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Long-term tests

Audi A6

Twelve months have passed and it's time for the A6 to cruise back to Audi, but has it left a lasting impression?

  • Smooth and powerful engine, great cruiser, huge boot, top quality cabin
  • Firm ride, grabby brakes, overtightened wheelnuts, electronic handbrake, inadequate wheelbrace
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Nuts! That's what I think of the way mechanics tighten up the wheels on modern cars - and the quality of the toolkit most motor manufacturers supply as standard in the boot of their latest models. It seems that despite the ability these days to make everything else suitably hi-tech and electro-wizardry controlled, the humble service technician and wheelbrace have slipped through the net. As I know to my cost!

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The scene was the three-lane A13 out of east London into Essex. On both sides of this high-speed modern road lies the massive Ford plant at Dagenham. How fitting that the long-term Audi A6 should choose this spot to have a spectacular blow-out. With a massive thud, the nearside front tyre let go, and I struggled to bring the car to a safe halt by the side of the road.

It's not the kind of place you want to be changing a wheel - and certainly not when there are only around 30 minutes to dusk. Huge lorries hammering past you, lots of commuter traffic in a hurry and plenty of Essex white-van men, too...

Locating and unpacking the Audi's jack and wheelbrace is a bit of a fiddle, as they're hidden away behind a false panel in the side of the boot. More annoying is the Mr Universe strength that's needed to free the wheelnuts, and the inadequate brace provided. It's impossible to turn nuts overtightened with an airgun with such a piece of kit. Even jumping on the brace had no effect.

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A call to Audi's breakdown service meant at least an hour's wait for help. So praise be, then, for the arrival on the scene of a young lad in an old Renault 5 Turbo, bearing a man-sized nut-releaser! The wheel was off and changed in less than 10 minutes, during which time my good samaritan explained that the Renault was a project car which he was aiming to restore to pristine condition. I gave him a few quid for his trouble, and we were both soon on our way.

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The burst tyre is literally the only drama we've encountered with the A6 in its year-long, 30,000-mile stay on our long-term fleet. Sadly, it's time for the car to return to Audi, and it will be sorely missed as it has performed like a dream. It has been the perfect companion, whether displaying its cruising prowess and huge torque on M-way commutes and trips to the Continent, or its practicality and versatility - thanks to the spacious interior and boot - on visits to the supermarket or the local tip.

The easy-to-live-with character of the Audi is also reflected when it comes to trips to the garage. With variable service intervals depending on driving conditions and style, we've made only one visit to the dealer - at just under 19,000 miles. Yes, this Audi has certainly proved to be 6 of the best!

Second opinion
I am one of the few people who managed to prise the Audi A6 keys out of the boss's hands - and I'm not surprised he kept a tight grip on them. When I used it to dash to a meeting 80 miles north of London, the A6 was close to perfect. If Audi could sort out the less-than-relaxing ride, I reckon this model would be in with a good shout of usurping the BMW 5-Series as our favourite exec.  Oliver Marriage, road test editor

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