This is the most advanced Audi A6 Ingolstadt has ever brought us. Even in entry-level 40 TDI guise. Jonathan Crouch drives it.
Ten Second Review
Smarter, lighter, faster and greener, Audi's 'C8'-series A6 offers a beautifully conceived and expertly executed alternative for buyers in the full-sized Executive sector currently considering saloon or estate versions of cars like BMW's 5 Series, Mercedes' E-Class or Jaguar's XF. The use of front wheel drive at the foot of the range on a variant like the four cylinder '40 TDI' diesel model we're testing here still differentiates this contender from rivals like these, but Ingolstadt now claims a new level of dynamic parity in other regards.
While Audi's A6 has long been the world's best selling full-sized Executive car, it's rarely been Britain's overall favourite. Over the years, Audi has offered eight different models in this segment and with this 'C8'-series design, the fifth of them to be badged 'A6', there are fewer reasons than ever not to consider one. Whether you choose this saloon or the alternative Avant estate body style, this sleeker more sophisticated model is quieter, lighter, smarter and more technologically advanced than its predecessor.
It offers, in Audi's words, 'a first class journey with a business class ticket' - or to put it another way, what the Ingolstadt brand has done here is to democratise much of the technology of its larger luxury segment A8 and offer it up more affordably to Executive sector buyers. That's in an attempt to prize sales away from class favourites like BMW's 5 Series, the Mercedes E-Class and Jaguar's XF. Here, we're going to test the car in entry-level '40 TDI' 2.0-litre diesel form.
Previous A6 models have never particularly prioritised a dynamic driving experience but this one offers a decent step forward in that respect, despite the fact that entry-level four cylinder models like this 40 TDI continue to buck the class trend by pushing power through the front wheels. Dynamically, that's a limiting factor, but with this 'C8'-series model, Audi's engineers have worked around it by building in a stiffer MLB-Evo chassis, a more sharply-responding variable 'Progressive' steering rack and a very effective optional adaptive damping system. Arguably the most important changes made here though, have taken place beneath the bonnet.
The '40 TDI' 2.0-litre diesel unit we tested features Audi's latest MHEV mild hybrid technology and certainly seems quieter than the equivalent engine in the previous generation model and it's 204PS output represents a 14PS increase too, which arrives along with 400Nm of torque. For buyers, there's a choice of front wheel drive or quattro 4WD and either way, the drivetrain comes mated to the brand's 7-speed dual-clutch 'S tronic' auto gearbox. This transmission hasn't been particularly configured for traffic light Grand Prix-style starts, which is why 62mph from rest in a front-driven saloon A6 model like this one takes 8.1s, which is over half a second slower than rivals like BMW's 520d or the Mercedes E220d would manage. Once you're up to speed though, the engine really gets into its stride, actually out-performing those two competitors in the more important 30-70mph overtaking increment. There's an irrelevantly higher top speed too - 152mph.
Design and Build
According to Audi's research clinics, A6 customers value understated exterior design above almost everything else - so they should feel right at home with the conservatively evolved looks of this 'C8'-series eighth generation contender. This is now a pretty sizeable piece of sculpted Executive segment German real estate, being nearly five metres long and the best part of two metres wide, yet standing only just over 1.4-metres high. Classically elegant? Maybe not, but it's certainly handsome and sophisticated, with shaping that the brand reckons references its 'quattro genes'. The Avant version is exactly the same length as the saloon but is 10mm taller.
Behind the wheel, you're going to need to like screens because this completely redesigned cabin can incorporate no fewer than three of them, largely replacing all the many buttons and dials of the previous A6. The two you'll notice first power up as soon as the door is opened and dominate the upper and lower parts of the piano black-trimmed centre stack. The gently curved upper display deals with the most important radio, media and telephone functions while the lower 8.6-inch monitor is reserved for more comfort-orientated mainly climate-related features. Both monitors interact with the optional 12.3-inch 'Audi Virtual Cockpit' instrument binnacle screen you view through the three-spoke wheel. At the back, thanks to 21mm of extra interior length, a 6ft 3-inch passenger can comfortable sit behind a driver of the same size. Audi says that this time round, legroom back here has increased by 17mm, while headroom is up by 10mm. There's a 530-litre boot in the saloon - or 565-litres in the Avant.
Market and Model
The mainstream focus in the A6 line-up centres around the two TDI diesel engines that were offered from launch. Many will opt for the front-driven '40 TDI' 2.0-litre four cylinder version with 204PS, which comes complete with standard 7-speed 'S tronic' dual-clutch auto transmission. At this level in the range, quattro 4WD is optional. As usual with the A6, there's the choice of either a saloon body style or, for a premium of £2,100, the Avant estate body shape. And there are two key trim levels - base 'Sport' or, for a £3,360 premium, the more dynamic 'S line' spec we tried.
