As baptisms of fire go, the Audi A6's arrival on our fleet has certainly been leaning towards the inferno end of the scale. No sooner had it arrived in the office car park, was it heading straight back out again on a 1,500-mile, pan-European jaunt to catch the last of the ski season in the Alps.
Our relationship was definitely in its infancy when I pointed KX17 YVY towards the Chunnel – in fact the Gotland Green Avant still had less than 200 miles on the clock – but I thought what better way to get to know 'my' new car than a 13-hour trip to the mountains?
Crossing France is never the most exciting of journeys – in fact I often think of it as the doughnut country, an interesting ring with nothing much in the middle – and the many miles of monotonous motorway gave me the perfect opportunity to get used to two of the Audi's stand-out features.
It's Lane Assist Steering was the first. Once it's 'seen' the lines on the road a green road illuminates on the dash and it helps keep you in the middle of the lane, actively adjusting the wheel for you. It's a little strange when the system first tugs you gently around a bend, and even now, some 3,000 miles into ownership, it doesn't feel any less unusual. I'm undecided as to whether I like it or not.
When teamed with the car's radar controlled cruise control, though, it does help make for a relaxing drive. Once you've set your speed it will slow down and speed up as traffic pulls out and back in front of you. It's really rather good and on the French autoroutes, where traffic is a distant memory, it helps make long journeys far more bearable. So much so you can let your mind wander to more pressing matters like why hasn't Costa expanded into France?
In a little over two months the Audi's cavernous 565-litre boot has been called into action on several occasions. It easily swallowed three people's ski gear, countless 'big shops' and many a Doberman and French Bulldog combo, while the brilliantly-designed snowboard rack meant interior space wasn't swallowed up with my 'tea tray' on our trip to the Alps. Compared to the Q7 I ran before it, there's a distinct reduction in rear seat space and comfort over the off-roader, though – its reclining seats and superior legroom are missed in the A6.
I have managed to get used to the fact the estate is running slightly older multimedia software to the Q7 – it's perfectly functional, reliable and easy to use, but I do miss the digital dashboard. The A6's small digital screen, nestled between the two analogue dials, is a boon but nowhere near as good as the full TFT option on more modern Audis.
Other gripes? Well, if I'm being fussy the S-tronic automatic gearbox can be a little sluggish on start up and sometimes a little too hesitant at roundabouts when you're after a quick getaway. While the stop start system can be a little aggressive, cutting in a few metres before you come to a complete stop which is annoying.
That aside, the 3.0-litre TDI engine is a joy – pulling strongly throughout the rev range and feeling noticeably faster than the Q7, a car that featured exactly the same 268bhp unit. Sadly the economy isn't living up to the claimed 53.3mpg combined figure, quoted by Audi. If I'm lucky I'll get 31mpg, which is pretty poor.
On my long trips one thing has become startlingly apparent – just how comfortable and accomplished the A6 is at soaking up massive mileage. After 13 hours each way to the Alps and back, my passengers and I got out feeling just as refreshed as when we got in. The optional sports seats are superb and the driving position near-perfect, aided no doubt by its plethora of adjustable options.
The Avant has also won may admiring glances from passers-by – and when I've posted pictures of it on social media, the menacing looks have attracted a fair few comments, all of which have been very positive.
Sadly there has been one minor incident to report – the front passenger door has picked up a nasty gouge, just under the handle. It appeared after parking at Heathrow – and I'm still grumbling at the lack of respect people have for other cars, and ruing the tiny parking spaces we're forced to squeeze into on a far too regular a basis these days. I'm going to try and get the blemish repaired – the mere thought of a mark on the Matrix-style green paintwork makes me sob a little inside.
Model: Audi A6 Avant Black Edition S tronic
Price: £63,045 (with options)
Engine: 3.0-litre, TDI
Max speed: 155mph
0-60mph: 5.5 seconds