Audi A6 slimline tonic
Audi's new A6 is worth the 'weight' as there's less of it and that's good news, says Andy Russell.
Audi's new A6 is a bit of a lightweight… and it's all the better for it!
If you don't know what you are looking for you could easily fail to recognise the new model, despite it being redesigned from the ground up, but it is what you can't see that puts the latest A6 up there with the best in class when it comes to economy, emissions and equipment, making it more attractive to private buyers and business-users alike.
For under the smart skin some 20pc of the reworked body is made of aluminium with hi-tech steels accounting for the rest and together this has contributed to cutting the shell weight by around 15pc so this big car tips the scales at a relatively modest 1,575kg – and less weight helps cut fuel consumption and emissions.
The A6's other hidden highlight is the latest 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine. Against the 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol and V6 turbo diesels, it may be the smallest and least powerful motor but even so 177PS is not to be sneezed at and, mated to either six-speed manual or multitronic automatic gearboxes, it's little wonder it's expected to account for three out of every four A6 sales.
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There's no denying the A6 is a handsome, elegant saloon and, at nearly five metres long, has real road presence. And that just makes the 2.0-litre turbo diesel's performance all the more creditable.
It just did all I asked of it without any fuss, taking everything in its stride and rarely breaking into a sweat as it wafted along tirelessly – both for the car and its passengers. Quite simply, why would you want anything more?
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With 177PS of top-end power and smooth low-down pull – a hefty 380 Newton metres of torque is available in the real-world rev range of 1,750 to 2,500rpm – the A6 is relaxing to drive, making easy progress whether it be revving freely to nip past slower cars or cruising up and down motorways with the engine at a whisper. And while I didn't match Audi's fuel economy figure, I was more than happy with just under 50mpg running around and 55mpg on a fast run. Company car drivers will also like being taxed on only 18pc of the list price.
With the A6 lighter than many rivals thanks to that extensive use of aluminium it also pays dividends in the way it drives.
The low-speed ride is firm, but I have to say my car was, like the sportier S line version, fitted with 18in instead of the SE's standard 17in wheels, yet it still cushioned passengers on poor roads and, once cruising it's supple and absorbent, so the A6 is pleasingly comfortable.
This is a big saloon but doesn't feel like one when you're driving because it's surprisingly agile, cornering confidently with good feel from the steering and, despite the 2.0 TDI not being available with quattro four-wheel drive it rarely struggles for grip. In fact the suspension gives such a good balance between ride and roadholding that there seems little point splashing out for the optional air suspension.
Adding to the comfort factor is the large, airy and spacious cabin. It comfortably seats four large adults in the supportive seats with plenty of space in the back for six-footers to stretch their legs but it's not such good news for a centre passenger in the back who has to straddle a huge transmission tunnel which is the downside of a range which has models with quattro four-wheel drive even though the 2.0-litre drive only the front wheels.
For serious cargo-carrying capability the A6 is now available in Avant estate form but the saloon is no lightweight when it comes to lugging loads. The well-shaped boot has a volume of 530 litres and the 60/40 split rear seat backs fold flat to accommodate longer loads.
High-quality materials make the cabin a very pleasant and soothing place to be and a full range of seat and steering wheel means it's easy for drivers to find their ideal set-up. The A6 shares its new cocooning 'wrapround' dashboard design with the A7 Sportback complete with a large information screen that glides out of the centre console – all impressively hi-tech. It builds on Audi's reputation for clear, concise instruments and, with many functions controlled by the MMI (multi-media interface) control knob between the front seats the dash is not cluttered with switches. MMI looks mind-boggling at first but it doesn't take long before using it is second nature.
The A6 is loaded with standard safety kit and equipment, and a lengthy options list offers just about anything you could wish for. Available in SE and S line specification levels, standard fare includes alloy wheels, leather upholstery, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, SD-based satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone preparation, split-folding rear seats and light and rain sensors. S line models gain those larger 18in alloy wheels, xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lamps, sports suspension, upgraded Valcona leather upholstery and S line exterior and interior styling.
The Audi A6 is a hugely impressive executive car and it is going to need to be against the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class but it's right on the money in terms of cost, economy, emissions and equipment making it a very attractive proposition.
AUDI A6 2.0 TDI SE
Price: �30,145 (range goes up to �40,650)
Engine: 1,968cc, 177PS, four-cylinder turbo diesel
Performance: 0-62mph 8.7 seconds; top speed 142mph
MPG: Urban 47.1; extra urban 64.2; combined 57.7
CO2 emissions: 129g/km
Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 18pc
Insurance group: 26 (out of 50)
Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles
Will it fit in the garage? Length 4,915mm; width (including door mirrors) 2,086mm; height 1,455mm