First DriveCosmetic, equipment and efficiency tweaks serve to increase the appeal of Audi’s practical A6 estate
First DriveAudi's second experimental hot diesel concept features an electric supercharger that makes a huge difference to throttle response
What is it?
The best-selling and most affordable model in the new A6 line-up, tested here with the six-speed manual transmision. Power comes from a mildly-updated version of Audi’s familiar two-litre diesel with common-rail injection, which now makes 175bhp and 280lb ft of torque and records an impressive 129g/km and 57.6mpg in official figures. The CO2 is 10g/km less than the outgoing TDIe A6 and the fuel economy 4mpg better.
These frugal new figures explain why the 2.0 TDi is the best-seller: three-quarters of A6 buyers will plump for the four-cylinder diesel with half of them opting for the manual.
With these improved figures, the new A6 matches its great rival, the 520d manual, for both CO2 and fuel consumption, which will be of great interest to company car tax drivers pondering their next drive.
Also worth noting is the expected improvement in the forthcoming A6 2.0TDi automatic, available in early May. Tipped to sneak ahead of the 520d automatic with a promised 133g/km, although the official homologation figure isn’t yet confirmed, it employs the Multitronic CVT, now updated with an extra programmable step to take it to eight-speeds.
There are plenty of other technical highlights in the new A6, most pleasingly a weight reduction to 1575kg, largely thanks to the more compact footprint and lightweight body construction.
Alloy is used extensively in the A6 including cast-alloy suspension towers - tech previously reserved for the A8 luxury saloon - alloy doors, front wings, bonnet, boot lid and parcel shelf.
This SE spec saloon also includes an SD card-based sat nav system as standard, a significant spec advantage over BMW, which charges over £1500 for its entry-level nav.
What’s it like?
Much better-looking in the flesh than the photos and less-clone-of-A4 than you might think from pictures. There’s real presence about the styling and a pleasingly long-and-low stance. The standard 17in alloys are a bit weedy though; the optional 18-inch versions add beef to the looks.
The interior is handsome, too, and unmistakably Audi. The plastics are high quality and the switchgear carefully-crafted. It’s a busy dashboard, though, and more technical-feeling than the more restrained, luxury-look of the new 5-series.
Although the A6 shares its platform with the A4, the bigger saloon has a welcome increase in footwell space. The new bodyshell also clothes a much-better packaged interior with increased rear leg-room.
Like all two-litre diesels, this A6 pulls most strongly in the mid-range and bestows a typically effortless cruise when the road opens up into multi-lane carriageways.
The six-speed box is less notchy than the old one, and the shifter and clutch are lighter to operate. And of course you’re always in the right gear for that extra sense of control.
But we’d like more refinement in the cabin. The two-litre TDi transmits too much diesel drone into the cabin. This is definitely a characteristic of the four-cylinder diesel; the V6 TDi is much quieter. The challenge for the A6 is a new four-cylinder diesel 5-series that has brought luxury levels of quiet to the class that this Audi can’t match.
Much more competitive is the ride quality, especially on the optional 18in wheels on our test car. Audi has clearly listened to criticisms and engineered an absorbent, but subtly damped chassis for UK roads.
We also sampled a 3.0 V6 TDi on 20in wheels, which on past A6s would have prompted a follow-up visit to the chiropractor. But it’s now firm, yet compliant.
In SE spec the focus is comfort, meaning the edge is taken off the steering, so it could be argued this version lacks dynamic appeal. But in reality the SE spec is sensibly tuned towards everyday driving conditions on our pockmarked roads. No doubt the sporty S Line option, with 20mm lowered chassis, will add edge to the driving experience.
Should I buy one?
There’s every reason to put this new A6 on your buying list. It scores for styling and interior design appeal and the fuel economy/emissions numbers make it a highly competitive lease car. Think style, quality, comfort and fuel-efficiency rather than on-the-limit dynamic excellence and you’ve captured the essence of this handsome new A6.
Audi A6 2.0 TDi SE
Price: £30,145; Top speed: 141mph; 0-62mph: 8.7sec; Economy: 57.6mpg; CO2: 129g/km; Kerbweight: 1575kg; Engine: 4 cyls in line, 1968cc, turbodiesel; Installation: Front, longitudinal, front-wheel drive; Power: 175bhp at 4200rpm; Torque: 280lb ft at 1750-2500rpm; Gearbox: 6-speed manual