While it doesn’t have the history of rivals the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class, the Audi A6 has become a credible force in the executive saloon market, thanks to its premium styling, plush cabin and a company car friendly choice of engines. New to the range is a twin-turbocharged flagship diesel engine, which is tested here.
Audi’s mid-sized premium saloon, though you’ll have to look hard to tell, as the A6 shares most of its design with the smaller A4 and the range-topping A8 limousine. We can forgive such an identikit approach, however, when the end result is this appealing. Aside from the 2.0-litre hybrid model and the 4.0-litre S6 and RS6 performance derivatives, the model range comprises solely of 2.0 and 3.0-litre diesel options ranging from 175bhp to 309bhp, with a choice of a six speed manual or an automatic with seven or eight gears depending on model.
The A6 is available as standard with Audi Drive Select, meaning drivers can change a number of parameters, including the weight of the steering, stiffness of the suspension and throttle response at the push of a button. Predictably, Comfort mode turns everything to its softest setting, with Dynamic the setting to choose when you reach your favourite B-road. Sadly, in day-to-day driving, none of the modes feel quite right, with either an uncomfortable ride or overly light steering being the chief bugbears. It feels as though with the A6, Audi has tried to appeal to the middle ground between BMW sportiness and Mercedes comfort, but has ended up compromising on both.
Audi has built a reputation around its class-leading interiors and the A6 is no exception. Material quality is high, fit and finish exemplary, and the interior design is typically Germanic: ergonomically sound but lacking somewhat in design flair. Two trim levels are available: SE and S-Line, the latter being garnished with sporty trim details such as revised bumpers, larger alloy wheels and sports seats. Standard specification is good, with DAB digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity and sat nav – displayed on a 6.5-inch colour display – all present. The A6 is also optionally available with a wealth of hi-tech gadgets, including radar cruise control and a pedestrian-recognising night vision camera.
Despite having a similar size boot as its immediate German rivals (a cavernous 530 litres), the A6 is the only one fitted with fold-down rear seats as standard, which increases available load space to 995 litres. Front seat passengers are well catered for, though those in the back might find legroom lacking for such a large car. Front and rear parking sensors are fitted as standard, making navigating tighter spots a doddle. For those who still struggle, a sophisticated camera system is also available, which gives a bird’s eye view of the car, meaning there really is no more excuse for shoddy parking.
To many, the A6’s appeal will rest largely with its sharp styling – both inside and out – and the allure of that four-ringed badge. In isolation the A6 is a very accomplished car, but when compared to rivals, it’s middle-ground stance means it cant compete with dynamism of the BMW 5 Series or laid-back demeanor of the Mercedes E-Class. That said, the grunty new Bi-TDI engine is a welcome addition to the range and finally gives the A6 performance credentials to match the current best fast-diesel saloon, the BMW 535d.
Don't want to buy new? You can browse for a used Audi A6 in our classifieds here.
Audi A6 Bi-TDI SE
List price: £44,670
Engine: 3.0-litre, six cylinder, turbodiesel
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 5.1 seconds
Fuel economy: 35.8mpg (urban), 51.4mpg (extra-urban) 44.8mpg (combined)
Emissions: 166g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: 5 stars
September 27, 2013