Matt Saunders
25 January 2011

What is it?

One of about a dozen all-new or improved models that Audi will introduce during 2010, and probably the most important: this is the new A6. And it represents a concerted effort on behalf of Ingolstadt to get serious about succeeding in the European executive saloon market.

The new A6 hits UK showrooms in April. It has been designed, engineered and specified to deliver class-leading quality, comfort and refinement; outstanding spaciousness and efficiency; generous equipment levels, and remarkably low costs of ownership. And all in order to win greater success in the practicality-minded fleet market.

That’s because, although the A6 may already be the world’s biggest-selling mid-sized executive car, it has been consistently outsold in key mature markets like the UK by bitter rival the BMW 5-series.

Take a browse through our photo gallery and you’ll soon see that Audi’s designers haven’t exactly started with a fresh sheet of paper as far as the A6’s styling is concerned. According to Audi, the majority of this car’s customer base values its understated exterior design above almost everything else. Which explains why Audi has created an updated-yet-conservative exterior for the new car. It looks smart, contemporary and easily-recognisable, but will ruffle few feathers with Audi’s rivals.

What that does suggest, however, is that Audi must have invested the majority of its effort into the engineering detail of the new A6 – and so it proves. The wider use of aluminium in the car’s aluminium and steel hybrid construction has made this new A6 the lightest car in its class, and 80kg lighter than the last one. It’s 12mm shorter overall than the outgoing car, but better packaged so that it grants occupants more leg-, shoulder- and head-room.

From launch, UK buyers will be offered the choice of 175bhp 2.0-litre, 201bhp 3.0-litre and 242bhp 3.0-litre TDI commonrail diesel engines, alongside only one range-topping petrol option: the 296bhp 3.0-litre TFSI. The powerplants come with efficiency-boosting technolgies such as electromechanical power steering, intelligent on-demand ancilliaries and automatic start-stop, contributing to fuel economy and CO2 improvements of more than 20 per cent in some cases versus outgoing versions of the car.

What’s it like?

Depends which options you choose – and there’s a lot of choice. Our test car was a 3.0-litre TDi Quattro S-Line on steel ‘Sports’ springs, so it rode 30mm lower than a standard SE-spec car, and ran higher spring and damper rates selected by Quattro GmbH.

Like all A6s, our car had Drive Select as standard, which allows you to tailor throttle map, gearbox response and steering assistance to suit your whim. And just as all 3.0-litre TDi Quattros will, it came with Audi’s seven-speed ‘S-Tronic’ twin clutch gearbox. Air suspension with variable ride height and damping will be available to those who want it, as will varible-ratio ‘dynamic’ steering – but our test car had neither. Our car did have Audi’s optional Sport Differential on the rear axle, which promises enhanced traction and handling precision during cornering.

And what it also had was a cabin of quite breathtaking richness and quality. Audi’s surpassed even its own lofty standards in this department: materials feel robust yet tactile, fit-and-finish is apparently flawless. Even the sports seats are generously comfortable, while the MMI controls and instruments are easy to make sense of.

The car’s V6 engine starts with a gentle shudder; once you’re cruising you’ll barely hear it. That’s partly because Audi’s twin-clutch gearbox is quick to change up, keeping rpm low whenever possible, but mainly because Audi’s done a stunning job of insulating this car’s powertrain. Wind insulation’s very well suppressed too, thanks to a low drag co-efficient of just 0.26.

Road noise was the biggest disturbance in our test car, and in an S-Line spec car with 18in wheels and 245-profile tyres, that’s to be expected. In all other ways it seemed, to these ears, even quieter than our recently-departed A8 long-termer, and significantly more mechanically refined than a BMW 530d or Mercedes E350 CDi.

Poor rolling refinement was a criticism often made of the last A6 and, although it seems slightly unreasonable grounds on which to fault an S-Line-spec car, I suspect we’ll be lamenting the same problem when the new A6 comes to the UK. That’s because our test car rode sharp motorway expansion joints noisily, and fidgeted over minor surface imperfections that equally focussed rivals might have ironed out.

The trade-off, however, was the commendable body control and handling composure the A6 showed on testing roads. Wider tracks front and rear and Audi’s latest Quattro drivetrain (equipped with that fast-acting crown gear centre differential) give the new A6 deep reserves of traction and handling precision, and that revised V6 diesel engine certainly serves up more than enough mid-range torque to explore it. You’ll rarely catch its gearbox in the wrong gear, and rarely be wanting for more performance.

And yet the A6 remains a remote device that’s hard to gel with, and harder still to get real driver satisfaction from. It never truly feels agile, athletic or ready to entertain, and its act isn’t enhanced by a power steering system than lacks fluency in ‘dynamic’ mode.

Should I buy one?

Probably not his particular one. On this evidence, both BMW’s 530d and Jaguar’s XF 3.0d S are much more engaging driver’s cars – and if driver thrills weren’t on your list of priorities, you wouldn’t be buying the gutsiest diesel model with S-Line suspension.

