He said; she said. He wants a sports car. She wants an SUV. He wants to haul. She just needs to haul things. He wants traction. She wants foul weather traction. He wants that new Porsche. She wants that new Mercedes truck. What to do? Easy. While he's drooling over the Porsche, step over to the Audi A6 Avant. It's a simple answer to this question because it handles conflicting demands well. This station wagon comes standard with Quattro all-wheel drive. It has a flexible 2.8-liter 30-valve V-6 with four cams and variable intake valve timing. With a multi-link front suspension and a double-wishbone rear suspension (only the Quattros -- the front-drivers get a beam axle out back), sporty moves are assured. And it's an Avant, Audi-speak for a wagon, so it has some cargo-carrying flexibility. There you go. One marriage saved. And as long as it's saved, why not have some fun? The Audi Quattro always has been an enthusiast's vehicle, and this one is no exception. The 2.8-liter, mated to a Porsche Tiptronic five-speed transmission, proved to be a fun drive train. This engine positively sings above 3,500 rpm, making noises sure to satisfy any lead-footed driver while returning a respectable 21 mpg. Passing power is good at speed. Body roll is well managed, and the grip offered by all-wheel drive is astounding. Sharp, quick maneuvers do not ruffle this wagon; it hangs in there for all it's worth. The throttle is sensitive, as are the brakes, which show good progression. There's good road feel through the steering wheel, and steering is quick and nicely weighted. The suspension does a good job of smothering bumps while remaining firm. Expansion joints can thump through a bit too much and road noise can occasionally filter in, but overall it allows the driver a precise driving feel for which German cars are known. The Quattro all-wheel drive system is invisible to the driver. When driving, it shifts up to 66 percent of the available traction to the wheel with the most grip. This will give your pragmatic mate peace of mind when the snow starts to fly. Only you have to know of the added fun all-wheel drive contributes to the driving experience. Complementing the driving experience is the interior, which is available in what Audi calls "atmospheres." Named "Ambition," "Ambiente," and "Advance," each atmosphere has a distinctly different character. "Ambition" features walnut trim and dark, muted colors. "Ambiente" features sycamore trim and bold colors. And "Advance" features soft earth tones. The test vehicle was screaming red with a tan interior -- an "Ambiente" atmosphere. It felt rich and inviting. The wood trim was bright, giving a warm feel that's a real departure from the usual austere Audi cabin. A hinged door hid the excellent Bose audio system, although the lack of a CD player seemed a little skimpy. However, the sound was quite good. Unlike some other cars in this class, there was no wea ther band radio. Nestled just below the stereo was the easy-to-operate dual automatic climate control. It worked well. Heated seats, part of a cold-weather package, have adjustable warmth settings. The steering wheel also is heated, a thoughtful touch. Other available options include self-leveling high-intensity gas-discharge headlamps with washers, side air bags, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and a sun roof to cool the interior on hot days. While all these things will keep you happy, the paucity of cupholders (one) will have you fighting with your mate to use it. And if Audi would install a power door lock switch on the front passenger side, it would be nice. The front bucket seats are firm, and hold the driver in place for spirited maneuvers. Yet their lack of any give makes sitting in church for three hours look like a comfortable alternative. The rear seat, which has three headrests, is better suited for two. The rear compartment is roomier than you migh t expec t, given the exterior dimensions of the car. There are 36.4 cubic feet of luggage space with the rear seat up, 73.2 cubic feet with it folded down. A sill plate in the rear door jamb helps prevent scratches while loading and unloading. The rear door has a defroster and wiper. The door itself swings well out of the way, so it won't become intimate with your cranium. There's also a power point, convenient for tailgating. All that space invites cargo. He needs a television. She needs some knickknacks. Thankfully, Audi provides nets to hold things in place. There's a floor-mounted net for the small stuff and a vertical net that retracts into the back of the rear seat for larger items. Nice touches. A shiny roof rack adds to freight-carrying flexibility (although that wouldn't be so chic in this vehicle). So he gets what he wants; she gets what she wants. You just need a road to haul on while she needs things to haul. Now, how much is a happy marriage worth? 1999 Audi A6 Avant Engine: 2.8-liter DOHC 5-valve V6 Transmission: 5-speed Tiptronic Standard: All-wheel-drive, anti-lock disc brakes, 195/65R-15 tires with aluminum alloy wheels, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, fog lamps, dual zone automatic climate control, power windows with express open, cruise control, rear window defogger, central locking, keyless entry, power mirrors with defogger, power front seats split folding rear seatcenter console, cupholders, floor mats cargo net, retractable rear sunshade, anti-theft alarm, AM/FM/Cassette/CD audio system, rear wiper/washer, front and side airbags, first aid kit. Base price: $xx,xxx EPA rating: 17 mpg city, 26 mpg highway Test mileage: 21 mpg
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