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Audi A6 Avant e Quattro (PHEV) Review

Introduction

The current A6 Avant has been around for a few years now – and now Audi has decided to change the recipe by taking away a slice of engine and adding a dollop of electric motor.

Badged as the ‘50’ or ‘55 TFSI e Quattro’, this is designed to compete directly with the plug-in hybrid equivalents offered by BMW’s 5 Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

Select's rating score* - 3.3 / 5

At a Glance

Visually, you'd never tell that this car plugs into anything. Instead, it looks identical to its all-liquid fuelled siblings, with an extensive hexagonal grille at the front, as we’ve come to expect from Audi’s modern-day design signature.

The headlights squint, pointing towards the middle of the car, giving an aggressive appearance, while the air intakes either side of the grille add to the sporty characteristics.

Neat creases down the side, especially along the bottom skirts, add more personality to the design. At the same time, the back window swoops down diagonally, emphasising the shape of the car’s rear end.

The back itself is less eventful than the front, with a horizontal chrome strip spanning the width of the boot and two ultra-wide tailpipe tips towards the bottom.


Key Features

The powertrain comprises a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine which, when combined with the electric motor, produces 299PS in the 50 model or 367PS in the 55. It’s fitted to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, and the vehicle is four-wheel drive.

There are six trims to choose from.

Entry-level Sport gets you 18-inch alloys, LED front and rear lights, Sat-Nav housed within a 10.1-inch infotainment system, Audi’s 12.3-inch virtual cockpit and connect services, parking system plus and a rear-view camera.

S Line upgrades to 19-inch alloys, matrix LEDs and dynamic rear indicators (the ones that ‘move’ from left to right), additional styling, front sport seats, privacy glass and sport suspension.

Next up is the Black Edition, which increases the wheels to 20-inches, includes an exterior styling pack, black mirror housings and a flat-bottomed steering wheel.


Competition trim adds gloss black highlights on the exterior, red brake callipers and Valcona leather upholstery.

Vorsprung inserts ‘super’ sports seats, a panoramic glass sunroof, HD matrix LED headlights and the Tour Pack. This bundle includes adaptive cruise control, predictive efficiency assistant, camera-based traffic sign recognition, high-beam assist, pre-sense basic and emergency assist. It also encompasses the City Assist Pack, which includes Audi side assist, pre-sense rear, and cross-traffic assist front. What's more, the sound system is upgraded to a Bang & Olufsen unit.

Finally, top-of-the-range Competition Vorsprung trim adds in a 360-degree camera.

It's worth noting that you can only have the higher-powered 55 model in the Competition and Competition Vorsprung trims. All the other grades commit you to the lower-powered 50 version.

Range & Batteries

The electric motor runs off a 14.1kWh lithium-ion battery, providing a claimed 32-mile journey without calling upon the petrol engine.

Most vehicles are ludicrously optimistic with their figures. But, we managed a thoroughly respectable 29 miles on our test route – although we did have to drive very carefully and be frugal with the accelerator.

The top speed on electric-only power is limited to 84mph.

Performance & Drive

The first thing you notice is how well the A6 sets off.

Acceleration from a standing start is mightily impressive, no doubt helped by an instant burst of power brought about by the electric motor.

It's just as rapid when running on all-electric mode. Although the engine will join in when the car detects that you’re asking for more power than the electric motor can provide on its own. It’s seamless and smooth when this happens, too.

There is a bit of a whining noise when running in all-electric mode, but it’s easily forgotten about once you get used to it.

The impressive acceleration isn’t all that surprising – in hybrid mode, our 50 model gets 299PS, which helps in dealing with 0-62mph in 6.3-seconds (5.7-seconds in the 55 model) on your way to a typically German-sounding top speed of 155mph.


In all-electric mode, you can get up to 30mph in 5.5-seconds, which is still perfectly adequate for driving around town or in stop-start traffic.

There are three driving settings – Dynamic, Comfort and Auto – as you’d expect. But there are also three separate modes for the hybrid system. EV Mode prioritises electric power, while Hybrid Auto will use a mixture of the two power sources to maximise fuel economy. Hybrid Hold will maintain the battery power at its current level.

Hybrid Auto combines with the Sat-Nav system to optimise fuel efficiency on your route, too.

When you take the pressure off the accelerator pedal, the energy recovery system springs into life, converting the heat generated during braking to put some charge back into the batteries.

