Audi is a key player in the executive market, with the saloon and Avant habitually up with the class best. Can the new A6 maintain that position?
On the road
On the road
Audi is pitching its new A6 as the “ideal high-mileage business companion, with greater comfort and safety” and claims that the car is “more sophisticated and versatile that ever”.
The A6, goes head-to-head with the BMW 5-Series (our 2018 Car of the Year) and Mercedes’ E-Class, has been given a subtle but significant makeover; the Avant estate looks slightly more dramatic, thanks to a more sloping rear pillar that gives the car a sportier and less squared-off appearance. It manages the styling upgrade over its predecessor without harming boot space, which remains the same as the previous A6.
1. It’s a subtle but noticeable evolution of the A6’s styling, as is Audi’s way. It’s a shame it’s not bolder, but there are some classy design touches.
2. Audi’s naming strategy isn’t becoming any clearer as it is adopted by more models. The two A6 diesels are called 40 and 50. For some reason.
3. The interior is classy and high-quality, but it all looks so interchangeably similar to the new A7 and A8. Some individuality would be lovely.
The corporate sector is vital to the new A6, with around 70% of its volume coming as company car transport, while that visual enhancement is expected to help increase the number of Avants in the mix from 40% up to 45%, hence it being the model we’re looking at here.
We’re testing the lower-powered of the two diesel engines that make up the launch line-up, because this 204hp 2.0-litre is expected to take 90% of early sales; the other option is the 286hp 3.0-litre diesel. Under Audi’s confusing new badging policy, these two are called 40 TDI and 50 TDI on the price list. The 2.0-litre is front-wheel drive and the 3.0 quattro all-wheel drive. The 3.0-litre saloon costs £8470 more than the 2.0 model, while the 3.0 Avant is £8785 more expensive. As for emissions, the 3.0 saloon emits 29g/km more and the Avant 27g/km more than the 2.0-litre version.
There are two trim levels, splitting 70/30 in favour of the higher S-Line over the Sport, with a £3360 price difference between the two.
Sport comes with 18-inch alloys, leather heated seats with electric lumbar adjustment, lane-departure warning, front parking sensors, rear camera, powered tailgate and dual-zone climate control, as well as the innovative dual touchscreen system with the top 8.8-inch screen controlling the infotainment and the bottom 8.6-inch in charge of climate control. It’s got the very clever haptic touch technology, so you can feel the click of pressing the touchscreen, which avoids that frustration with other systems where the driver can’t tell if they’ve missed the button, or if the system is just slow to react. The downside, though, is that it’s not as easy to use on the move as regular buttons where you don’t need to take eyes off the road to adjust temperature settings.
Upgrading to S-Line adds sports suspension (which doesn’t help the ride quality), LED matrix headlights, the S-Line styling pack (this is quite a subtle exterior upgrade compared with other models, on which it has a more striking impact), front electric sports seats and the ‘dynamic’ rear indicators that give Knight Rider flashbacks to drivers of a certain age.
Audi claims 39 driver assistance systems are, or will be, available on its new A6, most of which are bundled into optional packages. The £1950 Tour pack adds adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, high-beam assist, lane-departure assist and Audi’s pre-sense basic system that tightens the seatbelt and closes the windows when it senses a potential collision. The £1375 City Assist pack brings blind spot assist, a rear collision sensor and cross traffic assist for the front, while clever tech due to be added into 2019 includes parking pilot and garage pilot autonomous developments. The 50 TDI model comes with Audi’s four-wheel steering system.
Meanwhile, Audi expects the Technology pack to be the most popular, with the £1495 outlay adding wireless phone charging, larger 10.1-inch main screen with 3D buildings portrayed in the navigation as part of the upgraded Navigation Plus system, and Audi’s excellent 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit which enhances the main dashboard display so it can be tailored across the various functions on offer, such as full-screen navigation mapping.
The A6’s interior is as classy and lavish as Audi has led its buyers to expect. The only criticism, such as it is, would be that it’s almost identical to the A8 and A7, which means its excellent in terms of quality, look and feel, but doesn’t give the A6 much individuality. But looking too much like a more expensive sibling is about as harsh as criticism of the cabin gets. The big and comfortable seats help soak up the miles, and there’s plenty of space for three burly passengers, with Audi claiming best-in-class interior dimensions, including another 14mm of rear headroom over the previous model. Overall, the Avant is actually 4mm shorter, but also 12mm wider and 6mm higher, and the extra interior space has been liberated in part thanks to the wheelbase growing by 12mm.
While the boot can be outpointed by that of the huge Mercedes E-Class, the A6’s still has an excellent load length; it has grown by 12mm over the previous car’s, and features two useful bag hooks, as well as the optional LED lighting that offers unparalleled illumination, which is very useful for rummaging around for something in particular now the nights have closed in. Numerically, the 565-litre load area matches that of the Jaguar XF Sportbrake and is five litres behind the BMW 5-Series Touring’s, while the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate conquers all with its gargantuan 640 litres.
