Audi A6 review
The A6 is Audi's classy compact executive car rival for the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class
In the past, the Audi A6 has struggled to match its biggest rival, the BMW 5 Series. However, the latest version is different. When launched, we named it Best Executive Saloon in our 2011 New Car Awards, but it then missed out on the top spot in 2012 and 2013. As of 2014, the A6 is back at the top of the class.
Thanks to the introduction of the new Ultra spec which boosts performance and efficiency, the A6 has set the class standard even higher. It's a great all-rounder with handsome looks, style and class to match that of the Jaguar XF and few compromises in the way it drives.
The A6 is available in 4-door saloon and 5-door Avant body styles - the latter offering 565 litres of boot space with the seats up and 1,680 litres with them down. Based on the A6 Avant is the Allroad version, offering rugged styling, raised ride height, special body cladding and quattro four-wheel drive to rival the likes of the Volvo XC70.
The A6 trim level range consists of SE, S line, Black Edition and Hybrid versions, with six-speed manual, 7-speed S tronic auto or 8-speed Multitronic auto gearboxes available.
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.
Sitting at the top of the range is 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 Ultra 2.0 TDI S Line
The Audi A6 may not be the most exciting car to look at, but it remains one of the most elegant and appealing designs in the executive car class. Sharp lines and stylish touches give the A6 a classy feel.
SE models can look a bit uniform and bland on standard 17-inch alloy wheels but moving up to S line trim adds 18-inch wheels, lowered and stiffened suspension and a mild bodykit that makes the BMW 5 Series look unadventurous.
The class-leading interior is shared with the Audi A7 and takes styling and quality characteristics from the flagship A8. Upmarket instruments, Audi's intuitive MMI control system and a perfect driving position combine to create a 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.
The A6 is a light car, and feels very agile on the move thanks to its extensive use of aluminium in its structure. The steering can't match that of the BMW 5 Series or Jaguar XF, but it remains a precise and good car to drive.
The ride is on the firm side, though, especially on S line models which feature stiffer, lowered sports suspension and larger wheels. In these versions, the A6 really thumps and jars over potholes.
The addition of the Ultra spec boosts power from the 2.0-litre TDi to 187bhp and torque to 400Nm. There is a range of petrol and diesel engines available but the 2.0-litre diesel offers the best compromise in terms of performance and efficiency. Go for the Ultra spec and Audi will fit the new seven-speed S tronic automatic gearbox in place of the eight-speed Multitronic.
Its effortlessly smooth in its changes and for a four-cylinder diesel engine it is incredibly refined with very little engine noise intruding into the cabin. If you want something with a little more grunt, the 296bhp 3.0-litre supercharged V6 and two 3.0 TDI diesels are rapid and get the company's quattro four-wheel-drive system.
Audi has a great reputation for reliability and the A6 is unlikely to buck this trend. It finished in an impressive 26th place in the 2014 Driver Power survey, although this was behind its key rivals – the BMW 5 Series came 4th and the Jaguar XF came 14th. Audi as a brand, though, came 12th in our manufacturer rankings, losing out to BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar.
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 this version. There's plenty of room to get comfortable - with heaps of head, leg and shoulder room in the rear for even tall adults. It doesn't feel as claustrophobic as some of its rivals, either, thanks to lots of glass.
The 530-litre boot is vast and compares well to the A6’s 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 create 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. Our pick is the A6 Ultra, fitted with the 187bhp 2.0-litre TDI motor. Returning an impressive 64.2 and emitting just 114g/km, it’s the most efficient executive saloon in its class – enough to make it free to tax for the first year of ownership.
That makes it an excellent choice for business and private buyers. Other engine options include the 3.0-litre diesel available in three states of tune: 201bhp (53.3mpg and 139g/km CO2), 242bhp (47.9mpg and 156g/km CO2) and 309bhp (44.8mpg and 166g/km CO2).
As with most Audis, residual values should be very strong, with a range of fixed-price servicing packages available to help reduce costs.