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
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.
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.
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.
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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