Audi A6 (2011-2018) review
The Audi A6 is a classy executive saloon to rival the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class
In the battle for supremacy in the corporate car park, the Audi A6 is a great choice. Its understated style, classy interior and host of tech on board make it a saloon car to aspire to, and when you do get behind the wheel, there's super frugal or high-performance engines on offer that deliver penny pinching running costs or deceptively quick acceleration.
The first Audi A6 arrived in 1995, when the updated Audi 100 was given a name change. The 100 could trace its roots back to 1968, and the A6 carries on the lineage with a spacious and comfortable interior and a wide range of engines. The current car was introduced in 2011, and is the fourth generation. It features a look that's an evolution of the last A6, although it shares a number of styling cues with the larger A8 limo and smaller A4.
The A6 is available as a four-door saloon and five-door A6 Avant estate, while the latter has also spawned a high-riding variant called the A6 Allroad, and the high-performance RS6 Avant. The A6 shares its running gear with the A7 Sportback, which can essentially be classed as a fourth body style for the A6 range, as it looks similar, save for the lowered roof line of its five-door coupe body.
Car group tests
Audi has constantly developed the A6, and as a result it has won the Best Executive award at the Auto Express New Car Awards in 2011, 2014 and 2015. The 2014 award was earned when Audi introduced the A6 ultra, a more efficient 2.0 TDI diesel variant that used technology developed from Audi's dominant Le Mans 24 Hours campaigns, so it was efficient, but without sacrificing performance. In 2015, the A6 was also given a facelift with more hi-tech kit on board, and yet more efficiency improvements across the range.
While Audi has dabbled with an A6 hybrid, the current range focuses on diesel power. The 2.0 TDI 190PS is badged Ultra in front-wheel-drive manual and auto versions of the A6, although that engine is also available with quattro four-wheel drive. Add 4WD and you get Audi's excellent seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch gearbox, too. The 3.0 TDI 218PS gets a V6 diesel that can be had with front or four-wheel drive, while the S tronic box is standard with this engine. The 3.0 TDI 272PS is quattro and S tronic only, while the 3.0 BiTDI 320PS twin-turbo V6 diesel gets a Tiptronic auto to cope with its bigger power output.
If you want a petrol A6, you're going to have to put up with a boatload of performance. The only models to get petrol power are the rapid S6 and bonkers fast RS6 Avant. Both feature a twin-turbo 4.0 TFSI V8 that's shared with the Bentley Continental GT, with the S6 tuned to 450PS and with an S tronic gearbox, while the RS6 Avant can be had with 560PS as standard, or 605PS in RS6 Performance guise and an eight-speed Tiptronic auto.
There are three trims on offer: SE Executive, S line and Black Edition. The first is an upgraded SE spec with more goodies, while all cars get four-zone climate control, sat-nav, Bluetooth, leather with heated front seats, keyless starting and xenon lights. S line adds a subtly sporty bodykit to the exterior, LED lights with strobing indicators, sports seats in softer leather and sports suspension. The Black Edition is a trim variant on S line, which adds 20-inch wheels, black trim inside and out, tinted windows and a Bose stereo. The S6 comes in standard and Black Edition forms.
The main rivals for the Audi A6 are the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class and Jaguar XF. All three are rear-wheel drive, with 4WD available as an option. The BMW and Jag are both more fun to drive than the Audi, while the Merc is more comfortable, while all four offer similar space and running costs. Aside from these usual suspects, the Audi A7 is a sportier looking alternative, as is the Mercedes CLS, while other saloons in the class include the Lexus GS, Maserati Ghibli, Infiniti Q70 and Volvo S90.
Along with the BMW 5 Series and the Mercedes E-Class, the Audi A6 is one of the most established models in the executive car sector. It’s available as a four-door saloon and as an estate, known as the Avant.
As with all Audis, the A6 has a smart, well built interior, while under the bonnet there’s a strong line-up of engines. This kicks off with the frugal 2.0 TDI diesel in the Ultra model – which is aimed at company car drivers with its 109g/km CO2 emissions and 67.3mpg claimed fuel economy – while topping the range is the sizzling 552bhp RS6 Avant.
Sharp looks and the appeal of the Audi badge on the bonnet add to the A6’s desirability and, as you’d expect in this sector and at this price, there’s a generous level of equipment as standard. It isn’t quite as much fun to drive as the 5 Series or a Jaguar XF, but it’s more enjoyable than the E-Class – although the Mercedes has the edge on comfort.
Engines, performance and drive
Audi has used lightweight metals in the A6, so even though it’s a big car, it’s agile on the road. The steering doesn’t give you as much feedback as you get with the BMW 5 Series or the Jaguar XF, but it’s precise and more involving than the set-up in the Mercedes E-Class.
The Audi is agile through corners, with direct, responsive steering and decent body control when changing direction. Plus, the cabin is very quiet and refined, so this is a great motorway car.
While its three main rivals are rear-wheel drive, the A6 either sends power to the front axle or to all four wheels. As a rule, that makes the Audi safer and leaves it with more grip in slippery conditions (particularly quattro four-wheel-drive models). However, rear-wheel-drive cars are usually more poised and fun to drive, so the A6 loses out as far as enthusiasts are concerned.
Entry-level models get a six-speed manual gearbox, but Audi’s seven-speed S tronic automatic is widely available throughout the range. The top-end 3.0 BiTDI models come with eight-speed automatic transmissions, which are super smooth.
The ride is on the firm side, especially on S line models, which have stiffer, lowered sports suspension and larger wheels. These versions really thump and jar over potholes. Buyers wanting smoother progress can select the softer Dynamic suspension from the SE as a no-cost option on S line models. Alternatively, adaptive air-suspension is an expensive extra at about £2,000.
The entry-level 187bhp 2.0 TDI Ultra model offers the best compromise in terms of performance and efficiency. Surprisingly, it’s more economical with the S tronic gearbox than the manual – and a large executive car like this is naturally better suited to an auto anyway – so if you can afford the £1,500 or so extra, it’s well worth it.
The S tronic gearbox is effortlessly smooth in its changes and the 2.0-litre diesel is incredibly refined, with very little engine noise unless you’re driving it hard. The auto version is also two-tenths of a second quicker from 0-62mph than the manual A6, taking 8.2 seconds.
If you want something with a little more grunt, consider the 215bhp or 268bhp V6 3.0 TDI diesels; both come with Audi’s quattro four-wheel-drive system as standard and deliver impressive performance. Go for the twin-turbo BiTDI, and you get a whopping 316bhp and vast amounts of mid-range power – this gives the saloon a 0-62mph time of five seconds flat.
Even more extreme performance can be found with the four-wheel-drive S and RS models, which are the only petrol-powered cars in the A6 range. The S6 comes with a 444bhp 4.0-litre TFSI V8 engine, and claims 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds, while the flagship RS6 Avant estate has a 552bhp version of the same engine and completes the benchmark sprint half a second faster.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
The engine line-up of the standard A6 is limited to 2.0 and 3.0-litre TDI diesels. Our pick is the entry-level A6 Ultra, which has a 187bhp 2.0-litre TDI. This claims impressive 67.3mpg fuel economy and CO2 emissions of just 109g/km when it’s hooked up to the S tronic automatic gearbox.
That makes it an excellent choice for company drivers as it gives an incredibly low Benefit in Kind rate for this class, at 19 per cent. Other engine options include the 3.0-litre diesel, available in three states of tune: 215bhp (60.1mpg and 122g/km), 268bhp (55.4mpg and 133g/km) and 312bhp (47.1mpg and 159g/km). All models come with stop/start and a brake energy recovery system as standard.
Running costs are obviously much higher for the petrol-powered performance models: expect 30.7mpg economy and 214g/km CO2 emissions from the S6 and 29.4mpg and 223g/km from the RS6.
Prices for the A6 start from about £34,000, which means the majority break the £40,000 barrier, and mean that from April they will cost £450 in annual road tax, before dropping back down to £140 a year after five years.
The 2.0-litre TDI models start at group 33 – slightly higher than the entry-level BMW 5 Series, but marginally less than a basic Mercedes E-Class. The 3.0-litre TDI versions range from group 35 to group 44 for the BiTDI, which is broadly similar to rivals. Meanwhile, the high-performance S6 sits in group 47 and the flagship RS6, perhaps unsurprisingly, in group 50, which is as high as it gets.
Large executive cars don’t traditionally hold on to their price that well. Yet conversely, anything wearing an Audi badge on the bonnet tends to have strong residual values – so the A6 is likely to stand up comparatively well against its rivals. The 2.0 TDI diesel versions are predicted to lose less money than more expensive models with larger engines thanks to their lower list prices and impressive economy.
Interior, design and technology
The Audi A6 isn't 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 it a classy feel. Some people might find it a bit too staid, and you could be forgiven for mistaking the car for the larger A8 or smaller A4 from Audi’s range
SE models can look a bit uniform and bland on standard 17-inch alloy wheels, but move up to S line trim and you get 18-inch wheels, lowered and stiffened suspension and a mild bodykit. All versions feature Xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights, while upgraded full Matrix LED lamps with scrolling indicators are optional.
