WAGONS are boring, uninviting…built for bags not beauty. Right? Not anymore.
Luxury car makers have given load-luggers a new lease on life under a cloak of classy styling.
It flies in the face of our obsession with sports utility vehicles, which have quickly become the must-have item for those wanting to carry gear, kids or dogs - and sometimes all three.
Audi had reservations about bringing its A6 Avant to Australia given the success of the Q5 SUV.
But with the other big guns having a wagon variant in their armoury, the four-rings have delivered.
And these plush wagons are certainly worth a look for those that can get past the high-riding alternatives.
Getting into your car with arms full of gear can be a challenge.
Audi's team have thought about the needs of wagon buyers, and you just need to have your key within the vicinity and give a light tap under the boot with your foot for the tailgate to open.
It's one of the thoughtful features in the Avant. You also get a rail luggage hook and netting system which can accommodate a range of cargo.
Up front it's the usual Audi treatment. Well constructed and laid out, it looks classy and everything is relatively simple to use.
You get metal-look inlays as standard, you have to pay more for aluminium, walnut, metallic or fine grain ash.
The ambiance is regal but there are some minor plastics through the middle console.
The uninitiated may need some lessons in the MMI system, which controls your audio, sat nav and various other features via the main dial on the console.
Both front seats are electrically adjustable with lumbar supports, but they could do with a little more support laterally and around your rear.
On the road
While the A6 has a respectable 0-100kmh sprint time in the mid-eight second realm, the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol can feel lacklustre low in the rev range.
Partnered with a continuously variable transmission, the drivetrain combination takes a little time to spool-up but it quickly becomes punchy and responsive once you get above 3000pm.
For those who want more control, there are the paddles on the steering wheel for manual style shifts.
The wagon is remarkably quiet in varying conditions with the suspension managing to soak up all but the deepest of potholes without issue.
You can also select between comfort, dynamic, efficiency, individual set-up and automatic driving modes.
Steering feel is typically Audi and is light, yet responsive, with a tendency to understeer if you push the envelope.
You can feel more weight the quicker you go, but it lightens off at low speeds that helps make easy work of parking.
Our test car was fitted with the optional four-camera "overhead" view system which provides awesome visibility with the vision projected onto the colour screen.
What do you get?
The standard equipment is reasonable, with the highlights including 17-inch alloys, leather trim, 10-speaker sound system, sat nav with touch sensitive control panel, keyless entry and a swag of safety features that get all five stars on the safety rating scale.
You have to dig deep for extra trinkets, and there is an array of optional extras available.
But ticking a few boxes will quickly drive the bottom line up towards the $100,000 mark.
Among the key Europeans rivals are the Mercedes-Benz E350 Avantgarde ($139,435) and the BMW 535i Touring ($126,200).
For those who can't stretch the budget but like the wagon styling, there's also the Skoda Superb 191 FSI Elegance with six-cylinder power ($56,490), Peugeot 508 Touring ($42,990) and also the range-topping Volvo V60 T6 R-Design Polestar ($78,490).
The turbo-petrol can be a thrifty operator, but out test averaged about nine litres for every 100km - a fair way off the official figure.
Its frugal abilities are aided by the stop-start system which turns the engine off when stationary, and then automatically restarts when you take your foot off the brake.
You get a three-year unlimited kilometre warranty, but servicing can be expensive.
Buyers in this genre typically have kids or gear to carry, and Audi has been smart with its inclusions.
The automatic tailgate is a handy, as is the rail system that keeps loose items in place.
Under the carpet in the rear is a plastic allocation for wet or dirty stuff, while with the back seats folded (at the pull of a lever in the boot) the luggage space expands from 565 litres to 1630l.
Access to the child seats points is brilliant, just below the headrest meaning there is no need to delve into the back.
Surprisingly sleek for a wagon, the Avant retains a prestige presence.
Smooth lines at the back and the luxurious interior manages to combine common sense with class.
Most drivers of SUVs never leave the bitumen. Wagons make more sense for most, not to mention the cheaper tyres and ease of enter/exit with the lower ride height.
While SUVs are currently in vogue, offerings like the A6 Avant could see the tide turn.
It's a refined and luxurious drive with ample room for the family.
Smart inclusions provide practical real-world uses, but those wanting plenty of extra bells and whistles will have to pay for the privilege.
Model: Audi A6 Avant.
Detail: Five-door luxury wagon.
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol generating maximum power of 132kW @ 4000-6000rpm and peak torque of 320 / 1500-3900rpm.
Transmission: "Multitronic" continuously variable automatic transmission.
Consumption: 6.5 litres/100km.
Performance: 0-100km in 8.6 seconds.
Bottom line: $81,800.
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