New Audi A6 has style and substance

The new Audi A6 went on sale here recently, and I had the opportunity last week to give one a full Irish week-long test, writes Padraic Deane.

With serious competitors in this segment such as the new BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class (to name just two ), I was anxious to see how the new seventh-generation A6 acquitted itself against such rivals.

As with the 5-Series and the E-Class, the biggest selling versions of the new A6 will be the diesels, with the four-cylinder 177bhp 2.0 TDi the major volume model. And so we selected it with a manual gearbox. This entry-level model retails for €43,300 on-the-road, which is about similar to the 5-Series and a couple of grand more than the entry level E-Class.

The new A6 has been redesigned from the ground up with the benefit of the brand’s most advanced weight saving construction techniques, engine efficiency measures, chassis developments and in-car technological innovations.

Standard equipment on the new A6 includes metallic paint, 17” 10 spoke alloy wheels, climate control, driver information centre on a 7” colour screen, front and rear parking sensors, exterior chrome package, Audi drive select, leather upholstry, Audi Bluetooth interface and an electric lunber support.

My test car had a further €10,218 of extras. This included the following bigger priced items: MMI navigation (€2,239 ), Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, electrically adjustable seats with drivers memory (€1,343 ), special metallic paint - black pearl effect (€1,316 ), four zone climate control (€901 ) and 18' 5 V spoke design alloy wheels (€830 ).

I found the standard specification is good, so I could happily have done without any of the above extras. However, in this segment many buyers like a automatic transmission, but this option is not currently available with the 2.0 diesel models on the Audi price list. The multitronic gearbox can be specified if opting for the 3.0 litre V6 diesel versions.

Another essential now in this class is to qualify for Band B CO2 emissions. With the entry level diesel model at 129g/km, the A6 does this with much to spare, delivering €156p/a road tax. In this ballpark, it also performs well with a 0 to 100Km/h (62mph ) in 8.7 seconds, but it trails the 5-Series with a time of 7.2 seconds. That said, the new A6 is a good performer, and one has the option of moving up to the 3.0 V6s which are noticeably quicker, as one would expect.

On the other side of the balance sheet, the new A6 returns up to a very credible 57.6mpg for a combined cycle.

This has been helped by the weight having been kept in check through its considerable aluminium body content and steel composite construction, and this is despite enhanced equipment levels.

Aluminium and high-tech steels makes-up practically all of the completely reworked body of the new A6 except for the steel roof. This ensures a body shell some 30 kilograms lighter than its predecessor yet with increased rigidity and strength. Combining the two materials enables the A6 2.0 TDI to weigh less, and that works in favour of agility, economy and emissions control.

It was really easy to adjust the steering and great supportive seat to get the optimum driving position. And the interior of the new A6 oozes quality throughout. The eye-level controls and switches are well laid-out and don't distract attention from driving. But in this regard, I'm not a fan of the location of the MMI controller (in this and rival models ) which is located behind the gear-lever as it draws your concentration away from the road.

The steering is light, nimble and direct with the suspension contributing to a good balance of control and ride comfort. In my test car, the 2.0 litre TDI was refined, with little engine, wind or road noise penetrating into the cabin. It performed very well with the six-speed manual transmission smooth and direct.

The standard fit Audi drive select adaptive dynamics system will allow drivers to fine-tune the car’s responses as desired via the MMI screen, and in front-wheel-drive models the latest electronic stability programme with electronic limited slip differential will imperceptibly boost agility and subtly maintain order during challenging driving.

Five responsive and highly efficient engines were available at the recent launch here in Ireland. In addition to the 2.0-litre TDI 177bhp in my test car, the new A6 engine line-up includes the aforementioned 3.0-litre TDI 20 bhp, the 3.0-litre TDI 245bhp, the 2.8FSI 204bhp and 3.0-litre TFSI 300bhp units. Audi says all make use of advanced direct injection technology for the leanest possible fuel burn rate, and work in conjunction with important technologies from Audi’s modular efficiency platform – the start-stop system, the energy recovery system and the innovative thermal management concept.

As a result, fuel economy has improved by almost 20 per cent compared to the previous model, pushing the A6 to the front line of the class in this discipline.

The new A6 is a very spacious car. No complaints about headroom or legroom anywhere in the A6. The luggage compartment is also large with split/folding rear seatbacks as standard.

The Euro NCAP hasn’t performed crash-tests of the new A6 yet, but expect a five-star overall rating when it does. It is very well specified with standard active and passive safety features.

The new A6 2.0 litre TDi performed well over the course of the week long test. It is very roomy, oozes quality throughout, and is a really nice car to drive.

But you really want to know how it compares with the 5-Series and E-Class, don't you? Well it is not quite as dynamic looking or driving as the Beemer and it does not carry as much classic elegance or prestige as the Merc, but it has a combination of qualities that puts it in the front row in this class. It is loaded with technology substance and packs a 'reserved' style, which really means you need to check it out for yourself.


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