The class-leading interior is largely shared with the coupe/fastback Audi A7 and takes styling cues and quality hints from the top-of-the range A8 luxury car. Upmarket instruments, Audi's MMI infotainment system and a perfect driving position combine to create a functional, comfortable and premium-feeling cabin.
Audi allows you to upgrade just about everything inside the A6, adding higher-grade leather and wooden dashboard inserts, but it feels like a top-quality product even if you don't plump for expensive options. We would recommend the £1,625 Technology Pack, though. Among other things, it brings a seven-inch colour TFT display between the dials, similar to the one seen in the latest Audi TT sports car.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
Entry-level SE versions of the A6 come fitted with cruise control, as well as USB and auxiliary inputs, and Bluetooth. They also feature park assist, automatic lights and wipers, leather upholstery and a Google-powered sat-nav system. S line spec 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 polished black grille. The S6 and RS6 get sporty but subtle bodykits and upgraded spec lists. All versions have dual-zone climate control as standard.
The sat-nav system itself is quite swish as you can upgrade to a Google Maps street view version, although the standard set-up works just fine.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The latest Audi A6 is shorter than its predecessor, but it's also wider and more spacious. There's plenty of useful storage throughout the cabin, with large door bins and a deep cubbyhole with a lid between the front seats. A £900 Convenience Pack adds a reversible boot mat and ski hatch for long loads, plus sun blinds for rear passengers.
The five-seater A6 saloon isn’t a small car, but four-door saloons aren’t the most practical choices by their very nature. If you need more space, particularly in the boot, then the A6 Avant estate is worth a look. Equally, if you plan on using the car for towing or live down a rugged country track, for example, then the A6 Allroad has a raised ride height and is better able to cope with mild off-roading thanks to its exterior cladding and underbody protection.
Even though it’s shorter than the old A6, the current model is still a long car. It measures 4,933mm in length, compared to 4,936mm and 4,923mm for the BMW 5 Series and the Mercedes E-Class respectively. The Audi is also 1,864mm wide and 1,468mm tall.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
The A6 is a big car and there's plenty of space to get comfortable inside, with heaps of head, leg and shoulder room in the rear, even for tall adults. Plus, it doesn't feel as claustrophobic as some of its rivals, as the big windows let in a lot of light.
The vast 530-litre boot in the Audi compares well to those of its competitors. The A6 has the same space as the BMW 5 Series, which offers 530 litres, but it’s slightly smaller than the Mercedes E-Class saloon’s 540-litre capacity. As with every four-door, it’s hampered by the small opening and can’t match a hatchback for practicality. Folding the rear seats creates a 995-litre luggage area and they drop in a conventional 60:40 configuration.
The Audi A6 is a capable tow car, albeit one that’s out-performed by the likes of the Skoda Superb. The maximum braked towing capacity ranges from 1,800kg to 2,100kg dependent on engine choice and transmission. Motorists only needing the minimum can go for either the 187bhp 1.8-litre TFSI engine, or, the 249bhp 2.0-litre TFSI engine with or without quattro four-wheel drive. Alternatively, if you are in need of the full 2,100kg towing capacity, then you will need to look into the 3.0-litre diesels.
Reliability and Safety
The current A6 has been in production since 2011, and last year’s facelift will have hopefully ironed out any gremlins that may have arisen over that time. Euro NCAP gave the car a five-star rating when it crash tested it in 2011, and while the current test is tougher than before, Audi’s latest safety tech should help the A6 maintain that performance.
Standard safety equipment includes six airbags, electronic stability control, automatic lights and wipers, hill hold assist and park assist. However, if you want advanced kit such as night vision and head-up display, they’re costly options.
The A6 finished in 56th place in the top 200 of our Driver Power 2015 satisfaction survey. Owners rated build quality as a particular highlight – the car ranked fifth overall in that category. Meanwhile, Audi finished 13th in the manufacturers chart in Driver Power 2015, which is well within the top half.
These days, Audi is a little behind the pack when it comes to warranties. It offers a three year/60,000-mile warranty, which is about average for the car industry. Its main rivals – BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar – have similar three-year packages, but they all throw in unlimited mileage cover. So if you plan to cover big distances – as many of the business users executive cars like this are aimed at will – you may be better off with a model from one of those brands.
Audi recommends that the A6 undergoes a minor service every 10,000 miles or 12 months and a major service every two years and 20,000 miles. Exact maintenance prices for new cars depend on the dealer, but fixed-price interim servicing for models over three years old starts at £159 for entry-level A6s fitted with 2.0-litre engines, with a major check-up costing £309. That rises to £199 and £399 respectively for cars with bigger engines, which covers most of the A6 range.