familiar low-down power of a diesel engine using the assistance of the electric motor. As with most plug-ins, it’s best to leave the car in its default mode and let it decide when to shuffle between power sources, as you’re unlikely to be more efficient making these decisions yourself. It does that job very smoothly, and it’s only when the battery is depleted and you’re running on the engine alone that things can feel a bit clunky.
The other major task for a car like this, of course, is to be cheap to run. While the lofty 217mpg official economy figure is more aspiration than reality, we were easily able to achieve 60mpg on a long-distance trip incorporating both urban and rural driving, having started with a full battery. And the 30g/km CO2 emissions figure sees the A6 Avant slot into a favourable company-car Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax band, like nearly all of its plug-in peers. A modest battery capacity means charging is fast, so a full top-up will take two and a half hours if you’re plugged into a typical home wallbox charger.
Big Audis like this have long thrown up a bit of a contradiction when it comes to ride quality: they’re always fundamentally comfortable cars, but the S line trim level that’s most popular with customers doesn’t help matters with its typically large alloy wheels, low-profile tyres and lowered sports suspension. Our A6 Avant TFSI e was finished in just this specification, but the ride was still cushioned over bad bumps and potholes.
Turning to the interior, and the bad news is that there are practicality compromises to be made if you’re choosing the A6 plug-in over its conventional petrol or diesel-engined counterparts – something which may be particularly relevant to estate-car buyers. Luggage capacity with all seats in place is 405 litres, down from 565 in the non-hybrid A6 Avant, but it’s only fair to point out that both the Mercedes E-Class Estate and BMW 5 Series Touring plug-in hybrids suffer similar drops in boot size compared to the rest of their ranges.
Elsewhere, there are no compromises to be made on the familiar Audi interior strengths of material quality, design appeal and useable technology, while S line brings plenty of goodies to add to its exterior flourishes, including four-zone climate control, a rear-view camera, Matrix LED headlights and heated sports seats.
Overall, the A6 Avant TFSI e is a supremely accomplished premium plug-in hybrid estate that will take a wide variety of tasks and lifestyles in its stride. But it doesn’t do anything noticeably different – or better – than its predominantly German rivals. So the final decision may well come down to your personal brand preference, or striking the best deal with your local retailer.