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New Audi A6 2018 review

We hit British roads in the all-new Audi A6 to see if it’s got what it takes to be an executive champion

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

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Audi has raised its game with this A6; quality, technology, comfort, refinement and performance have all taken a leap forward. It’s a practical and premium car that’s beautifully built, but it’s business as usual when it comes to the driving, because the newcomer isn’t as engaging as a BMW 5 Series. However, company car buyers might prioritise the A6’s strengths ahead of driver involvement.

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SUVs are eating into the territory of traditional executive saloons, but the premium four-door market isn’t dead yet. Certainly not according to Audi, because the level of development and tech the firm has committed to this fifth-generation A6 makes it the most advanced yet. And it’s very good indeed.

The car still sits on the VW Group’s MLB evo platform – although it’s been reworked, naturally – while there’s a fresh engine, too. In line with Audi’s new naming structure for its powertrains, this 40 TDI model denotes a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel that produces 201bhp and 400Nm of torque.

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It drives the front wheels through a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch gearbox; there’s no quattro four-wheel drive or manual option available with this motor yet. That’s no great shame, because the combination works sweetly.

Four-cylinder diesels can sound coarse sometimes and ruin the sophistication of otherwise nicely refined cars like this. Not so with the A6. You hear a faint diesel growl, but it’s well suppressed. Plenty of torque low down means you can make progress easily, but extend the engine and it still isn’t too noisy or rough.

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The 40 TDI delivers more power than its closest rivals and revs fairly well, while the seven-speed box is snappy and goes about its business without intrusion when left to its own devices.

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With launch control, the car covers 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds and the top speed is 152mph – not that it particularly matters. But comfort does, because business-focused saloons like this are likely to spend plenty of time on the motorway. Our S line-spec car rode on 19-inch alloys and featured sports suspension with a 10mm lower ride height. S line Audis of old crashed and banged over bumps, but not this one. Even without adaptive dampers there’s a level of compliance on big wheels you might not expect initially.

It’s best at mid speeds, where the dampers do a more than respectable job of containing the energy injected into the suspension by bad roads.

At higher speeds on the motorway, ridges and joints in the tarmac give the A6’s chassis a little more to do and it doesn’t cope quite so admirably. But comfort is only degraded by a small amount, and cruising refinement is still excellent.

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While the suspension doesn’t compromise the ride, it benefits handling. The steering is direct and light when comfort mode is selected, but short on feel, although there’s enough grip. The balance isn’t as sweet as in a BMW 5 Series and it’s not as engaging, but it’s certainly fit for purpose.

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And the interior is easily a match for the BMW’s. The materials are mostly sumptuous and mean the A6 feels worth its £42,000 price tag. Plus build quality is as solid as we’ve come to expect from a modern Audi.

Heated, half-leather, half-Alcantara sports seats are standard, as are matrix LED lights, cruise control, and front and rear parking sensors with a reversing camera. Other kit includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, autonomous braking, lane departure warning and sat-nav.

There aren’t many options you’d need, although our car had the £1,495 Technology Pack that upgrades the nav unit to a 10.1-inch screen and adds a 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit digital dash and wireless charging – tech points that enhance the A6’s advanced interior.

It’s big in the back and comfortable, too. Legroom is plentiful and doesn’t come at the expense of practicality, because the 565-litre boot will swallow lots of stuff. Yet the driving position doesn’t feel as natural as a 5 Series’ because you sit higher in the Audi.

The BMW is the car that’ll form the A6’s closest competition, and we’ll find out how strong a challenge it poses soon. For now, on first acquaintance in the UK, the Audi feels like it’ll easily run the 5 Series close for the coveted title of executive saloon champ.

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Sean’s been writing about cars since 2010, having worked for outlets as diverse as PistonHeads, MSN Cars, Which? Cars, Race Tech – a specialist motorsport publication – and most recently Auto Express and sister titles Carbuyer and DrivingElectric

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