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-powerful 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.
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.
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. Standard cars have a firm but compliant ride - we can't see the benefit in paying for the optional air suspension system – but the stiffer suspension fitted to S line models means they 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. The previous-generation model finished 53rd overall in the 2012 Driver Power survey, though this was probably due to its age. Owners were critical of the higher than expected running costs and its disappointing handling, with some saying it doesn’t match its rivals for agility. There have been just three recalls for the old car, though, and Audi finished mid-table overall as a brand, in 15th position. 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 pick of the range is the 2.0-litre TDI with the six-speed manual as it can return average fuel consumption of up to 57.6mpg and emit 129g/km of CO2, which makes it free to tax for the first year of ownership. This makes it an excellent choice for business and private buyers alike, although the BMW 520d Efficient Dynamics still tops it with an incredible 62.8mpg and 119g/km. Both are miles ahead of the Jaguar XF 2.2d, though, as that can only manage 52mpg and 149g/km. The 2.0-litre TFSI hybrid model has an average mpg figure of 45.6 and emits 145g/km, while even the most powerful 3.0-litre BiTurbo with four-wheel drive and Audi’s tiptronic gearbox manages 44.1mpg and 169g/km. Residual values should be very strong, too, while a range of fixed-price service packages are aimed at reducing business costs.