The fifth-generation executive saloon, which will go on sale next April, will be capable of 'level 3' autonomous driving where permitted. Level 3, according to the six-level scale of self-driving capability established by automotive engineering organisation SAE International, means 'conditional automation'.
In this state, the car is able to control most aspect of driving and monitoring the road, but the driver must be ready to intervene when necessary. The Audi A8 was the first production car to feature such technology when it was launched earlier this year.
The new A6 – codenamed 'C8' at Audi and due to be revealed to the public at the Geneva motor show in March 2018 – will closely follow the new design language ushered in by the new A7 and A8. On the inside, the A6 will get the same dashboard and interior fixtures as the A7.
Photographs of the car undergoing testing show production-ready head and tail-lights featuring similarly intricate designs to the A7. They flank an angular grille and more aggressive family face. The exterior details follow the design trend used on all cars since the Q7 launched Audi’s new styling direction back in 2015.
The new A6 will share its underpinnings with the A7, meaning it will undergo a slight increase in size compared with the outgoing model. A choice of front-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive drivetrains will be offered and the latest Quattro system, as fitted to the A4 and A8, will feature.
Power will come from four-cylinder 2.0-litre, 3.0-litre V6 and 4.0-litre V8 engines, with two plug-in hybrid variants planned. These will have electric motors to supplement either a four-cylinder and V6 petrol engine, although these derivatives are expected to be more popular in the US and China than Europe. Plans for a diesel-electric hybrid powertrain have been scrapped.
The sporty S6 won't be launched until 2019, but when it does its engine will be downsized from the 4.0-litre V8 seen in the current car to a 2.9-litre V6, as used in the RS4 Avant and RS5, as well as the Porsche Panamera S. In the S6 it's likely to produce in excess of 450bhp; more than the 444bhp of the RS4 Avant.
Jimi Beckwith and Greg Kable