Has Audi’s latest exec challenger raised its game as a sporting choice or all-rounder?

Our Verdict

Audi A6 2018 review hero front

The 55 TFSI petrol engine is least likely to be bought, but it's a commensurately effective powerplant for a cultured car

21 January 2019

Why we’re running it: To see if Audi has finally made an executive car with the broad appeal needed to truly challenge the class best

Month 2Month 1 - Specs

Life with an Audi A6: Month 2

Why ignoring driver alerts isn’t always – or perhaps ever – a good idea - 2nd January 2018

Colin Chapman’s old adage generally tends to serve me well: “Don’t worry, it’ll be all right.”

The Lotus founder wasn’t averse to blind faith, according to his regularly frazzled staff, and often things were indeed “all right”. But sometimes they weren’t – and I’ve discovered the same, unfortunately, is true for me. I thought of Chapman’s optimism as I stood shivering behind a barrier on the M3 early on a Friday morning as an endless stream of rush-hour traffic swooshed past. The Audi A6 currently stranded 50 yards up the hard shoulder had told me with an alarming ping that ‘air pressure is low in right rear tyre’. Had I listened? Had I heck. It would be all right.

“I don’t mean to tell you how to suck eggs,” said Mark, the cheerful chap from the AA, who’d arrived after a pleasingly short 30-minute wait. No, it’s okay, go on. “If you’d stopped when the alarm came on, we could have saved the tyre.”

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The tell-tale gouge in the Pirelli P Zero clearly suggested I’d run over something sharp and probably metallic. But the deterioration in the sidewall was my own doing, thanks to running the tyre flat in my hopeful efforts to make it to work (for a busy press day, in my defence).

The Audi had tried to warn me more than once. Following the initial ping, another sounded with a glaring red message warning of a major fault in the usually magical air suspension, before a final missive declared the wheel bolts were loose. They weren’t, but the white lie did the trick and I admitted defeat. Yes, lesson learnt, Mark: when the shiny new car tells me something in an urgent manner, next time I’ll listen.

In further defence (come on, you expected this bit), perhaps my doubts were sewn by the regular false alarms on my daily drive: emergency braking I don’t require, front sensors suddenly flashing up as out of action in slow traffic I’ve been crawling among for ages. Such occurrences are by no means exclusive to this A6, but it hadn’t exactly helped me build a relationship of trust with the Audi – although we seem to have a new, deeper understanding since the puncture incident.

On a happier note, our bond had already been strengthened on our first significant long-distance trip together with (some of) the family on board. The teenagers were busily revising for GCSE mocks, so only the three-year-old twins joined Mrs Smith and I for a much-needed weekend away to the Cotswolds. A perfect opportunity to stretch the Audi away from the tedium of the daily commute beckoned.

Booster seats and four little legs were never a serious challenge to the bounteous rear passenger cabin, but what about the small mountain of stuff we’d be carting west? No bother. The 530-litre boot swallowed our clutter, including two junior bikes, without even the hint of a belch. Such family jaunts probably weren’t foremost in the intentions for this regally comfortable executive saloon, but it’s perfectly suitable – especially with that air-assisted ride adding to a sense of serenity not even disturbed by the peacekeeping Disney soundtrack of Frozen, Moana and the like.

Since our introduction to the A6, readers have commented on the eye-watering list of luxury options included on our test car, and I’ll return to these in future reports. In reality, some would be simply unnecessary – but I must admit, the all-wheel steering is a grower. Road placement and grip only improve with confidence and there is further satisfaction to be found with this car beyond the pampering of the interior’s refined comfort. Perhaps that’s another sign of a deepening trust in this accomplished, mature performer. I’m in good hands.

Love it:

A LESSON IN ECONOMY Consistently good economy, assisted by mild-hybridisation, ensures just a single weekly pit stop despite high commuter miles.

Loathe it:

ERRANT ENGINE RESPONSE Lack of initial throttle response from a standstill followed by a sensation of all-at-once power delivery remains disconcerting.

Mileage: 5213

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Life with an Audi A6: Month 1

A semi-unwelcome reminder - 21 November 2018

The problem with the long-term memory display is that it’s a telltale of just how much time I spend commuting: more than two whole days in just three weeks – at an average speed of just 28mph. Still, can’t complain. Each day I look forward to it, such is the soothing aura of refinement. The daily grind has never been so calming.

