Satisfying Aspirations of the Affluent
2008 Audi A6 Avant 3.2 Quattro
Sunday, December 16, 2007; Page G01
The Audi wagon had us at "Hello."
We were smitten by its black and brick-red leather interior accented with birch wood veneer. It was elegant, exquisite, one of the most inviting interiors we've seen in any car. I wanted to drive it. My wife, Mary Anne, wanted the wheel. Ria Manglapus, my partner in vehicle evaluations, wanted in. Granting access required diplomacy. It did not work.
The desired vehicle was the 2008 Audi A6 Avant 3.2 Quattro. Simultaneously available was the base 2008 Porsche Cayenne SUV. I figured that one of the women, probably my truck-loving Texas wife, would go for the Cayenne. I was wrong.
Mary Anne drove the Cayenne for half a day while I was busy exploring an idea for another column. She came home, parked it and jumped into her Mini Cooper.
"When do you think Ria will be finished with the Audi?" she asked.
Ria, who needed time in the Cayenne, had a problem. Her sons, Bori and Q, had fallen in love with the A6 Avant's interior and technology, especially Audi's Multi-Media Interface (MMI) infotainment and navigation system.
The MMI setup "was too much work for me," Ria said. But her sons, both of whom love computers and electronic games, found the cursor-controlled MMI fascinating.
Q, to whom I had earlier given a ride in the base Cayenne, was disappointed that it lacked such a system. The 12-year-old seventh-grader also thought the Audi had "more class," which made me wonder if the kid was odd, or if Porsche was losing its hold on the automotive imaginations of boys.
But after wresting the wheel of the A6 Avant from Ria and Mary Anne, I concluded that it offered a much more enjoyable ride than the Cayenne.
"Enjoyable" is different from what devotees of high-performance motoring describe as "fun to drive." It is a matter of intensity.
"Fun to drive," for example, evokes thoughts of racetrack acceleration and crisp handling. It often relegates to second place matters of creature comfort.
"Enjoyable" elevates creature comforts, but does not eschew elements of "fun to drive." Instead, it puts them into perspective, strives for balance or, if you will, compromise between the two. This is what the all-wheel-drive A6 Avant (thus the "Quattro" part of the name) does brilliantly.
The wagon is an automotive ode to the aspirations and needs of affluent families -- the desire for tangible manifestation of prestige, the need for excellence in automotive engineering and safety, the desire for coddling comfort, the need for utility.
Few automotive enthusiasts will be awed by the acceleration of the Avant's 255-horsepower V-6 engine, which Audi labels "3.2-liter" primarily for marketing purposes, but which actually is closer to a displacement of 3.1 liters. Also, few hard-driving enthusiasts will rave over the A6 Avant wagon's handling.
But most motorists, including the affluent consumers targeted by the A6 Avant, are less interested in qualifying for the next road race than they are in getting to where they are going safely, comfortably, enjoyably and in as much style as they can afford. The A6 Avant is abundantly endowed with those attributes.
To say that we like the wagon is understatement. We love it. It is on our short list of favorite road-trip vehicles. We particularly appreciate that Audi has standardized its more attractive S-Line exterior trim, previously available as an option, on all 2008 A6 models. That styling touch and the A6 Avant's long list of safety equipment and amenities make it one of the best deals in the luxury car market.