IS IT possible for the – ahem – more generously proportioned among us to exist without devouring more than our fair share of the planet’s precious resources?
For evidence to support the theory, avert your eyes from me, my waistline and the family-size bag of Kettle Chips I’ve just bought and focus on Scotsman Motoring’s latest long-term test car, the Audi A6 Avant ultra.
That there is a lot of it to gaze upon is an irrefutable truth – the Avant (Audi-speak for “estate”) measures a parking-bay-busting 16ft 2ins from nose to tail. Yet for all its might, Audi claims the A6 Avant will return a belief-beggaring 61.2mpg and spit out just 119g/km of carbon dioxide for every kilometre travelled.
The fuel economy figure puts the Audi on a par with the titchy Up city car from sister company Volkswagen, yet the 1,800kg Audi weighs almost as much as two Ups, and that’s before a family of five and their Labradors get comfortable.
The Up’s 1.0-litre petrol engine develops 59bhp, the A6’s 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine develops three times as much power. Witchcraft, then? If you have no interest in what goes on under the bonnet and only want to know about the cool stuff a new Audi comes with, then the answer is yes and you can skip the next section.
For the rest of us, Audi says the new model “is the result of the single-minded pursuit of unparalleled efficiency”. Try reading that out loud vissout lapsink into ein dreadful German accent. Key to the Ultra’s ultra-low thirst is an already frugal 2.0-litre TDI engine, paired to a re-jigged seven-speed twin-clutch transmission, which incorporates a new “coasting” function that lets the engine freewheel in neutral once the accelerator is released. The engine start-stop system has also been tweaked to kick in sooner. Weight-saving plays a part, too, and the A6’s already aluminium-rich body rides on springs made of glass-fibre reinforced polymer that weighs 40 per cent less than steel coils. Now I feel really guilty about all those Kettle Chips.
The gains made are such that there’s no need for low rolling-resistance tyres and the compromises on grip and handling that they entail. If being on time takes precedence over being parsimonious, you can switch the A6’s drive-mode selector setting from “Efficiency” to “Dynamic” and flick the gearbox to Sport mode to wring every last drop of performance from the engine.
The A6 Avant ultra is ours until the end of March, which gives us lots of scope for putting Audi’s fuel-consumption claims to the test. Right now, we can tell you a typical mpg reading is a far-from-fantastic 44mpg, but the car has barely 1,000 miles on the clock and we’d expect that figure to improve once the engine has loosened off a little and the Audi gets a chance to stretch its legs away from Edinburgh’s commuter traffic.
Right, back to the cool stuff. Our car is finished in range-topping Black Edition trim and, to an already generous standard equipment list that includes four-zone climate control, cruise control, is added 20-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, a surround-sound stereo by Bose, rear privacy glass and gloss black inlays on the dashboard and doors. Sports suspension brings the car 20mm closer to the ground than less expensive A6s and makes it look a lot like its Ferrari-troubling RS6 sibling.
Added-cost extras on our test car include pearlescent grey paint (£655), heated front seats (£300) and a £1,625 “technology pack” that takes Audi’s already user-friendly infotainment* interface to the next level.
For 2015, all A6’s get a very mild facelift, so there are revisions to the grille, bumper and headlights (all-LED affairs in our Black Edition) that give the car a bit of a stern face. Fingers crossed, it’ll put a smile on mine in the coming months.
* I despise the word “infotainment”. Suggestions for a better alternative on a postcard, please. The best one wins a packet of Kettle Chips.
Price £39,465 (£42,690 as tested)
Engine 2.0-litre turbodiesel, 4cyl, 187bhp, 295lb ft
Transmission 7spd dual-clutch automatic, FWD
Performance Top speed 140mph; 0-62mph 8.5 seconds