On the road, the A6 is simply quietly competent in pretty much every way, apart from a ride quality that can disappoint over rougher roads. It’s very refined, offers decent performance from the 204hp diesel, although the combination of engine and seven-speed auto gearbox can be hesitant at times, and is borderline unremarkable in the way it eases occupants on their way with minimal fuss. The A6 Avant isn’t anywhere near as fun to drive as the rear-driven 5-Series, but has an all-round quality that will fit nicely into a business and family life.
Audi’s new exec is slightly more expensive than comparative BMW and Jaguar models, and slightly cheaper than the Mercedes, although all four are covered by less than £2500. The BMW and, to a lesser extent, Jaguar are more enjoyable driver’s cars, and the Mercedes is the better load-lugger, but the Audi certainly has the best cabin, and is arguably the most stylish. It also has low SMR costs, although these are more than countered by a surprisingly high insurance group that impacts on the overall running costs. Still, helping ease the costs back downwards is the excellent efficiency that no rival can match. At 124g/km, it is a single gramme ahead of the BMW, but crucially, one BIK band better, and the Mercedes is 11g/km off the A6 and the Jaguar a further 8g/km behind. That result is at least partially due to the 12-volt mild hybrid system deployed in the A6’s 2.0-litre engine. The 3.0-litre known as 50 TDI gets a more powerful 48-volt system.
Audi has succeeded in bringing its A6 back to the sharp end of this high-quality segment, and the improvements are numerous. Interior quality is great, it looks sharp on the outside, and the longer you look at it, the more neat styling touches you spot compared to the outgoing A6. It’s also as big and practical as most users could ever need. It isn’t as good to drive as some of the competition, and neither is the powertrain as slick as that in some rivals, but overall this is a high-quality, efficient and sensible car available with lots of optional technology that positions Audi right back where it needs to be in the executive segment.
Audi describes this latest model as its eighth generation of A6 since June 1994, although it’s the fifth all-new version of the brand’s executive-level car.
The first A6 was a facelift of the Audi 100 (pictured), and was the car that kicked off the model naming strategy that features an ‘A’ prefix alongside a number that portrays the size of the car.
The Avant branding for Audi’s load-lugging models dates back to the 100 Avant model of 1977; though the car was a hatchback version of the 100 saloon rather than the full estate models the Avant name now denotes.
The first A6 lasted only three years before being replaced in 1997, and the second-generation car contained enough of an uplift in quality to move the A6 into the same bracket as the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, a position it has maintained to this day. In 1999, this A6 also spawned the first Allroad model, based on the estate but with cladding and raised ride height to allow modest off-roading.
The third all-new A6 arrived in 2004, and was the first A6 to get the Multimedia Interface (MMI). The fourth-generation car ran from
2012 until earlier this year.
What they said
What They Said
“This is a particularly competitive segment and customer expectations here are sky-high, but this car will exceed them. The A6 has always been skilled in the daily grind of business use, but the latest car is in another league again when it comes to softening the blows."
"The fully digital cabin is exquisite, the electrically assisted engines are strong and subdued, and comfort and refinement are outstanding, particularly with the controlled damping or adaptive air suspension options. The new A6 makes even more sense for fleets.”
Ed Jones, national contract hire and leasing manager, Audi UK
Need to know
Three things we like...
Boot may be outpointed by some rivals, but it’s plenty big enough
The cabin area is as high-quality as you would expect from Audi
The S-Line’s sports seats are large and comfy; finding a good position is easy
...And one we don't
Lane-departure assist is unduly intrusive, which means hitting ‘off’ each journey
The drivetrain has a degree of hesitancy between engine and gearbox, but the 204hp diesel has plenty of performance on tap.
Audi has struggled with WLTP engines in some cars, but the new A6 tops all its rivals for official emissions and economy figures.
The boot is beaten by rivals’ on paper, but offers a huge load area, as well as plenty of passenger space, front and rear.
There’s a big price gap between the two trim levels, given much of the upgrade is cosmetic. Standard kit is good, and the options list full of attractive tech.
At first glance the styling is evolutionary, but there are lots of neat classy touches. The sloped rear in particular makes the Avant more stylish.
Comfort and refinement 7/10
The ride quality isn’t completely settled and cosseting, which is a surprise, and is more noticeable on smaller roads rather than long-distance driving.
High-quality materials and style are evident throughout the cabin.
The dual touchscreen isn’t to everyone’s liking, although it’s got a clever haptic click to it, helping know when you’ve hit a button.
Whole life costs 8/10
The BMW 5-Series Touring has a P11D and residual advantage that the A6 can’t claw back, although it is well ahead of other rivals.
CCT opinion 8/10
It’s maybe harsh to call it predictable, but across-the-board improvements are evident.
The A6 Avant is a great business tool. It has no major weakness and is a car that will become more loved the longer it spends doing its job with quiet efficiency.