But don’t discount other examples of Audi’s new A6. Air springs may well answer many of our criticisms of this car’s ride, and even if they don’t, lesser versions of this car have much to recommend them.

Practicality, economy, quality, refinement and value-for-money considered, the new A6 is, after all, an expertly conceived and very well-executed product. But, as a car, it seems to lack character and dynamic polish.

 

Audi A6 3.0 TDi Quattro S-Line

Price: £41,450; Top speed: 155mph (limited); 0-62mph: 6.1sec; Economy: 47.1mpg; CO2: 158g/km; Kerb weight: 1715kg; Engine: V6, 2967cc, turbodiesel; Power: 242bhp at 4000-4500rpm; Torque: 369lb ft at 1400–3250rpm; Gearbox: 7-speed twin clutch

Join the debate

Comments
38

Re: Audi A6 3.0 TDI quattro

3 years 35 weeks ago

The interior looks lovely...

Re: Audi A6 3.0 TDI quattro

3 years 35 weeks ago

Autocar: "Depends which options you choose – and there’s a lot of choice. Our test car was a 3.0-litre TDi Quattro S-Line on steel ‘Sports’ springs, so it rode 30mm lower than a standard SE-spec car, and ran higher spring and damper rates selected by Quattro GmbH."

Why do Audi persist in giving the press cars S-Line suspension settings?

I would hazard a guess that if this had been on standard suspension settings it would have lost little in overall handling performance but gained the decent ride quality.

Other than that, it looks like a great place to spend time in, even if the driving experience isn't up to that of an equivalent BM.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

Re: Audi A6 3.0 TDI quattro

3 years 35 weeks ago

TegTypeR wrote:

Why do Audi persist in giving the press cars S-Line suspension settings?

Just guessing but possibly becuase it looks better on the bigger wheels for the photos, or maybe because the S Line is predicted to be the biggest seller, or perhaps they expect that motoring journos tend to be focused more on the handling ability rather than comfort?

Re: Audi A6 3.0 TDI quattro

3 years 35 weeks ago

Autocar: "That’s because our test car rode sharp motorway expansion joints noisily, and fidgeted over minor surface imperfections that equally focussed rivals might have ironed out."

Ok, it was a S-Line model but two of its competitors are the best ride/handling cars in the world.

And, given the dynamics of previous incarnations, this really should have been paramount. So all in all, it is an 'update' of the outgoing model with same-as looks and a great interior. Isn't that every Audi? Surely this would have been their moment to prove themselves beyond the E-Class and 5 Series? A missed opportiunity I feel.

Re: Audi A6 3.0 TDI quattro

3 years 35 weeks ago

That's not an A6, it's an A8... Oh no sorry meant A4... Actually not sure...

Wish they would make them look different...

Give me an XF anyday!

Global Warming.. My Rs

Re: Audi A6 3.0 TDI quattro

3 years 35 weeks ago

Jaydub wrote:

That's not an A6, it's an A8... Oh no sorry meant A4... Actually not sure...

Wish they would make them look different...

Give me an XF anyday!

Have to agree. I understand the marketing need for a "family" look, but Audi's saloons in particular are now looking too alike.

I've always thought, in any car range, the more expensive models (especially), like the A8, need to look more desirable than their smaller/lower cost sisters, like the A4 & A6, to attract the customers to pay more. Put it this way, the A6 is mechanically similar to the A8, it has nearly as much interior room, is as well-built, and going by this review, is possibly even more refined the the A8 too. And now that they look very similar too, why anyone want to pay more to go for the A8 over the A6? And you could argue the same in picking the A4 over the A6.

Re: Audi A6 3.0 TDI quattro

3 years 35 weeks ago

Overdrive wrote:
Have to agree. I understand the marketing need for a "family" look, but Audi's saloons in particular are now looking too alike.

Unlike BMW I suppose...

Re: Audi A6 3.0 TDI quattro

3 years 35 weeks ago

ballyblack wrote:

Overdrive wrote:
Have to agree. I understand the marketing need for a "family" look, but Audi's saloons in particular are now looking too alike.

Unlike BMW I suppose...

Not at all. BMW are guilty of the same thing. The interior of their different models, in particular look exactly the same (except perhaps the Z4). I really can't see why anyone would pick the 7-series over the 5, apart from the need for a tiny bit more rear space.

Re: Audi A6 3.0 TDI quattro

3 years 35 weeks ago

I would agree that BMW are very similar in their approach to styling to Audi.

In fact you could term the BMW v Audi sales offensive as a Clone War!

What happened? BMW and Audi used to make interesting cars...

Global Warming.. My Rs

Re: Audi A6 3.0 TDI quattro

3 years 35 weeks ago

I doubt it! my old A6 had air suspension and the only choice was between washboard and vomit inducing floatiness...pity, because that interior looks amazing!

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Audi A6

The Audi A6 rises higher than any model before it and is now a real contender in the mid-size exec market

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