10.4.2019Audi A6 40 TDI review
As classes go, there are few more competitive than the executive sector in which the Audi A6 resides. There are rivals from BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes, and Lexus that look to keep drivers away from becoming an Audi A6 owner, and that's before you consider the increased number of crossovers and SUVs that are tempting buyers in. Nevertheless, the executive class sees some of the most accomplished cars on sale today, so NGC tests the latest Audi A6 to see how it compares to its rivals.
Review by Chris Lilly
Driven was Audi's A6 40 TDI saloon, which for those not yet used to the company's recently changed engine classification system means it was fitted with a 2.0 litre diesel, producing 204hp. Audi's trickled technology down to the A6 from its larger A8 and A7 Sportback stablemates, and as such the A6 diesels are mild hybrids. With more than 200 hp and 400 Nm of torque, the 0-62mph time is 8.1 seconds; nippy if not startlingly quick. There are a number of more powerful models for those requiring added pace, but it must be remembered that the 40 TDI is the entry level diesel in the A6 range, and it's sprint time - plus 153mph top speed - are far from shabby. Behind the wheel, the A6 feels as though it's got plenty of punch for any normal situation, whether that's stretching its legs on a motorway, or pottering around town. Fully loaded, there is no sense that the Audi struggles for pace, while the engine is beautifully refined at motorway speeds, and more than keeps up with traffic. Power goes through a seven-speed automatic gearbox, which isn't the fastest to shift cogs, but does a good job at making the system deliver power smoothly to the front wheels. Those that are in more of a rush can take over control with paddles, but it's often easiest to let the powertrain do its own thing. In terms of pace then, the A6 isn't the fastest car in its class, but it's no slouch, and will have ample performance for most.
The A6 tested sat on conventional springs, though there are also lowered springs, an adaptive set-up, and adaptive air suspension all available depending on trim. The 'basic' ride is a very good one regardless, with a suppleness over most road surfaces to keep occupants comfortable. You don't feel as though you're riding on air, but Audi's models are rarely set-up for that level of comfort anyway. Instead, with a slightly stiffer set-up, it means body roll is kept well in check, and the A6 can be enjoyable to drive when pushing on. There isn't a lot of feedback through the wheel, but enough to get engaged with on occasion, and the steering is both sharp and precise. It's easy to pilot the A6 either at speed when the steering weightens up nicely, or at slower speeds around town and in car parks. When the going gets rough, the suspension can complain a little after hitting a large pot-hole for example, taking a fraction longer than some rivals to settle down again. The ride is certainly good enough to allow the A6 to compete with the best in its class, and although not as dynamic as the BMW 5 Series, or as well balanced as the Jaguar XF, the Audi is a comfortable and sure-footed machine to drive in this entry-level specification.
Audi has created another stylish machine, and there will be few who disagree with me there. It's creases and surfacing details have long since shifted away from the purists Bauhaus-style lines of previous generations, but the A6 is still a relatively cleanly designed car, and one that will bring buyers onto the forecourt. Audi has created a purposeful stance with the A6's design, and other than the large front grille, the remaining details are subtle and look beautifully thought out. The short overhangs not only help with a sportier design, but also make driving in tight spaces easy. The traditional three-box shape retains a practical interior, though there is an A6 Avant estate for those wanting more load space out back. Only those requiring a serious load-lugger will need it though, as the A6 has a huge amount of boot space. It's not only enormous, but also a good shape, and the boot lid is nice and wide with a comparatively low lip, which makes loading even large items simple. Further forward, the rear seat occupants do very nicely too, with luxurious levels of space for two adults, and even enough space for three to fit across the rear - though there is a fairly hefty transmission tunnel filling the foot well for the unfortunate passenger in the middle. This is normal in this class anyway, and rear head, leg, and shoulder space is excellent. Those up front can have no complaints that the rear of the car has been a focus, with lots of space too.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Audi has excelled in this area in recent years, and the A6 doesn't break its run here. The cabin of the A6 is first class, and the driver is easily able to get into a great driving position. Seats all-round are comfortable, and long-distance trips are completed with no complaints from passengers. The dashboard is the main focus of the cabin, with a vast acreage of digital displays for driver and passengers to look at. The driver has a large digital instrument panel to look at, from Audi's Virtual Cockpit set-up, which is excellent, high quality, and customisable. There are also the twin stacked touchscreen infotainment systems, with the MMI Touch system looking great, and working very well. Despite the loss of a dial or similar to control the infotainment systems, the screens work well thanks to haptic feedback, where you 'press buttons' rather than just tapping a screen. It's easy to navigate around the screens and they are logically laid-out. What few other controls there are feel of high quality and well made. In general, the A6's cabin is first class, and a lovely place in which to sit, even for long periods.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Audi's use of mild hybrid technology helps the A6 be one of the most efficient cars in its class. The official fuel economy figure is 62.8 MPG, with CO2 emissions of 117 g/km. They're good figures for a car of this size full stop, and in fact the A6 tested returned a very respectable 49.2 MPG after almost 500 miles behind the wheel. That's after a mixture of town and country roads, plus motorway stints. Further long distance runs at the speed limit would see the trip computer get closer to the official average I'm sure. It's easy to drive the A6 economically, and the relatively low CO2 figures means that VED will cost £210 for the first year rate, and then £145 thereafter - at least this model would if it didn't have some of its options added. In fact, and as with many A6 models, it cost more than the £40,000 Premium Rate threshold, so drivers will pay £465 for years 2-6. BIK rates are 31% for the model tested for this financial year.
There are two different mild hybrid systems available on the A6 range, with the entry level model getting a 12V set-up, though other models get a more powerful 48V system. Each see a belt alternator starter connected to the crankshaft which helps start the car up after auto stop/start activates in traffic, and recuperates energy for auxiliary systems. It also helps the car coast when the driver takes their foot off the accelerator between 34mph and 99 mph, with the mild hybrid system getting the power back in almost instantly as soon as the pedal is pressed again. There is also a drive mode select that include an Efficiency setting, which lessens throttle response, and alters the automatic's gear changes. Efficiency Assist is a suite of systems that helps get the most out of fuel economy, with settings controlling intelligent coasting, accelerator pedal feedback (a 'nudge' when you can lift off), predictive messages, and economy tips. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 42.
Despite being the entry level model, the Audi hasn't scrimped on kit for the A6. Fitted as standard are 18-inch alloys, LED headlights, MMI Navigation with MMI Touch twin screens - top 8.8-inch & bottom 8.6-inch, heated front seats, park assist with rear view camera, 7-inch driver display, drive mode select, heat insulating glass & acoustic glazing, multi-function steering wheel, DAB, USB, Apple CarPlay, & Bluetooth connectivity, Audi sound system, cruise control, and automatic lights and wipers. There are also a number of safety and driver assistance systems fitted. Added to the test car was Audi's Technology Pack, which includes an upgrade to a larger 10.1-inch top screen for the MMI Touch interface, navigation with Google Earth, Audi Virtual Cockpit, and wireless phone charging.
The Audi A6 retains its place as one of the leading models in its class, and proves a superb long-distance cruiser. It's comfortable, stylish, easy to drive, and capable of returning very good running costs for a car of this size.
Model tested: Audi A6 40 TDI S-Tronic
Body-style: Executive saloon
Engine / CO2: 2.0 litre diesel / 117 g/km
Trim grades: Sport, S Line
On-road price: From £38,640. Price as tested: £41,735
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars