For over a decade, well-heeled families seeking both luxury and cargo versatility have been drawn out of high-end station wagons and into premium SUVs. But Audi thinks they have just the right design to reverse that trend with the 2006 A6 Avant. It’s larger, more powerful, and more stylish. And did I mention more economical? All the right stuff for a luxury wagon renaissance.

When Audi designers sat down to plan out the 2006 A6 Avant, adding cargo space and utility to make their new station wagon more competitive in the SUV dominated U.S. market was high on their list of priorities. A job made easier thanks to last year’s thorough redesign of the A6 sedan, which yielded a longer 111.9-inch wheelbase. Extra room between the wheels makes for a larger cargo deck that can now be accessed by way of an optional power-operated rear hatch. It opens wide to present a big 33.9 cubic feet of luggage space with the rear seat up. With the rear seat folded, that space increases to 59.5 cubic feet. Very good for a wagon, and even larger than some compact SUVs. Note too the new floor rails with adjustable tie-down points and a removable cargo divider.

Up front, the Avant’s cabin is 100 percent new-generation Audi A6, and thus packed with luxury and technology. Seating is leather clad buckets with standard 12-way power adjustments and heat. Occupants are protected by dual-stage front, front side-impact, and head curtain airbags, with optional rear side impact airbags.

Many interior functions are controlled by Audi’s latest Multi Media Interface and its 7-inch screen. It’s easier to comprehend than before, but the controller is poorly positioned to use while driving. Navigation and voice recognition are optional. Like the sedan, the cabin is faced by Audi’s new dramatic corporate grille, supported by super smooth aluminum hood and fenders, with steerable xenon headlights an option. The high belt-line and moderate use of glass is a familiar look for the A6 Avant, now more stylish and athletic.

Tucked under the A6 Avant’s alloy hood is Audi’s latest 3.1-liter dual-cam V6 with direct fuel injection. As in the sedan, output is 255 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque, all tied to a 6-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic manual shifting and Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system with a torque sensing center differential, with which we launched the A6 from 0 to 60 in 7.7 seconds. Even though the Avant body adds about 100 pounds over the sedan, the quarter mile zips by rather nicely in 15.9 seconds at 90 miles-per-hour.

The Avant makes strong power at the mid-range and top end. Engine and driveline are very refined, with the V6 producing a nice throaty growl when pushed hard. The civilized drivetrain is complemented by a well balanced multi-link suspension, which is available with adaptive air suspension. And while it’s no sports car, the 2-ton Avant is nimble for its size. It changes directions easily, and despite all-wheel drive, understeer is very mild.

The Avant’s brakes are 4-wheel discs with ABS and electronic brake force distribution. They stopped our car from 60 in a good average distance of 127 feet, almost identical to the sedan. Chassis stability and pedal feel get high marks too, but we did experience some fade as the brakes heated up, unusual for an Audi. EPA mileage estimates are 17 city/26 highway. We drew a fine 23 miles-per-gallon in our mixed test loop, or about 50% better than most premium SUVs.

Audi A6 Avant’s premium pricing starts at $47,590. Pack on options like adaptive headlights or radar cruise control, and you can quickly see a lofty 60 grand.

Still, we think the 2006 Audi A6 Avant is an intelligent alternative to a premium luxury SUV. It’s stylish, extremely comfortable, a great performer no matter what the road conditions, with cargo versatility that beats most needs. It is the design we’d pick to lead a station wagon renaissance, where less is very much more.


  • Engine: 3.1-Liter Dual-cam V6
  • Horsepower: 255
  • Torque: 243 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 7.7 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 15.9 Seconds @ 90 MPH
  • 60-0 MPH: 127 Feet
  • EPA: 17 City/26 Highway MPG
  • Mixed Loop: 23 MPG