What is the best way to transport four tall chaps and their walking gear from central London to the Peak District on a dank December evening?
Taking in a dose of city gridlock and a long stretch of the M1, including an average-speed check through roadworks before some B-road blitzing to our hostel in Derbyshire, it's a journey that covers a good chunk of the British driving experience. Enter the new A6 Avant, the latest lightweight estate from Audi and car of choice for middle-to-upper management types across the land.
My three hiking companions collected, I get to grips with the Audi. Immediately the heavy London traffic gives us all a chance to check out its elegant interior built-in technology. We've all studied the car literature and my navigator Tim is quick to prompt me to engage the night-vision mode on the dashboard (practically a bargain at £2,100). It will be useful for spotting foxes and badgers on dark country roads, he suggests helpfully. There's no wildlife on the A1 sadly, but it's certainly fun to look down at ghostly shapes as I engage the digital heads-up display (a mere £1,450), which, like a fighter jet's display, tells me how fast I'm going and also what the speed limit is. Meanwhile, in the back, passenger James is fiddling with the deluxe 4-zone air conditioning (just an extra £680) before connecting his smartphone's Spotify app to the Bang & Olufsen advanced sound system (that'll be £6,300 please).
This is all fantastic we agree, and what with the Audi's air suspension we're travelling north in a level of comfort somewhere between a snug armchair and a first-class seat on Boeing's latest 787 Dreamliner.
This level of luxury, as you'd expect, doesn't come cheap. My range-topping test model, which comes with Audi's excellent Quattro all-wheel-drive and its precise S-Tronic gearbox, is loaded with more than £38,000 in optional extras above the list price. That's a frankly bonkers figure and a real shame as the Avant is good enough to speak for itself. Its cabin is effortlessly refined and from the outside it is easily prettier than its two nearest rivals, the muscular BMW 5 Series Touring and boxy Mercedes E-Class Estate. The next morning its air suspension takes the Peak District's potholed winter roads with ease while its 3-litre turbo diesel purrs along giving plenty of torque-filled acceleration as we climb to Kinder Scout, the area's highest peak. And if your budget won't stretch to the larger engine, the entry-level 2-litre model is available for a marginally more modest £32,100
Exorbitant extras aside, the A6 is a thoroughly well-rounded estate. And after four-cold hours hiking, its heated and massaging seats (worth their hefty £1,600 pricetag?) are certainly welcoming to my cold bones. We didn't see any badgers though, so perhaps forget the night vision.
Audi A6 Avant (3.0 TDI quattro SE S tronic)
Price: from £32,100 (£78,745 as tested)
Engine capacity: 3l turbo diesel
Top speed (mph): 155
0-60 mph (seconds): 7.2
Fuel economy (mpg): 53.3
CO2 emissions (g/km): 139