If the BMW wants to steal back its executive class crown, this is the car it must beat. The Audi A6
is our current champ in this market, serving up a blend of style, space, upmarket appeal and surprisingly low running costs.
Even in entry-level SE trim the A6 looks the part. Rakish lines, neat detailing and standard 17-inch alloys give the car a sleeker and more stylish appearance than the BMW. Meanwhile, Audi’s four rings badge has plenty of premium appeal.
It’s a similar story inside, where the A6 scores for its attractive design. The sweeping dashboard takes its cues from the company’s luxurious A8 limousine, while the dials have a clear and simple layout. What’s more, the MMI control system is easier to use than the BMW’s iDrive set-up.
As you’d expect, quality is first-rate. The plastics have a classy look and feel, the switchgear operates with slick precision and the use of aluminium trim adds to the upmarket ambience inside. There’s also plenty of kit, with sat-nav, leather seat trim and dual-zone climate control all standard.
As in the BMW, rear occupants get plenty of space to lounge around in, while the interior is packed with useful storage space, including a large glovebox and deep door bins. The A6 has the edge for practicality, too, thanks to a generous 530-litre load bay and a standard-fit split-fold rear seat. There’s also a neat ski-hatch for carrying long items.
Car group tests
At our test track, the Audi dealt another blow to the BMW. Even though it gives away 6bhp to the 520d ED’s engine, the 175bhp 2.0-litre diesel proved to be the stronger performer. A lower kerbweight and shorter gearing meant the A6 sprinted from 50-70mph in sixth in only 8.4 seconds – a full 2.8 seconds faster than the 5 Series.
This advantage is translated to the road, where the A6 feels more responsive than the BMW and makes lighter work of overtaking slower traffic. And while it’s not as engaging to drive as its rival, the Audi feels composed and agile on twisting back roads, thanks to its direct steering, strong grip and good body control. The Drive Select function also allows you to alter the weighting of the steering and throttle sharpness at the touch of a button. Completing the impressive dynamics are
a precise gearshift and progressive brakes.
Fortunately, these sharp responses don’t come at the expense of comfort. Although the low-speed ride is a little firm, the A6’s suspension does a good job of soaking up big bumps in the tarmac, while road and wind noise are kept to a minimum.
It’s not all good news for the Audi, though. CO2 emissions of 129g/km make it a much more expensive company car choice than the BMW, with higher-rate earners facing an annual tax bill of £2,166. Choose the 5 Series and you’ll pay nearly £600 less. In addition, we recorded a slightly disappointing 34.1mpg at the pumps; that’s 5.1mpg less than the 520d.
The big question is whether these financial failings will cost the A6 in the final reckoning?
Chart position: 2WHY: The sleek and refined A6 is our current executive car champ. The 2.0 TDI SE promises low CO2 emissions and good economy.