When this happens, the car – which is fitted with a system called ‘Efficiency Assist’ – analyses what’s happening around you and effectively predicts the point at which you’ll need to stop, tailoring the regenerative braking effect to this. Although, in principle, this is very clever and sounds like a very logical way of driving, it means the braking force is different each time. This makes it difficult to get an intuitive feel for when you need to brake.

The effect of this depends on what driving mode you're in, and it can be toggled on or off by tapping on the brake pedal.

We’re driving the S-Line trim, and the ride, although acceptable, still leans more towards the uncomfortable side of the fence. It feels a bit firm, no doubt not helped by the 19-inch alloys. However, the 18-inch wheels provided on the entry-level Sport trim will better fit those who prioritise comfort.


Nevertheless, the plug-in hybrid doesn't feel like a sporty car despite the athletic aesthetics – and Audi setting the tone by making ‘Sport’ its entry-level trim. Moreover, the batteries and hybrid system add the weight of around four average-sized adult passengers, so the car feels noticeably heavier than others in the range.

It still handles well, with little body roll and plenty of grip. But there's not a tremendous amount of feel through the steering wheel, and it isn't as much fun to drive as some of its rivals.

In truth, we’re struggling to understand why Audi hasn’t positioned this car as more of a ‘comfort’ option compared with its fellow A6 siblings. Comfort features, such as adaptive dampers and air suspension, aren't available on the hybrid. This is confusing, as this is the one car in the range whose characteristics would benefit from those features being included.

Charging

When connected to a 7.4kW wall box, the A6 Avant e Quattro can be charged from empty to full in two and a half hours.

Even a regular household three-pin plug can fully juice it up in seven hours.

The A6 will also charge itself through as you move along, helped by a regenerative braking system.

Running Costs & Emissions

Audi claims fuel economy figures of 148.6mpg, while the A6 Avant produces between 44 and 48g/km of CO2.

The claimed range of 32-miles on electric power is worth bearing in mind, depending on the length of your daily commute.

Suppose you're nervous about the prospect of a new plug-in having questionable reliability, though. In that case, this shouldn't be an issue, as the PHEV powertrain already appears in Audi’s Q5 and A7 range. So, there have already been opportunities to iron out any teething problems before it's been slotted into the A6.

Benefit in Kind tax is just 10% (the fully petrol-powered equivalent is 37%), so we expect the A6 plug-in will be a popular choice among company car owners.


Interior & Technology

Audi has a reputation for producing superb interiors, and the A6 Avant lives up to its billing.

The two touchscreens add an air of elegance. But, mind you, one of them being dedicated to the air conditioning system feels over-engineered for the sake of it, when physical buttons and dials would be preferable.

The infotainment system is class-leading, responsive, and straightforward to use. However, the lack of a physical control might be off-putting to some, especially if you're considering switching away from BMW or Mercedes-Benz. Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity is included as standard.

Audi’s Virtual Cockpit system is superb, providing digital dials while also displaying your Sat-Nav map as a large picture on the screen behind the steering wheel.


There's plenty of chrome and brushed aluminium to break up the all-black colour scheme, giving a pleasant feel to the interior. At the same time, the infotainment system is housed in a surround that has taken inspiration from the wide hexagonal grille on the front of the car.

In terms of comfort, the seats are excellent. The standard ones don’t do a brilliant job of holding you in the bends, but then this is hardly a car you're going to be throwing around corners. An upgrade to the sports seats might be worth it. We’ve tried the ultra-expensive ‘super’ sports seats and can't say we noticed much difference in terms of comfort.

Practicality & Boot Space

If you often need to carry around lots of luggage, the A6 Avant – being an estate car – is preferable to the saloon variant for obvious reasons.

Nevertheless, the batteries underneath the boot floor reduce the amount of available space from 465-litres in the petrol and diesel variants to 405-litres in the hybrid.

With the rear seats folded down, you’ll increase this to 1,535-litres, but that’s still down from 1,675-litres in the standard models.


Safety

The Audi A6 was last tested by Euro NCAP in 2018, earning a five-star rating.

It scored 93% for adult occupants, 85% for children, 81% for pedestrians and 76% for safety assists.

This was carried out using a non-hybrid saloon. But, there's no reason to believe that being an estate, or indeed a PHEV, would make even a negligible difference to these scores.

If you think the Safety Assist score is a bit on the low side, that's likely because many of the systems are optional extras.


