Don’t think Audi’s radical makeover of the A6 is confined to the styling. One glance and we can all see the smooth-as-soap Bauhaus look of the past decade has given way to baroque complexity, as portrayed by a massive trapezoidal grille and a style that, with its exaggerated longitudinal lines, reeks solidity, rather than the simple elegance of old.
A few minutes behind the wheel and it’s patently obvious that Ingolstadt’s transformation also embraces the driving character. Audi’s sixth-generation executive saloon takes on a more sporting personality, one that’s now aimed squarely at BMW, rather than Mercedes-Benz. Aesthetically, and in its dynamics, the A6 signifies a bold shift in emphasis. Yes, a brave change, but it is successful?
I miss the graceful beauty of the old car, but happily admit that Audi’s right: on each viewing my misgivings regarding the heavy snout diminish. No way is the A6’s appearance as polarising as any of the Bangle-era BMWs, yet it’s still instantly recognisable.
There’s no dispute regarding the excellence of the new, direct-injection 3.2-litre V6 that provided our first active experience of the new A6, though. Don’t confuse this engine with the totally different, 15-degree Volkswagen V6 of the same capacity as used in the A3. It’s taken over a decade, but Audi’s thoroughly revised and now FSI V6 is finally up there with BMW’s in-line six in terms of performance, economy and that hard-to-define silkiness that separates the great from the merely good.
The numbers are impressive: 252bhp at 6500rpm and 243lb ft of torque at 3250rpm. Variable intake and exhaust camshafts mean an almost turbodiesel-like 90 per cent of twist on tap between 2400rpm and 5500rpm. Smooth, even at the 7200rpm cut-out, tractable and crisp in its responses, this is a terrific engine that endows the A6 with truly impressive performance.
Our test front-drive (quattro four-wheel drive is an option) A6 belted off the line, ESP working overtime to contain wheelspin, and hit 62mph in 6.9sec (matching BMW’s rear-drive 530i) and on to a limited 155mph top speed. You learn to drive around a hint of shunt on gearchanges at slow speeds and quickly become aware that the drivetrain’s fluency increases the faster you drive.