The standard 'Sport' model should deliver most of what you really want in terms of equipment. There's 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps that automatically dip themselves at night, an acoustically-glazed windscreen, the 'Parking System Plus' all-round parking sensor system, a rear view camera, LED tail lamps, power-folding mirrors and an alarm. There's also a 'Progressive Steering' set-up that constantly alters the gearing of the steering depending on your inputs. Steering's one of the things you can influence via the settings of the usual Audi 'drive select' system that, as well as allowing you to tweak feel at the helm, also enables you to vary throttle response and gearshift timings to suit the way you want to drive. Inside, there's the brand's 'Twin'-style leather upholstery, with heated front seats featuring electric adjustment and 4-way powered lumbar support. The Avant version gets roof rails, a rear spoiler and a power-operated tailgate too.
Cost of Ownership
Audi has equipped all mainstream A6 engines with 'MHEV' 'Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle' technology built around a belt alternator starter and a lithium-ion battery. This four cylinder '40 TDI' variant gets a 12V version of this electrical system. When coasting in the highway with your foot off the accelerator at between 34 and 99mph, the engine can automatically switch itself off for up to 40 seconds to save fuel - Audi calls this 'Intelligent Coasting'. At slower speeds, the Mild Hybrid set-up maximises brake energy regeneration, providing for an increased energy recovery output of up to 12 kW. Finally, in traffic the MHEV package allows for an extended stop/start function that can work at up to 13mph, allowing the car to glide to a stop with maximum efficiency.
Let's take a look at the fuel and CO2 figures, which we'll give you based around the smallest 18-inch size of wheel and the saloon body style. Obviously, larger rims - the 19-inchers of this 'S line' variant for example - will have a fractional impact on your returns. The Avant estate body style's extra 65kgs of weight affects efficiency by around 5%. The '40 TDI' can manage 62.8mpg on the combined cycle and 117g/km of CO2, which equates to a Benefit-in-Kind taxation rate of 28%. That's pretty much the same as you'd get from a rival BMW 520d and a fraction better than you'll get from rival Mercedes E220d.
And in summary? Well this 'C8'-series A6 meets the required brief, especially in this 40 TDI guise, and restores full credibility to an A6 model line that had previously become a rather forgotten choice in its sector. Yes, to really like it, you've still got to really like Audis, but if you do, you'll find it easier than ever to bond with this one.
Some may still see this A6 as being a little remote compared to a status-conscious Mercedes, a proudly opulent BMW or a wood-panelled Jaguar. For others though, that'll simply be part of this car's vorsprung durch tecknik appeal, its design full of intelligent technologies created to make your life easier and save you time. Is that all that really matters? At the end of the kind of very long day this A6 has been designed for, you might well think so.
The Audi A6 goes from strength to strength in fifth generation form. Can it make a bid for the crown in the full-Executive segment? Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
This MK5 model Audi A6 trims up and sets about its rivals with a package that's based on a efficiency, technology and, yes, a bit more power. It'll have its work cut out dislodging BMW and Mercedes but it's hard not to love the care and attention that's clearly been lavished on this car.
'A first class journey with a business class ticket': that's how Audi describes the travelling experience you'll get in this fifth generation A6 model. Basically, what the Ingolstadt brand has done here is to democratise much of the technology of its larger A8 and enveloped it into smartly proportioned new bodywork.
There's certainly lots to admire here, with advanced mild hybrid drivetrains, sharper yet more comfortable suspension options, sublime cabin comfort and a high-tech all-digital MMI touch response interface. But then then exceptional technology will be needed if his Audi is to be able to face down rivals of the quality of BMW's 5 Series and the Mercedes E-Class.
Audi offers this A6 with a wide range of engines, mostly with the brand's latest mild hybrid tech. The range kicks off with a couple of 2.0-litre four cylinder models, the first of them being the 40 TDI diesel (with 204PS). From that point on in the range, all A6 derivatives get quattro 4WD, starting with the other four cylinder model, the petrol-powered 45 TFSI quattro (which offers 245PS). Alternatively, there's a plug-in hybrid petrol model, the A6 50 TFSIe, with a combined output of 299PS and an electric driving range when fully charged of up to 34 miles. Next up lie a couple of conventional 3.0-litre six cylinder models with mild hybrid tech, the 50 TDI quattro diesel (286PS) and the 55 TFSI quattro petrol (340PS).
If you're happy with the Avant estate body shape, there's also the allroad A6 Avant model with its air suspension and raised ride height. The allroad quattro model offers buyers three engine choices; a slightly de-tuned 231PS version of the six cylinder 3.0-litre TDI diesel unit, badged '45 TDI'. And the two aforementioned six cylinder units, the 50 TDI and the 55 TFSI. At the top of the range sit two bespoke sporting models. The S6 quattro uses the 3.0-litre six cylinder TDI diesel engine in an uprated 350PS state of tune. And the top RS 6 quattro (another Avant-only variant) has a 4.0-litre TFSI twin turbo V8 with 600PS, the result being 600PS, 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds, 124mph in 12 seconds and one queasy looking Labrador.
