Audi has raised its game with the new A6 Avant, says Edward Stephens

You know how it is. You have your arms full of shopping when you reach your car and you either have to put everything on the floor or do a juggling act while you try to find your keys to open the boot.

Well not any longer, if you happen to be in the market for Audi’s new Avant that is.

With the latest Avant – that’s estate to you and me – all you do is wave your foot under the rear bumper to activate two sensors, which then automatically open the rear tailgate so you can deposit your parcels without dropping anything.

It might sound like a small thing but small things such as this make a car easier to live with.

The new Avant bears a striking resemblance to the car it replaces but the design is sharper and crisper and it’s packed with a host of new options.

It’s slightly shorter in length but there is a longer wheelbase and that brings with it a larger carrying capacity of some 565 litres, or 1,680 litres if you fold the rear seats down.

Everyone’s conscious of current fuel prices so the new range has the double bonus of more powerful engines and more miles per gallon.

The expected best seller in the range for example, the 2.0-litre TDI, jumps from 170 to 177bhp and boasts an average fuel consumption of more than 56 miles per gallon.

The boost in economy is also helped by the fact that the new cars now weigh significantly less, thanks to more use of aluminium components. In fact these now make up 20 per cent of the body and the 2.0-litre TDI version is now 15 per cent lighter than an all-steel equivalent.

The bias towards diesel means that the new line up consists of three diesel models and just one petrol.

Apart from the 2.0-litre TDI there are two 3.0-litre V6 TDI models, one offering 204bhp and one offering 245bhp. The petrol model is also a 3.0 litre.

For anyone looking for an even more powerful diesel there will be a twin-turbo TDI later in the year capable of accelerating from 0-62mph in just 5.4 seconds.

Demanding customers mean Audi now offers an even more substantial list of optional features on its cars and one that I drove came with a £6,300 Bang & Olufsen advanced sound system fitted.

A new range of wood inlays is also available and one particularly stunning one in oak (£700), comes in the form of layered strips of wood rather than flat panelling and is based on a nautical theme.

Other features available include one which allows you to use Google Earth on the car’s navigation system and in a few months time this will be extended to include street mapping. As you follow your GPS route you will see on the screen what you are looking at out of the window.

Other options available include, night vision, a head-up display, parking assistance and many more. The list is almost endless.

What is obvious – or perhaps not too obvious unless you look closely – is the attention to detail and the quality of the interior of the new models.

The gaps between fittings are tiny and spot on, door sills have aluminium inlays, the upper section of the dashboard is covered in a soft leather-look material, and frequently-used components are coated with a UV-cured topcoat to make them extremely scratch-resistant.

On the road too it’s obvious that Audi has raised its game to put it ahead or the opposition.

The cars handle even better than the outgoing models, they are quieter – thanks to a whole range of acoustic refinements – and have more of an executive feel to them.

The first of the new Audi Avants will reach customers in the UK in November, with prices ranging from £32,100 for the 2.0-litre TDI SE to £43,480 for the 3.0 TFSI quattro

Then of course you have all those extras to decide on. And you really are spoiled for choice.