Well, the trip is to Wiltshire and Cornwall to be honest, but in the manic holiday traffic, stuffed to the gills with presents for friends and family, it can seem a journey of epic proportions.
And this year, along with the wind, rain, mud and snow littering my trek down to the west country, I’ve got some diamonds and caviar to transport. So I need a car that could furnish me with the appropriate levels of comfort, surefootedness, practicality and small luxury goods carrying ability.
What luck then that our Audi A6 3.0-litre TDI saloon has been replaced with a 2.7-litre TDI Avant quattro SE. For this very handsome estate car is not only big, comfortable and four-wheel driven, but – according to an executive on the launch I attended some months ago – is ideal ‘for carrying diamonds and caviar’. Bingo!
Admittedly the diamonds are not very big and the caviar pretty cheap, but at last I now have a car of suitable grandeur to transport them, along with the rest of the Christmas kit.
And having witnessed cars sliding off the road rather regularly recently as winter bites, I’ll be very glad of the quattro system to protect my valuable cargo.
Four-wheel drive is one of those things that you don’t think you need until you spend a winter with it. I certainly missed it after handing the old A6 on to another Fleet News tester back in February.
The 2.7-litre engine in our new addition is certainly very quiet, although at the moment, with only a few hundred miles on the clock, it feels tighter than a Girls Aloud boob tube. It really doesn’t like to rev and after re-acquainting myself with the formidable forward shove of our out-going 3.0-litre A6 just before it left, seems very slow.
However, the travails of nationwide family and friend commitments over Christmas should see the Avant pile on the miles, and I reckon that come 2006, it will be the sprightly beast we expect.
I have had a couple of early grumbles though and they both concern specification. Our SE model comes with 16-inch wheels, which are just about chunky enough to get away with on the saloon, but look dwarfed on the bigger-bodied Avant. My other moan is the chrome, or rather lack of it. The Avant is an elegant car, but the lack of chrome around the side windows makes it look very drab indeed.
It turns out the delivery of our car is badly timed. After muttering darkly about how the spec choice manages to make a great-looking car so dowdy, I discovered that Audi has just upgraded all SEs to 17-inch wheels and has added the Hi-Gloss chrome pack. However, these are small issues in the grand scheme of things. The Avant just oozes class and sophistication – more so even than the saloon.
If the past couple of weeks are anything to go by, I’m going to be driving this car almost exclusively at night, and that’s a good thing, too. It means the world gets to see the rear lights – distinctive and sparkling LED units. In fact they are so bright that if you are sitting in a queue of traffic with your foot on the brake, you light up the driver behind you like some road-based satan.
They can also save a fortune on Christmas decorations – I just back the car up to the living room window and these sparkly lights will bring festive cheer to any room.
What we expect
OUR A6 is going to clock up a lot of miles during its stay with us, and if our experience of the saloon version is anything to go by, it should be a joy. Comfort, build quality and style are bywords for the A6, and the Avant has a big boot which gives it a more practical edge. When it comes to covering long distances in style with a boot full of stuff, little can touch the Audi. Fuel economy should prove to be strong, too.
The manufacturer’s view
‘IT’S been a successful year in fleet for us, with sales up 32% right across the board. And the A6 Avant is a key model, because that particular brand is so strong. We sell 50% of A6s as Avants, which is especially strong as with many other manufacturers the split would be 65% saloon/35% estates.’ Adrian Short, head of business sales, Audi
Equiment and options
Total options: £8,375
Standard price (OTR): £30,330
Price as tested: £38,240
Model: Audi A6 Avant 2.7 TDI quattro SE Tiptronic
Price (OTR): £30,330 (£37,455 as tested)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 226
Company car tax bill (2005/6) 40% tax-payer: £364 a month
Insurance group: 15
Combined mpg: 33.6
Test mpg: 29.2
CAP Monitor residual value: £11,725/38%
HSBC contract hire rate: £611
Expenditure to date: Nil
Figures based on three years/60,000 miles