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 facelifted version of Audi’s sixth-generation A6, that heralds a new supercharged 3.0-litre V6 direct injection petrol engine, set to land here in late October.
In keeping with Audi tradition the mid-life changes are numerous but all extremely subtle.
Look carefully and you’ll see a new front bumper with an altered grille that does away with the licence plate bar and gains redesigned air ducts for improved engine bay cooling.
There are also new headlamps with integrated LED daytime running lights, reworked exterior mirror housings with integrated repeater lamps and added chrome along the shoulder line.
The biggest visual change, however, has been reserved for the rear, where the A6 receives shapely new tail lamps with smart LED graphics that now extend into the boot lid.
The rear bumper has also been reworked; it’s edgier than before and receives a cleaner looking integration of the tail pipes.
Inside, the changes are equally as subtle; there’s new instrument graphics, a redesigned arm rest within the doors, some added chrome among the switches and minor tweaks to the MMI multi-media interface, but nothing too significant.
What’s it like?
Don’t be fooled by the T attached to the new A6 3.0 T’s boot lid - the 3.0-litre engine sitting underneath the bonnet is, in fact, supercharged.
The new direct-injection petrol unit is a development of the existing naturally aspirated 3.2-litre V6, which it is set to replace right across the Audi line-up.
Running a fairly conservative 0.8bar of pressure, it develops 286bhp – some 59bhp shy of Audi’s existing 4.2-litre V8.
But with a generous 310lb ft torque available on a band of revs stretching all the way from 2500rpm through to 4850rpm, the A6 3.0T quattro’s 0-62mph acceleration and top speed matches that of the A6 4.2 quattro at 5.9sec and 155mph respectively.
It’s a lively unit – powerful if not quite as smooth as we’ve come to expect from Audi’s V6 units down through the years.
Refinement is good, too – a slightly gruff mechanical noise from the supercharger penetrates the cabin at around 4000rpm under hard acceleration, but on a constant throttle the engine remains well isolated thanks in part to the adoption of new engine mountings developed specially for the A6 3.0T.
The optional six-speed automatic gearbox is a good companion, with a smooth and decisive action.
But while it offers three modes of operation – comfort, sport and so-called manual, the latter still operates like an automatic, changing up well ahead of the 6800rpm redline. All of which makes the inclusion of steering wheel mounted paddles seem superfluous.
Dynamically, the A6 has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years.
The facelifted model reflects all the work Audi’s chassis engineers have put into improving steering feel and body control, proving fluid and unruffled when pushed hard over challenging back roads. For such a big car, it is impressively agile and, dare I say, enjoyable from behind the steering wheel.
Combine this with heady levels of grip and traction from the A6’s newly reworked quattro four-wheel drive system, which follows other Audi models in adopting a 40:60 front-to-rear apportioning of drive (standard on the 3.0T here in the UK) and you’ve got the makings of an effortlessly rapid saloon.
On damp roads the new Audi can be driven with a great deal of confidence, and without constant interruptions from the ESP as you push hard through corners.
Still, questions remain about its ride quality. There are no fundamental problems with the suspension – a mixture of McPherson struts up front and multi-links at the rear, but its ability to soak up surface irregularities when running non-standard rubber is inconsistent.
Still, our test car was shod on optional 225/35 ZR19 tyres, which look great but clearly don’t do anything for overall compliance. The standard fit is 225/55 R16.
Should I buy one?
The facelifted A6 is a clear step forward. The myriad changes don’t leap out at you, but as a whole they serve to make it more rounded.
The new supercharged 3.0-litre V6 is a worthy addition to the line-up, offering V8 levels of performance without proving too much of a drain on the wallet, thanks to combined average fuel consumption of 30.1mpg. But will anyone notice? With such subtle alterations to its appearance, I fear not.