Audi's executive saloon tested on Irish roads
Pros: Digital cabin, luxurious comfort, clever mild-hybrid tech
Cons: Less exciting to drive than rivals, expensive with options
The battle for dominance in the executive saloon class rages on, and right at the fore is Audi’s all-new eight generation A6. The new A6 is perhaps best described as a miniature Audi A8, which is a great thing, as it draws design and tech inspiration from the pinnacle saloon in Audi’s range. The new A6 boasts one of the most tech-rich cabins of any car currently on sale, along with sharpened styling and innovative mild-hybrid technology for the first time. But can the new A6 topple its well-polished rivals including the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class? We spent a week with it on Irish roads recently to find out.
What is it like?
Audi has subtly evolved the A6’s design in similar fashion to the the latest A8 Saloon and Q8 SUV. From the outside, the A6 is sleeker and lower-slung than before, with a more pronounced front grille, revised air intakes and new proportions. The A6 is also based on the same platform as the new A7 and A8, so it’s longer, wider and higher than its predecessor. Our test car is a highly-specced S-Line model, which adds an assortment of styling enhancements such as sportier bumpers and diffusers, Matrix LED headlights, 19-inch twin spoke wheels and lower sports suspension. Ultimately S-Line trim is the one you’ll want, but it is considerably more expensive than the entry SE model.
The most striking updates are found inside the A6’s cabin. The cabin has received a comprehensive digital makeover in similar fashion to the latest A8, and the centre console is dominated by a pair of touch screens (10.1-inch and 8.6 inches respectively), along with Audi’s optional 12.1-inch virtual cockpit display in front of the driver. This system works beautifully and is especially impressive at night time, and the A6 shines as the class leader in terms of infotainment as a result. The touch screens are responsive, vibrant and offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for instant smarphone connectivity.
The A6 offers ample head and leg room to accommodate four tall passengers, with particular emphasis on the driver’s area. The S-Line features a pair of sports seats finished in alcantara or leather upholstery, with lots of lower back support on longer drives. Fit and finish is exemplary with aluminium-style inlays, leather stitching and soft touch materials throughout. The cabin is hushed and incredibly relaxing on the move thanks to acoustic glass and sound proofing. With 530 litres of space in the boot, the A6 offers similar practicality to the 5 Series and E-Class and plenty of storage for most executive driver’s needs.
The new A6 is available with three diesel engines dubbed 40 TDI, 45TDI and 50 TDI under Audi’s new and somewhat confusing naming convention. Our test car is the front-wheel drive 40 TDI which is likely to be the best-seller here in Ireland. The 40 TDI generates 204 horsepower with excellent fuel economy returns along with strong power delivery. With the standard automatic transmission, it sprints swiftly from 0-100km/h, and overtakes with ease at higher speeds. Those seeking more performance can opt for the larger 3.0-litre 45 TDI diesel which has 231 horsepower, or the 50 TDI which churns out 286 horsepower and boasts Audi’s legendary Quattro all-wheel drive as standard.
In terms of running costs, we found the 40 TDI to be suitably-economical throughout our test with returns in the region of 5l/100km, while annual motor tax is rated at €200. This is the first A6 to incorporate Audi’s new mild-hybrid technology which delivers stop-start functionality at lower speeds to help reduce fuel consumption. It’s impressive technology, and we found it to be well-suited to the stop-start conditions of urban traffic.
The A6 is more agile than before on secondary roads, although it isn’t as inspiring to drive as the latest BMW 5 Series. Instead, it returns an assured drive with lots of grip and soothing ride quality, even with the 20mm lower sports suspension and 19-inch wheels fitted in S-Line specification. There is an additional choice of adaptive dampers or adaptive air suspension also available, which enhances comfort but ultimately proves expensive.
Prices for the new Audi A6 start from €50,800 or around €479 per month (PCP finance) for the entry specification 40 TDI. There are two specifications to choose from, SE or S-Line. The SE is kitted out with 18-inch alloy wheels, Audi’s MMI Navigation system, leather upholstery, electric folding mirrors, Audi PreSense collision warning, LED headlamps and a variety of other features as standard.
S-Line specification adds S-Line specific front and rear bumpers, S-Line exterior diffusers, Matrix LED headlamps with dynamic indicators, 19-inch alloy wheels, sports seats in a choice of leather or alcantara upholstery and sports suspension, and prices start from around €55,000. Our test car is fitted with an optional Tech Pack to the tune of €2,924, which adds a reversing camera, wireless smartphone charging, Audi’s virtual cockpit and MMI Navigation plus with touch response.
Carzone verdict: 4/5
The new A6 is a much-improved executive package and it represents a significant step forward in terms of design, comfort and technology. The A6 leads the way in terms of interior technology, quality and refinement. It never feels as involving to drive as the latest BMW 5 Series, while the Mercedes-Benz E-Class arguably offers better standard equipment at the price point. That said, the new A6 is a clear leader in its space and one that is likely to prove popular with Irish buyers for the foreseeable.
Test Car Details:
Model driven: Audi A6 S-Line
Prices from: €50,800
Price as tested: €59,618
Annual Road Tax: €200
Engine: 1,968cc four-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Top Speed: tbc
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Body style: Saloon
Boot Space: 530 litres
BMW 5 Series