The roots of the Audi A6 can be traced to 1968 and the original Audi 100, then launched as a flagship rather than a mid-range model. That name endured through four distinct generations for 26 years.
It was replaced in 1994 by the first A6, although this was simply to bring the car into line with Audi’s newly adopted naming policy; the car itself was no more than a facelifted 100. The car you see here is the fourth generation of A6.
It has a lot to prove, too. We’ve been driving cars bearing this badge for many years and, low-volume esoteric spin-offs aside, haven't previously driven one we even really liked, let alone one that got anywhere near rival offerings from Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
Audi says this one is different, and points to its impressive on-paper statistics, steel and aluminium hybrid construction and imposing new looks to support its case. But some things never change: unlike its best rivals, the base A6 remains chiefly front-wheel drive, a configuration that has yet to provide a car from any manufacturer with the blend of ride and handling that the best rear-drivers appear able to offer year in, year out.
2016 saw the A6 get a much needed facelift which saw an increase in equipment and technology fitted to the large saloon, while the front got redesigned air intakes and the rear a tweaked bumper and diffuser.
Is this really the A6 to break the habit of its lifetime? Or is it just another in a long line of mid-size Audis that talks a good game but ultimately fails to deliver on the road?
Whether you opt for the saloon, Allroad or Avant estate, the most important A6 is the entry-level 2.0 TDI SE Executive ultra which will most likely account for more sales than all other variants combined. Three other diesels are available, two 3.0-litre V6s, one with 215bhp and front-wheel drive, the other with 268bhp and quattro four-wheel drive. The third diesel offering is a potent 3.0-litre BiTDi, which musters 315bhp and drive all four wheels. There’s only one petrol engine available – a turbocharged 4.0-litre V8, which is available in three guises powering the 444bhp S6, the 552bhp RS6 and the outrageous 596bhp RS6 Performance.
The fourth generation Audi A6 is set to be replaced with 2018 earmarked as the earliest we will see the overtly sportier saloon and estate. Not much is known about the new A6 at this point, other than first glimpses of Audi's new design language will be come apparent by autumn 2017, and the A6 will contrast stylistically from the conservative BMW 5 Series and the 'Russian doll' concept of the Mercedes-Benz range.