Mileage: 1557

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Welcoming the A6 to the fleet - 7 November 2018

The white-van driver toots, then motions to wind the window down as we crawl along the chocker A316. Uh-oh… but it’s fine. “What engine is that?” he calls. “3.0-litre V6,” I reply. “Is that the new one? Very nice, mate.” Thumbs-up, a smile and we return to our vastly contrasting automotive cocoons. This striking Audi A6 evokes a response, just as is intended, and its regeneration is clearly something of an event to those tuned in to premium-class saloons.

Audi’s target across the new A6 range is to challenge both the driving dynamism of the BMW 5 Series and the all-round brilliance of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Quite a task, then. Our intention in the coming months is to discover whether it has pulled it off, which means sampling more than one of these executive liners. A stint in the Avant estate will follow before our time is up.

Audi has always been white hot on comfort and toasty on tech – but has it got what it takes to add flavour to the ingredient that has too often come up bland? Sport is in Audi’s genes after all those years of Le Mans domination, but somehow it hasn’t always translated to the road. In this class, it’s beyond time that it does. We start with this, the diesel S Line saloon, with all the bells and whistles that add an eye-watering £19,670 to the base price.

That 3.0-litre V6 is good for 286bhp and a whopping 620lb ft of torque, topping out at (apparently) 155mph. Economy is measured at 48.7mpg (we’ll certainly be testing that), with CO2 emissions rated at 150g/km. An 80-mile round-trip daily commute is a good place to start for a car intended to revel in long-distance cruising, and in our first week, more than 540 miles are logged – in a state of zen-like serenity.

That’s saying something, given the slog includes a sticky stretch of M25. Here, the automatic handbrake and engine cut are silently blessed every day. Idling in traffic has never been so placid, in Alcantara tranquillity. The firm but posture-friendly seats, the tactile finish of both hard and soft surfaces, the pleasing glow from the sharp dashboard, instrument cluster and large navigation screen, augmented with a personal soundtrack of BBC 6 Music on the sonorous Bang & Olufsen optional sound system… it’s like a personal daily spa in a five-star hotel. Homely? Absolutely not. But the clinical sense of cool detachment is a comforting novelty right now. Yet few want to live in a hotel forever, no matter the standard of pampering. Let’s see if glacial perfection wears thin.

The supple ride from the adaptive air suspension contributes to the calm, as the family attest on a weekend chauffeur trip to Brighton for a spot of 16th birthday shopping. The teenagers grin with usually hard-to-win approval at this slice of the finer life. The A6 is born for straight and true highways.

But what about on the pockmarked British B-road? There’s plenty of opportunity to find out in the bucolic Surrey Hills in the coming months, not least on the rutted puncture trap that leads to home.

Here, that clever air suspension truly exceeds expectations. Roads that usually rattle our innards are reduced to barely a ripple. This is one novelty that won’t wear off.

So much for tech and comfort. How about that dynamism target? Well, early doubts have crept in. The first niggle to take root is the significant delay between squeezing the right foot and something actually happening. The eight-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox is a marvel once moving, with torque apparently endless in whatever gear it has chosen. But when a squirt is most needed, from a standing start at a busy junction or roundabout, or when pulling out to overtake something slow on a straight bit of A-road, the lack of urgency is mildly troubling. Then that diesel torque suddenly kicks in and it all starts happening. It’s a little disconcerting, but perhaps we need to learn how to get the best from it.

A lightness of touch, especially on curving A-roads, certainly seems essential. The all-wheel steering hasn’t inspired confidence so far. Perhaps experimentation with the dazzling (and slightly daunting) array of dynamic options will refine our faith. But awareness of the A6’s imposing dimensions is never heightened more than on such roads. Threading through busy Brighton streets is a breeze, but out in the open, the A6 doesn’t encourage you to hustle. Better to take your time and go with the flow.

So has Audi combined chauffeur levels of zen with a wow factor Allan McNish could relate to? We endeavour to find out. Either way, that BMW and Mercedes rivalry is a tension the A6 cannot escape. Then again, if you respond to blue steel supermodel elegance like our friend in the white van, does it really matter? There is much to enjoy here. True love might well thaw the frosty facade as we draw into winter.

Second Opinion

The A6 can come across as a bit of a cold fish, but I suspect it to garner lasting affection from the Autocar team. I also suspect our car’s optional air suspension will be largely responsible for that. It lends the cabin a churchlike ambience on motorway schleps but with little if any trade-off in body control on B-roads. On the subject of B-roads, I also predict there will be days when Damien wishes he’d got his hands on a 5 Series instead.

