Audi A6 SE Multitronic

Longer and lower than any of its opponents, the A6 is undoubtedly the most stylish car in this test

  • Stylish, ride with optional air-suspension, desirability, good residuals, boot space, MMI interface
  • Multitronic CVT gearbox, high driving position, fuel consumption, emissions, soft brakes

Even with youth on its side, the new Volvo can’t match the German machine’s fresh design, slender panel gaps and curvaceous bodywork.

And the attractive looks (even the controversial front grille is growing on us) haven’t come at the expense of the packaging. At 546 litres, the boot is bigger than the E-Class’s, while rear seat space is plentiful – although the raised centre perches and big transmission tunnels mean all four cars are limited to carrying four, rather than five, in comfort.

The A6 has by far the best cockpit. While the switchgear isn’t as logically laid out as in the Volvo or Merc, the adventurous design creates an unrivalled sense of occasion. You do sit a little high, though – sticking with manual seats rather than our test car’s electric items might help matters.

Under the bonnet lies the familiar 2.7-litre V6 diesel. Its 178bhp and 380Nm outputs don’t stand out, but both are delivered lower down in the rev range than in any rival, so the Audi pulls away smartly. It also sounds good. On the flip side, brake fade is an issue under hard use, and keen drivers should avoid the Multitronic CVT set-up, which lacks the control of a conventional manual box.

This transmission is fine in normal conditions, and the suspension is better mannered than the S80’s, but not as soothing as it should be – although it’s worth noting our car had the £1,500 adaptive air-suspension option. Yet despite sharp steering, it’s not as engaging as the BMW. Will this be an issue when the £28,570 Audi is such good value?

Details

Price: £28,570
Model tested: Audi A6 SE Multitronic
Chart position: 3
WHY: Launched in 2004, the A6 is still the style benchmark by which everything in this class is judged. It’s equipped with the biggest engine here – a 2.7-litre V6 TDI diesel – and the all-new S80 will be doing very well to match the Audi when it comes to quality and interior design.

Economy

A poor economy figure of 31.5mpg, due to our A6’s Multitronic gearbox, makes this the only car not to manage 500 miles between stops. Opt for the manual model and that should increase to around 35mpg.

Residuals

The Audi is next cheapest to run, even though the A6 has an automatic gearbox. A 63.9 pence per mile rating is helped by relatively slow depreciation. But it still sheds £15,125 in three years.

Servicing

Thanks to its variable schedule (a feature it shares with both other German cars), the 2.7 TDI can travel up to 22,000 miles between services. But four-cylinder versions manage 30,000 miles.

Tax

Again, the CVT is the Audi’s undoing, with the A6 sitting in the 30 per cent band – it’s the most costly car to tax. The manual is 10g/km cleaner, drops two tax brackets and saves top earners about £400 a year.

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