June Neary looks at Audi's smoothly competent A6
Will It Suit Me?
My first instinct is that Audi's A6 is very much a masculine car. It reeks with gizmos and gadgets and understated luxury. When I was younger, I found executive saloons and estates like this a little intimidating, yet respected the strange sense of class they offered. This is not the kind of car you would want to try to beat at the lights. Especially not if the model in question has one of Audi's more powerful diesel units fitted.
My four-door test car was a lot more practical than I expected. The boot operates a rail system and fixing set, which means that loads can be fastened securely. There are also great storage solutions with everything from executive drinks holders to a compartment holding a comprehensive first aid kit. Audi likes to maintain a strong family resemblance across its model range and the latest, slightly sharper-looking A6 falls into line behind its stable mates. The shorter front overhangs give the car a more dynamic stance, helped by the lower roof line and more aggressively tapered rear. It's a very assured piece of styling although not one that will provoke too much reaction. The classy interior of the A6 left little room for improvement but Audi have upgraded some of the materials and increased the chrome detailing. The latest version of the excellent MMI infotainment system is also included. When this fourth generation design was originally introduced in 2011, the Ingolstadt designers lengthened its wheelbase by 70mm to improve rear seat accommodation and create a cabin that remains exceptionally light and airy in this improved model. There's ample leg and head room for a couple of six-foot adults to stretch out in comfort and, with the broad centre armrest tucked away, even enough room for a third to sit between without having to breathe in first, though that person will have to straddle a fairly hefty transmission tunnel. Out back, the boot is pretty big - curiously in fact, larger than you'd get in Audi's luxury A8 model that sits in the next class up. Raise the wide-opening lid and you'll find 530-litres in all, which is a fraction less than a Jaguar XF but a fraction more than a BMW 5 Series - and quite a lot more than a comparable Mercedes E-Class. Like all of the cars in this class, this one denies its owner the standard fitment of any sort of spare wheel, instead merely providing one of those fiddly tyre inflation kits. If you need more space, the trunk can be extended to 995-litres by flipping forward these standard split-folding rear seats. All of which may be enough to preclude some from having to consider the greater capacity of the Avant estate version.
Behind the Wheel
Its smooth and very relaxed at the wheel - but then what else would you expect? My other half loved it. Time to talk engines, which in the mainstream line-up are exclusively diesel-powered these days. Though Audi does also offer a potent 4.0 TFSI petrol turbo unit here, its use is restricted to the top sporting models, the 450PS S6 and the 560PS RS6. Otherwise, the choice lies between various versions of the familiar 3.0-litre V6 TDI powerplant with or without quattro 4WD. Or the version that I tried, the front-driven 190PS 2.0 TDI, a car capable of a very reasonable turn of speed, 62mph from rest achievable in 8.4s en route to 144mph. This is the only A6 variant available with a manual gearbox, but most buyers will continue to prefer an automatic. These days on a four cylinder A6, that means Audi's slick 7-speed dual-clutch s tronic unit rather than the thrashy belt-driven CVT 'box this derivative used to have.
Value For Money
Most A6 models will be sold in the £32,000 to £50,000 bracket common to this class of car. Beyond that lie only the powerful S6 and RS6 sporting models, priced respectively from either £56,000 or £78,000 and now alone in the line-up in their use of petrol power. Otherwise, diesel engines dominate across the standard A6 range that's our focus here. Within it, you'll be either buying a saloon or considering the £2,000 model-for-model premium that Audi charges for the Avant estate bodystyle. Despite power increases across the board in this improved fourth generation line-up, the EU6-compliant engine range benefits from emissions reductions of up to 22%. All of that plays its part in allowing this car to achieve an impressive set of balance sheet returns. Go, as many potential buyers will, for the entry-level 2.0 TDI Ultra version I tried and you'll be getting a very efficient car indeed. It's capable of as much as 67.3mpg on the combined cycle, hence the impressive 1,030-mile potential operating range you'll get from the 73-litre fuel tank. And up to 109g/km of CO2 is possible with 17-inch wheels and the efficient s tronic auto gearbox fitted, which will relieve owners of the need to pay for road tax in the first year of ownership. Bear in mind that with manual transmission, your fuel and CO2 returns will be a fraction worse and, as you'd expect, the heavier Avant bodystyle will impact both sets of figures by a few percentage points, as will the larger wheels you get with plusher trim levels.
Could I Live With One?
Were I to be choosing between a Mercedes E-Class, a BMW 5 Series or an Audi A6 (as most potential buyers will be), then I could certainly make a strong case for the Audi, having spent some time with one. It has a cooler, more under-stated image than its German rivals and the most recent tweaks have given the car a little more identity. All of which could be enough to make the difference for a significant number of buyers.