Entry-level exec is a class act with great credentials, but lacks dynamic edge

What is it?

Audi’s entry-level, front-driven diesel version of the new A6 executive saloon. This car is predicted to account for seventy-five per cent of all A6 sales in the UK, and entry-level ‘SE’ specification sixty per cent of that seventy-five. Which means that, even more than the 3.0-litre TDi S Line example reviewed last week, the performance of this car really matters.

Powered by a 175bhp, 280lb ft four-cylinder diesel engine, this car will be offered only with a six-speed manual gearbox from launch, although a ‘Multitronic’ CVT version will come later.

Suspended by a double-wishbone apeing ‘five-link’ chassis at the front, and a more conventional multilink arrangement at the rear, the basic A6 rides on steel springs and conventional passive dampers. S Line specification brings firmer chassis settings, bigger alloy wheels, enhanced specification, meatier steering feel and more purposeful styling inside and out, at a £2350 premium. And although air suspension and quattro four-wheel drive are offered as options higher up in the A6 range, they’re not available here.

See pics of the Audi A6 2.0 TDI SE in action

What’s it like?

With volume-defining fleet popularity set as top priority, Audi placed unswerving focus on improving this version of the A6 in particular in practical and value-enhancing ways. As a result, this A6 is the lightest and most aerodynamically efficient car in its class, as well as the most economical. Its carbon emissions equal those of BMW’s 520d, and thanks to class-leading residual values, its cost as a company car via monthly contract hire should be even lower than the BMW’s.

Standard equipment levels on the cheapest A6 are generous too, including leather upholstery, cruise and climate control, parking sensors all round, SD-based sat nav, Bluetooth ‘phone preparation and automatic headlights and wipers.

During everyday use, the A6’s distinguishing characteristics complement each other perfectly. Excellent mechanical refinement and cabin isolation combine with a superbly comfortable and immaculately appointed interior to make this Audi feel a cut above its rivals on sheer quality. The car’s cockpit is richer and more upmarket than that of a 5-series, more contemporary than that of an E-class, and more robust and expensive than that of a XF. An E-class probably grants marginally more headroom in the rear, but not much.

Whether you’re driving or a passenger, this A6 is a genuinely comfortable, relaxing and unintrusive way to travel. A well-insulated chassis with plenty of wheel travel gives the cheapest A6 a compliant, gently wafting ride even on steel springs. At times it lacks a little vertical body control, but most of the time provides ride comfort that’s well above average.

An abundance of electromechanical power assistance for the car’s steering contributes to the A6’s easy-to-drive character. However, it also neatly encapsulates the car’s major shortcoming. An almost total lack of feedback and natural road feel through the steering wheel rim seems to symbolise a wider failure, throughout this entry-level Audi, to make the driver feel at all involved in the driving experience, on connected to the road.

While, by contrast, a BMW 520d has a surprisingly agile dynamic character and fairly deep reserves of grip and body composure when you stretch it, the A6 is hiding absolutely nothing. It’s an almost entirely one-dimensional device.

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Should I buy one?

Depends whether you’re interested in a car or simply a very smart, efficient and well-mannered business conveyace.

This car’s lack of dynamic depth won’t trouble the many thousands of managers who’ll put many more thousands of miles under the wheels of their new A6s every month, and who’ll value them for their quiet, understated professionalism. Audi’s achievement with this entry-level A6 is in delivering efficiency and value without compromising quality or refinement - and it’s a significant achievement, for sure.

Unfortunately though, with this particular A6, Audi hasn’t delivered much to interest those of us who still enjoy our driving.

Audi A6 2.0 TDi SE

Price: £30,145; Top speed: 141mph; 0-62mph: 8.7sec; Economy: 57.7mpg; CO2: 129g/km; Kerbweight: 1715kg; 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

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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redrook 2 July 2018

Yet more driver involement nonsense

Yaaawn. You don't hear this drivel spouted about the myriad cars which aren't in this class, so why does it seem to be a necessity to reviewers of executive cars? And the little jabs at people who choose this car as not enjoying driving or not being able to drive are just more of the same nonsense. Yes, the BMW may have more feedback or whatever, but don't kid yourselves that the people who drive them are any different to the people who drive the A6. BECAUSE THEY ARE ALL NORMAL PEOPLE! Not everyone is throwing their cars around b-roads. In fact, other than auto "journalists" and chavs, very few people rate the ability to do this particularly highly. MOST people want a decent looking car which goes quick enough, cheaply enough, and stays functional. The idea that BMW 5-series drivers are looking for "driving experience" is pure fantasy. 99.9% of people, especially the experts in these comment sections, wouldn't know driving experience anyway.And no, I don't own an A6, I just despise this kind of lazy journalistic drivel. 

Lee23404 7 February 2011

Re: Audi A6 2.0 TDI SE

Overdrive wrote:
Look, I really like the C5. I think it's an excellent effort by Citroen. As I said before, it has much better styling than any saloon in the current Audi line-up and it's miles better in terms of value and what you get for your money in comparison. But let's not get carried and claim that it matches these cars in build, materials and refinement. Neither should anyone reasonably expect it to

I agree with you. I loved my C5 and would take it over any directly comparable A4, but an A6? I haven't seen a new A6 yet, but almost certainly not.

ThwartedEfforts 6 February 2011

Re: Audi A6 2.0 TDI SE

ronmcdonald wrote:
Of course there's another twist in the circus of residual values. Every car I've owned hasn't retained what it's residual value was supposed to be. As many buyers of brand new cars will confirm, there seems to be a discrepancy between real-life and on-paper figures

you seem to be relying on anecdotal evidence to back up an assertion which, if true, would spell doom for the car leasing industry. This is for the rather obvious reason that when you work out depreciation by subtracting the projected three-year value from the price you paid, this is also the amount you finance under a lease agreement. If it's very wrong, not only is less income generated but the lessor also has to bear the brunt of the loss.

Forecasting of depreciation is done by CAP, an outfit which rather crucially also provides day to day valuations for dealers, and it is therefore somewhat self-fulfilling in the sense that the auto industry works to the same figures at the beginning and the end of car ownership. There is a conspiracy theory about this of course :)

If you feel you have suffered "discrepancies" that is almost certainly a result of adjustments through mileage, condition, history, specified options, even wrong colour choice - though I do agree the depreciation on an A6, being from the 'bigger, more expensive' car category, tends to make you wonder why anyone would choose it over an A4 when in truth it's not that much bigger and not that much more expensive.

Have a go: