Never as popular as its German counterparts in the large executive class, the A6, says Declan Colley, has got everything they have to offer and more.
I have always felt somewhat sorry for the Audi A6.
Despite having been with us in four different guises to date – and, of course, having carried on from where the old Audi 100 left off in 1994 – the A6 seems to have been consistently regarded by many of the buying public as a lesser being to such rivals as the E-Class Merc and the 5 Series Beemer.
This, I feel, is an understatement of the reality that down the years the Audi has been every bit the valid contender when compared to its German brethren, but the buying public have not seemed to share this view.
A quick look at the sales figures shows that last year when, in fairness, the A6 was in a run-out phase ahead of the arrival of the new one, there were some 742 units registered in this country.
That compares with figures of 1,613 and 1,438 for the 5 Series and the E-Class respectively.
In 2017, which was a full year of sales for the Ingolstadt executive, the A6 recorded some 1,209 units registered, as against 1,717 for the Beemer and 1,600 for the Merc, proving that it is something of a poor relation when it comes to comparisons with its two most prominent rivals.
Why this is, I have no idea, as the A6 (€55,605 - €60,567 as tested) has always been a paragon of elegance, efficiency and build quality, as well as boasting some of the most comfortable and well put together interiors known to man. And in its latest guise, which we test this week, all of those characteristics have been embellished.
Indeed, upon encountering the car for the first time – and in the same way as was the case with the current A4 – the car now boasts an almost excruciating level of sophistication.
This oozes from every exterior body panel, every stitch of the alcantara/leather upholstery or the leather steering wheel, every inch of the brushed aluminium inlays and every bit of technology with which the car is fitted.
It simply oozes class and refinement and, to my eye anyway, the A6 is every bit the complete car a large executive cruiser should be and probably moreso, in fact, than it actually needs to be. So why then does it appear to trail its’ rivals so much when it comes to comparative sales?
I must confess I do not really know the answer to that question, other than the possible fact that this is a front wheel drive machine while its two main rivals are both rear-drive machines and, as we all know, that is the preferred configuration for a majority of people who consider themselves ‘enthusiasts’.
As a child of the front wheel drive era which truly began in mass market terms in the seventies and eighties, I am well used to and capable of coping with anything such a layout offers – terminal understeer, torque steer and a few other nasties – so I don’t really have a lot of time for such arguments.
Suffice to say – and without the benefit of such electronic intrusions as active damping or active roll control – that Audi has built a fantastically engaging chassis and drivetrain system and one which I defy any ‘enthusiast’ to find fault with.
And, although the Colley household has long been supporters of Audi product, especially those fitted with the company’s legendary ‘quattro’ four wheel drive system, I did not find its absence on the A6 tester to be the cataclysmic oversight some allege it to be.
Other than a slight chirping of the front tyres when you accelerate hard from a standstill, I found the A6 to be as well sorted a handler as any of its rivals.
Having said that, were I buying one, I would most certainly pay the extra bobs to have the 4WD system fitted to the car, simply for the security and peace of mind it offers in all weather and road conditions.
Somewhat confusingly, the tester we had was badged as a ’40 TDi’ perhaps giving the impression that there’s a four litre turbodiesel lurking under the shapely hood.
This is not the case as what we have here is a completely new two litre turbodiesel which outputs some 204 bhp (and 400 Nm of torque) while boasting a 0-100 kph time of 8.1 seconds and a top speed of 247 kph.
Worth noting too is that all A6 models now feature some sort of mild hybrid system – in this case a 12 volt layout – which undoubtedly helps its environmental cred and tax efficiency.
But this beautifully smooth and refined engine (you genuinely would never think it to be a diesel) is mated to the equally silky dual clutch S Tronic automatic gearbox and it will also return some 4.7 l/100km (which is as close as dammit to 60 mpg) while emitting just 117 g/km of emissions for an annual tax bill of just €200. Who said diesel was dead?
And then there is the interior which, to be honest, is little short of palatial. We tested the S-Line version, which is some five grand dearer than the standard SE model, which adds stuff like added body kit, Matrix LED lights, 19” alloys and S-Line sports suspension.
Interior additions include LED ambient lighting and various other upgrades, although stuff like the MMI Navigation Plus and the truly mesmeric virtual cockpit only come as part of the optional €2,957 Tech Pack.
Given the complexity and allure of the A6’s bigger brother, the A8, it is no surprise that Audi has done something of a mini-me on its mid-range executive.
The result is that the car looks a deal more ‘grown up’ than either of its German opponents, both of whom has been somewhat visually emasculated in their current iterations. That fact alone, I feel, will draw many people to the A6 who may not have passed that way before.
In conclusion, however, let me say that if the A6 was a car I felt pity for in times past, all that has gone out the window (double-glazed in this case).
This is now a car that is every bit the dynamic match for its opposition and I would urge anyone spending this amount of money on a car to try all of the contenders on offer before deciding which is best for them.
All too many, I believe, have passed the Audi by in the past for perceived handling and ride deficiencies. Frankly, that’s all nonsense and if ever a car proves the point, this excellent new A6 does.