Safety equipment on the A6 Avant includes hold assist, hill descent control, tilt angle display, pre-sense front, front and rear park distance control, cruise control, a rear-view camera and lane departure warning.

But that's about it. A lot isn't included, especially lower down the range, which we’ll come on to in a minute.

Options

There aren't many options on the list for the Audi A6, but you only have to choose one or two to add thousands to the asking price if you were to buy rather than lease.

The wheels are a good example. If you pick the entry-level trim and only have 18-inch wheels but want to make your Audi less comfortable, then you can choose to fit bigger 19-inch alloys for more money.

If you already have 19-inches as standard but want to choose a different 19-inch design, that's an extra sum of cash. An upgrade to 20-inches will set you back further still.

As for the bodywork paint, the only solid colour available is black. Unfortunately, metallic costs a fair bit more, with a choice of a beige-grey, dark blue, silver, white, black or red. Or you can pick pearlescent dark grey if you want.


If you have the basic seats but want Sports Seats, then you'll have to reach into your pockets. If you wish to have them in full leather, your pockets better be deep.

If you're desperate for the super sports seats, though, that'll set you back a princely four-figure amount.

A heated steering wheel with shift paddles also costs four figures, while a flat-bottomed steering wheel is only in the three-figure territory. Phew!

The City Assist pack totals a fair whack in terms of safety gadgets and assistance bundles, but it's worth it. Why? Well, it includes Audi Side Assist, which uses radar to warn you if there's a road user in your blind spot or approaching quickly from behind.

In addition, 'Pre-sense Rear’ monitors the car behind you and warns if a potential collision is detected, tensing the seatbelts, and closing the windows. The pack also includes Cross-Traffic Assist Front, which uses sensors to spot traffic crossing in front or to the side of the vehicle, jolting the brakes if necessary.

Then there’s Parking Assist with Parking Aid Plus, which searches for suitable parking spaces along the road using ultrasonic sensors. The vehicle can then park itself if required.


Next up is the Tour Pack. This includes adaptive cruise control, which will keep the vehicle in its lane, adjusting its speed to maintain the gap between you and the car ahead, automatically applying the brakes when needed. It also includes camera-based traffic sign recognition, which will identify the speed limits, displaying them on the virtual cockpit.

High-beam assist will automatically adjust your high beam to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers. In contrast, the lane departure warning with emergency assist will perform corrective steering to ensure you don't stray out of your lane. This pack costs extra, although it's made to seem like a bargain, as you can also have just the camera-based traffic sign recognition for the same price, so you may as well have the Tour Pack.

What’s disappointing is just how many clever gadgets Audi has at its disposal – but how few of them are included as standard lower down the range.

You will get pretty much all this thrown in as standard on the range-topping Competition Vorsprung, though.

Rival Cars

Of course, the obvious places to look for alternatives to Audi are BMW and Mercedes-Benz. These automakers provide plug-in variants of the 5 Series Touring and the E-Class Estate, respectively.

The BMW 530e and the Mercedes E300e are the models you’ll be wanting to look at – and both are cheaper.

A Jaguar XF Sportbrake is also worth considering, although this is only a mild hybrid, and there isn't a plug-in variant available yet.

Volvo’s V90 Recharge is another worthy candidate, too.

Verdict & Next Steps

Overall, the Audi A6 Avant plug-in hybrid is everything we expected it to be.

Its ultra-efficient fuel economy and low carbon emissions make it a desirable proposition, especially for company car users.

Audi has done an impressive job on the interior, too, so, if your tastes agree, that might be enough to seal the deal.

However, the ride comfort could be better, while the driving experience leaves something to the imagination. In addition, the variables in the braking system, although clever, may make it difficult to get used to.

It’s surprising to see Audi leaning the A6 Avant hybrid towards those with sportier tastes, leaving out features that enhance driving comfort. Especially given that the added weight of the hybrid system as good as removes any sporting credentials from its handling.

The options list is among the most expensive we’ve ever seen on anything that isn’t a supercar. So, prepare to look at higher trims, which means spending more money.

Where to next?

View latest Audi A6 Avant eQuattro PHEV leasing deals - from just £517.98 per month inc VAT**

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New Luxury Estate? Read our latest Car Reviews and find the right model for you

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**Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Audi A6 Avant eQuattro PHEV

**Correct as of 29/10/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £4661.82 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.



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