Audi A6 review
The Audi A6 offers a range of economical engines and a quality interior to rival the BMW 5 Series
The previous-generation Audi A6 was never quite best in class. It wasn't as rewarding to drive as a BMW 5 Series, nor as comfortable as a Mercedes E-Class. However, this latest A6 is different. It stormed to the top of the class when it was launched in 2011 and was named Best Executive Saloon in our New Car Awards. It has since been knocked off the top step of the podium by the arrival of the ultra-efficient BMW 520d ED, but it’s still one of the best executive cars on the market. It's a great all-rounder, with the style and class to rival the Jaguar XF, a range of ultra-efficient diesel engines, handsome looks and a class-leading interior. It’s also the only car in this sector available with four-wheel drive. A practical A6 Avant estate model offers 565 litres of boot space with the seats up and 1,680 litres with them down, while the A6 Allroad offers rugged styling, a raised ride height, special cladding and quattro four-wheel drive to rival the Volvo XC70. A high-powered four-wheel drive S6 model joined the line-up in 2012, and is powered by the same twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 as used in the brilliant Bentley Continental GT V8, with 414bhp and a muscular 550Nm of torque for a 0-62mph time of 4.6 seconds. At the 2013 Geneva Motor Show, Audi unveiled the RS6 Avant, which boasts the practicality of an estate with the performance of a supercar. Its 4.0-litre bi-turbo engine produces 552bhp and 700Nm of torque – enough to get it from 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds.
Our choice: A6 2.0 TDI SE
The Audi A6 is one of the best looking cars in its class. The sharp, taut lines and lovely touches, such as the LED daytime running lights on S line models, give it a classy feel. It makes the BMW 5 Series look unadventurous by comparison, and can only be matched on looks by the desirable Jaguar XF. All cars come with 17-inch alloy wheels and are very stylish, but can look a bit uniform and bland. So if you want something a bit sportier looking, S line trim adds 18-inch alloys, lowered and stiffened suspension and a mild bodykit. The class-leading interior borrows much of its style and quality from the flagship A8, with upmarket instruments that blend with Audi’s intuitive MMI control system and a perfect driving position to create a very functional and comfortable cabin. Entry-level SE cars come fitted with stop-start technology, cruise control, park assist, automatic lights and wipers, leather upholstery and a Google-powered sat-nav. S line trim adds special interior trim, sports seats and Xenon lights. Black Edition models are marked out by 20-inch titanium-look alloy wheels, a Bose audio system, privacy glass and a grille finished in polished black. S6 and RS6 models get sporty but subtle bodykits and upgraded spec lists.
Thanks to extensive use of aluminium, the Audi A6 is a light car and it feels very agile on the move. The steering isn’t as communicative as that of a BMW 5 Series or Jaguar XF, but the A6 is still precise and good to drive. The ride is on the firm side, though, and S line models get stiffer, lowered sports suspension and larger wheels which mean they really thump and jar over potholes. There’s a range of efficient diesel engines, but the biggest seller is the 175bhp 2.0-litre diesel, which is capable of 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds when hooked up to the excellent eight-speed Multitronic automatic gearbox. It’s our pick of the range, too, as it’s quiet and refined at all times, and is particularly relaxing on the motorway. The 296bhp 3.0-litre supercharged V6 and two 3.0 TDI diesels, are fast and get the company's quattro four-wheel-drive system.
Audi has a great reputation for reliability and the A6 is unlikely to change this. It finished in an impressive 27th place in the 2013 Driver Power survey, although this was behind its key rivals – the BMW 5 Series came 11th, the Mercedes E-Class came 10th and the Jaguar XF came third. Audi as a brand came 10th in our manufacturer rankings, beating BMW in 15th, but losing out to Mercedes in fifth and Jaguar in third. As for safety, the latest Audi A6 has a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, with an impressive 91 per cent for adult occupant protection. Standard safety kit includes six airbags, as well as traction and stability control. You can also specify optional extras such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and a blind spot system, too.
The latest A6 is shorter than its predecessor but it’s also wider and more spacious than before, too. There’s heaps of head, leg and shoulder room in the back for even tall adults. Lots of glass details means it doesn’t feel as claustrophobic as some of its rivals, either. The 530-litre boot is vast and compares well to its rivals - it’s bigger than that of a BMW 5 Series and only slightly smaller than the Mercedes E-Class saloon. But as with every saloon, it is hampered by the small opening. Folding the rear seats creates a 995-litre load area. However, if you really want more space, you'll be better off with the A6 Avant.
The engine line-up includes 2.0 and 3.0 TDI diesel units with a range of power outputs and a TFSI petrol hybrid. The pick of the range in terms of running costs is the smaller capacity diesel with the six-speed manual gear box. It produces 175bhp, returns 57.6mpg and emits 129g/km CO2 – enough to make it free to tax for the first year of ownership. That makes it an excellent choice for business and private buyers alike – and puts it on a par with the Jaguar XF. But it can’t quite compete with the BMW 520d Efficient Dynamics, which offers an incredible 62.8mpg and just 119g/km CO2. The hybrid offers 242bhp, returns 45.6mpg and emits 145g/km CO2. And the 3.0-litre diesel comes in a choice of three power outputs: 201bhp (55.4mpg and 133g/km CO2), 237bhp (47.9mpg and 156g/km CO2) and 309bhp (44.8mpg and 166g/km CO2). Residual values should be very strong, too, while a range of fixed-price service packages are aimed at reducing business costs.