As you'd expect in this segment, all A6 models are exclusively equipped with automatic transmission. That'll be a seven-speed S tronic gearbox, unless you've opted for a 3.0-litre six cylinder diesel or the RS 6 (in which case the transmission will be an 8-speed tiptronic set-up to handle the extra torque). In conjunction with the tiptronic transmission, the quattro configuration is based on the familiar self-locking centre differential format, while the S tronic transmission works with more efficient 'ultra' technology, which is capable of engaging the rear axle instantly whenever needed but decouples it during cruising to maximise efficiency. The driver can select various driving profiles via the Audi drive select system - with 'efficiency, 'comfort', 'dynamic' options, plus 'auto' if you can't make up your mind and 'individual' if you want to set your own throttle, steering and gearshift parameters.
Design and Build
The styling of this fifth generation model borrows much from its A7 Sportback and A8 executive and luxury segment stablemates. So there are taut surfaces, sharp edges and striking lines, plus a long bonnet, a long wheelbase and short overhangs. The wide, low-slung Singleframe grille, the flat headlights and the powerfully contoured air inlets lend a suitably purposeful air. In profile, three striking lines reduce the car's visual height. The powerfully taut contours, which are drawn over the wheels, are testimony to Audi's quattro genes.
This shape is certainly very sleek: thanks to advanced aerodynamics, a class-leadingly-slippery drag coefficient of as little as 0.24Cd has been achieved. The interior is larger than the outgoing model. Legroom in the rear exceeds not only that predecessor design but also the space you'll get in core competitors, while headroom and shoulder room measurements in both front and rear are also more generous than previously. Up front, the dash features the black-panel design we first saw on the current A8. You're going to need to like screens because this car's classy interior can incorporate no fewer than three of them, the two you'll notice first powering up as soon as the door is opened and dominating the upper and lower parts of the piano black-trimmed centre stack. There's comfortable room for a couple of adults in the back and a 530-litre boot. If you need more, the alternative Avant estate variant offers 565-litres.
Market and Model
Prices start at around £39,000, which gets you the 2.0 TDI diesel '40 TDI' saloon; there's a £2,100 premium if you want the Avant estate bodystyle. As before, this car's three key rivals will be the Mercedes E-Class, the BMW 5 Series and the Jaguar XF.
You'll need to get your A6's spec right. There are four suspension set-ups: the conventional steel spring suspension, the sport suspension, the suspension with damper control and the adaptive air suspension, also with controlled damping. 'Progressive steering', which becomes even quicker and more direct as the steering angle increases, is standard. And dynamic all-wheel steering can also be added to further enhance this agility. Plus you can add in various autonomous driving features. And even specify Audi's 'parking pilot' and 'garage pilot' systems that will allow you to stand outside of your A6 and remotely park it: brilliant.
A sophisticated MMI navigation system comes as standard - or you can add the optional 'MMI navigation plus' set-up. This has a media hub with high speed data transfer using the LTE Advanced standard. With this more advanced infotainment package, you can further add optional modules, including two sound systems headed by the Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System delivering 3D sound. Audi connect online services also provide clever 'car-to-X services' traffic sign and hazard information. They use the swarm intelligence from the Audi fleet and network the Audi A6 with its environment.
Cost of Ownership
All engines in this fifth generation new A6 feature the brand's latest mild-hybrid technology. Here a belt alternator starter (BAS) works together with a lithium-ion battery, enabling the A6 to coast at speeds of between 34mph and 99mph in the interest of fuel economy and to initiate its start-stop function earlier - at speeds of 13mph and below. The engine is restarted from standstill predictively as soon as the vehicle in front starts moving. During deceleration, the BAS recovers up to 12 kW of energy.
Let's get to the WLTP figures. The volume 2.0-litre 40 TDI diesel saloon version manages 50.4mpg on the combined cycle and 146g/km of CO2. The 45 TFSI quattro petrol saloon variant delivers combined fuel economy of up to 45.3mpg (depending on wheel size and trim choice) and CO2 emissions of up to 182g/km. The 50 TDI quattro saloon delivers combined fuel economy of up to 40.4mpg, plus combined CO2 emissions of up to 183g/km. Go for the A6 50 TFSIe plug-in hybrid petrol variant and, thanks to this derivative's 29 mile WLTP-rated all-electric driving range, you can enjoy a tax-beating CO2 return that's WLTP-rated at 35g/km.
We'll finish by covering the warranty. All cars in this class get three years of cover, but whereas BMW and Mercedes don't limit your mileage in this period, Audi rather meanly restricts you to 60,000 miles. Optional extra-cost packages can extend the cover to either four or five years.
Has Audi done enough with the fifth generation version of this car? Many thousands of managers who'll put many more thousands of miles under the wheels of their new A6s every month will feel so. As before, they'll value this car for its quiet, understated professionalism, further marvelling in this guise at its mind-boggling technology and rather wonderful cabin.
Yes, there are perhaps more characterful cars than this smart, efficient and perfectly mannered business conveyance - perhaps even some that feel sharper at the wheel. But it's hard to think of a more complete or cost-effective choice in this sector. It's all very vorsprung durch tecknik. And at the end of a very long day, you're likely to feel that that's what really matters.