Richard Lane

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Audi A6 50 TDI Quattro specification

Specs: Price New £50,470 Price as tested £70,825 Options 20in 5-V-spoke alloy wheels £950, quattro with Sport differential £1550, black glass operating buttons £325, head-up display £1450, City Assist Pack £1375, Tour Pack £1950, 360deg camera and front/rear sensors £700, dynamic all-wheel steering £1950, MMI Navigation plus £1495, HD Matrix LED headlights £600, storage pack £100, privacy glass £475, LED interior lighting pack £275, acoustic glazing for side windows £525, adaptive air suspension £2050, panoramic glass sunroof £1750, electrically adjustable exterior mirrors £150, auto climate control £825, adaptive windscreen wipers £375, Bang & Olufsen sound system £800

Test Data: Engine V6, 2967cc, twin-turbo, diesel Power 282bhp at 3500-4000rpm Torque 457lb ft at 2250-3000rpm Kerb weight 1890kg Top speed 155mph 0-62mph 5.7sec Fuel economy 48.7mpg CO2 151g/km Faults None Expenses None

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Join the debate

Comments
18

5 January 2019

  Not a fan of the Chrome detailing, there’s too much of it particularly inside, and the Exhaust, why put a dummy one on just for symmetry?, overall it’s a decent shape, but, just looking at it you wouldn’t say it looks sporty...

Peter Cavellini.

5 January 2019

At least the doors are included.

5 January 2019

Has anyone read that options list? Some expensive options in there but come on, electrically adjustable door mirrors, auto climate control, adaptive windscreen wipers being options on a £50k car !!!  And then there's privicy glass at £475.

Bought a brand new Audi back in 2000 which had approx £2500 worth of extras - lesson learned - depreciation meant it ended up being the most expensive car I've ever owned.

Not quite sure why they remain popular because 1: the base car is basic  2: they often come bottom of all the VW group cars in reliabilty surveys 3: you pay substantially more to have an Audi serviced than other VW group cars - same engine, exact same service carried out, exactly same parts used etc. the only difference being the badge on the grille.

I don't see Audi drivers as being smug, rather another mugs who enjoy being ripped off. 

5 January 2019

Agreed, this seems excellent but it’s a £71k car as tested, and many of those options - springs, lights, nav, sound-deadening glass etc - make a real difference to its daily appeal. Ridiculous price.

TS7

5 January 2019

...electric mirrors are standard, the option is for auto-dimming. Climate control is standard, the option is for four-zone vice two. Pretty sure the adaptive wipers option is merely for the heated and integrated washer jets. I agree Audi options are pricey, as they are on other 'premium' marques, but at least do some research on what they're all about. 

scotty5 wrote:

Has anyone read that options list? Some expensive options in there but come on, electrically adjustable door mirrors, auto climate control, adaptive windscreen wipers being options on a £50k car !!!  And then there's privicy glass at £475.

Bought a brand new Audi back in 2000 which had approx £2500 worth of extras - lesson learned - depreciation meant it ended up being the most expensive car I've ever owned.

Not quite sure why they remain popular because 1: the base car is basic  2: they often come bottom of all the VW group cars in reliabilty surveys 3: you pay substantially more to have an Audi serviced than other VW group cars - same engine, exact same service carried out, exactly same parts used etc. the only difference being the badge on the grille.

I don't see Audi drivers as being smug, rather another mugs who enjoy being ripped off. 

5 January 2019

A short fall of 163 ft/lb torque from article to specs (620 v 457)

TS7

5 January 2019

... 620 Nm = 457 ft lbs

 

audiolab wrote:

A short fall of 163 ft/lb torque from article to specs (620 v 457)

5 January 2019

Quite fancied an A6, but no way at this price; I mean £150 extra for electric mirrors on a £50k base price?? Surely not.....

FMS

5 January 2019
dezzn wrote:

Quite fancied an A6, but no way at this price; I mean £150 extra for electric mirrors on a £50k base price?? Surely not.....

 

Given your deer caught in the headlights routine, no surprise that you did not pick up on the electric mirrors £150 error...not least because you have given us the impression "quite fancied" that you had at least glimpsed at the spec prior to writing your nonsense.

5 January 2019
FMS wrote:

Given your deer caught in the headlights routine, no surprise that you did not pick up on the electric mirrors £150 error...not least because you have given us the impression "quite fancied" that you had at least glimpsed at the spec prior to writing your nonsense.

Why are people such C**n* to each other on here ?

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