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It's not that the 332bhp V8 is lacking in any department, it's simply a matter of degree - how much power do you need to propel your estate car and its cargo? Frankly I'd drop down a financial gear and opt for the equally impressive 3.2 V6 petrol FSI Avant SE quattro for £33,910 or better still the stonking new 3.0 V6 TDI turbo diesel Avant SE quattro at £32,315. The three-litre turbodiesel model is by far the best A6 Avant in Audi's 16-model range - smooth, economical, powerful and refined; cargo-carrying perfection on wheels.
Having dismissed the V8 as an excess Audi need not have, let me balance the argument. There really is nothing quite like a petrol V8 when it comes to effortless performance motoring. The mighty unit is silkiness personified - too much so for that vital V8 ingredient, burbling acoustics, is almost undetectable thanks to Audi's preoccupation with refinement. It's far too quiet! Even under hard acceleration the twin exhausts barely whisper the V8's presence.
But what performance! The 4.2 quattro is responsive and exceptionally fast with colossal pulling power. Better still, it handles like a hot hatch. Grip from the advanced quattro 4x4 is astonishing and cornering this hefty 1.8 tonne cargo shifter is an accurate and roll-free experience. The SE specification delivers 17" 16-spoke alloys wearing 225 section tyres on a 50 profile. That builds in a suppleness missing from the ultimate 4.2 quattro, the S-line, which costs another £1460 and rides on 18" aluminium with hard-riding 245/40 section rubber.
Linked to adaptive air suspension borrowed from the A8 and quattro, with its Torsen centre differential and Audi's outstanding electronic stability programme (ESP), the SE gets limpet-like adhesion and a smooth ride. Even when you dump the Comfort setting and dial up Dynamic suspension on the A6's MMI computer interface, the car never becomes harsh. It remains composed and controlled over its performance envelop and only shows over-firmness at low in-town speeds when it's as well to revert to Comfort.
Mid-range acceleration is phenomenal. The sprint to 62mph is impressive enough at 6.2 seconds, but the real clincher is how the 4.2 passes slower traffic. It's like driving a two-seat supercar with a house on the back. The big V8 shrugs off power demands with an indifferent gasp, rocketing the estate to high speed with ease. This is a car where you really need to watch the speedometer.
Part of the car's secret is its six-speed tiptronic automatic transmission with Dynamic Shift Programme (DSP). Changes are so soft it's easy to miss the steps, and when you master the steering column mounted paddles controlling the engine's mighty output on a twisty road through your fingertips is a sheer joy.
Electronics take the sweat out of stopping. Large diameter ventilated discs front and rear with ABS, EBD and Brake Assist guarantee panic-free stops. Even after a long period of hard driving over tortuous mountain roads the brakes felt as fresh hot as they were cold. Impressive stuff.