Audi A6

German firm Audi has finally toppled arch-rival BMW for executive honours

Why it won...

Audi bosses will be popping the champagne corks this year, after breaking rival BMW’s dominance of the saloon sector. The new A6 made a low-key debut, but it left its first Auto Express group test with class honours.

The typically conservative Audi styling suits executive car dimensions, so while the larger A8 looks anonymous and the smaller A4 is too big, the classy A6 is just right. It’s as if this car was the template for the rest of the line-up.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Audi A6

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The stunning cabin serves up plenty of luxury, kit and space. In this sector, nothing can match the attractive layout or material quality, and every model gets features such as sat-nav and Bluetooth connectivity as standard. Plus, Audi’s intuitive MMI control interface operates all of the major functions.

There are no bad engines in the line-up, but the diesels take the plaudits. Entry-level 2.0-litre TDI models deliver 175bhp and emit only 129g/km of CO2, while the 3.0 TDI is even more impressive. In four-wheel-drive quattro trim, the punchy oil-burner produces 242bhp, yet puts out a mere 156g/km –superb figures for a 4WD automatic saloon.

The old A6 fell behind on the road, but the latest car puts in a strong performance. Refinement is excellent, and the composed handling and grippy chassis ensure it doesn’t get left behind by rivals.

Our pick: Go for the 2.0 TDI SE. This diesel will account for most A6 sales, and blends punchy performance and low CO2; SE trim offers all the kit you need.

Highly commended

BMW 5 Series Last year’s champ is still a tour de force. With various chassis options, it’s still the last word in exec saloon dynamics, with hugely agile and responsive handling. Classy cabin and efficient engines broaden its appeal – but it doesn’t come cheap.

Jaguar XF Our former Car of the Year is back in the mix thanks to an update. Tweaked styling keeps it at the top in the design stakes, while an enhanced cabin and new entry-level 2.2-litre diesel engine will help it appeal to a wider audience than ever.

Mercedes CLS All-new model arrived earlier this year, and picks up where its predecessor left off. It will still attract executive saloon buyers in search of head-turning looks, while the sumptuous interior is also central to the appeal; it’s a real highlight.

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