This is the model which Audi hopes will score a direct hit in the executive car park. Some 75 per cent of orders for the new A6 are expected to be for the entry-level 2.0-litre TDI model – so is this the strongest weapon in the BMW 5-Series rival’s armoury?
It uses an all-new platform built from an aluminium and steel mix, enabling a kerbweight up to 80kg lighter across the range than the car it replaces. The design of the bodywork itself is less ambitious, retaining strong family design cues from the recent A8 and A7 models, and plenty from the current A4. It’s crisp and impressive, if rather predictable.
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Audi A6
The 2.0-litre TDI boasts 175bhp and 380Nm of torque, which drives the front wheels only through a six-speed manual gearbox. With an on-demand water pump, energy recovery system, stop-start and an intelligent alternator, the A6 returns 57.7mpg and emits 129g/km of CO2 – both figures are on a par with the BMW 520d.
Although this is the entry-level A6, the four-cylinder unit doesn’t make it feel like the pauper’s choice. The strong torque delivery means it has respectable performance for a car in this class – 0-62mph in 8.7 seconds – with decent overtaking shove available at most speeds.
Although the 2.0-litre engine can’t match the smoothness or quietness of the larger V6 TDI models (which are helped by the extra ratio in the V6’s S tronic gearbox), it is still a fine long-distance companion.
Audi has worked very hard on increasing refinement, including a new slippery, aerodynamic body, and it shows. Our base-spec 2.0-litre TDI ran on the standard 17-inch wheels and tyres with steel, rather than air suspension. As a result, it offers a fine ride and handling balance. Bumps and potholes are dealt with quietly and confidently. In that respect, it’s better than some of Audi’s S line models we’ve driven before.
However, the firm’s claims of a sporty driving experience are some way wide of the mark. The new electro-mechanical steering system may be more efficient, but it offers very little connection with the road, and the chassis doesn’t feel particularly dynamic, occasionally getting caught out by mid-corner bumps at speed.
Even so, the 2.0-litre TDI is a more rewarding drive than the bigger diesels. Tipping the scales at only 1,575kg, you can feel the lightness in the increased agility and responsiveness it offers. As with the other new A6 models, the 2.0-litre TDI features a superbly built cabin with excellent seats and, in particular, plenty of room in the rear.
Standard specification is comprehensive for the UK market, including the superb 6.5-inch colour screen, leather seats and the Audi Drive Select control interface. At £30,145 – slightly more than a BMW 520d SE, but less than a comparable Mercedes E220 CDI Avantgarde – the new A6 makes a formidable rival.
Rival: BMW 520d SE
The entry-level diesel 5-Series costs £715 less than the A6. However, it doesn’t come with satellite navigation as standard. The 184bhp BMW is slightly faster, and is also more engaging to drive.