First Drive: Audi A6

It’s easy to make all the right noises about becoming number one in your field, but turning those brave words into success is another matter altogether. For car manufacturers it is a never-ending quest for more sales and a bigger slice of the market. But the good news for car buyers like you and me is that the product on display in the showroom is better than ever.

Audi’s new A6 is a perfect example of this. There’s a good chance you’ll remember the last-generation car: it was a popular beast, particularly in highly practical Sportback form. As a middleweight in the executive sector it was bang on the money, so why the need for a new one?

Time, and indeed the competition, waits for no-one in this kind of market, so to counter the recently-introduced BMW 5-Series and the still-young Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Audi has wheeled out the third chapter in the A6 story.

One glance is all you’ll need to recognise that it’s an A6: no current owner is going to be shocked by its appearance, though you’d be forgiven for mistaking one for its bigger brother, the A8. With a more prominent grille and wider front wheelarches the front of the A6 has considerably more presence, and looks like a more muscle-bound machine. There’s a gentle sweep towards the rear and a neat tail end, and the details are finished with the precision and attention to detail you would expect. It looks smarter but not vulgar, and the remarkable drag coefficient of 0.26 is a bonus.

The fact that such time and effort has clearly been spent on aerodynamics reflects the other big factor in the A6’s rebirth: efficiency. Every new car must offer a siginifcant improvement in terms of emissions and fuel economy compared to its predecessor, and the A6 does so regardless of the powerplant. Grabbing the headlines is the 2.0-litre TDI model, likely to be the UK’s best seller. Although it does without the quattro four-wheel drive system that delivers superior traction and handling, the more modest 175bhp and 280lb.ft of torque of the 2.0-litre TDI manages fine without. Not that it is a slowcoach by any means: 0-62mph takes a scant 8.7 seconds and the top speed of 141mph in more than sufficent.

But this front-wheel drive version is significantly lighter as a result, helped by the use of aluminium in the bodyshell for the first time. Alongside greater use of high-strength steels, Audi claims the A6 is 15% lighter than an equivalent all-steel version. Combined with the efficiency measures including stop/start, the A6 is capable of remarkably economy and emissions figures despite the brisk performance: a C02 rating of just 129g/km is comparable with much smaller cars and attracts modest annual Vehicle Excise Duty , while the combined economy figure of 57.6mpg is one that will please everyone apart from filling station owners.

This balance of performance and economy is obvious out on the road. The instant torque means there’s no need to stir the gearlever frequently to make respectable progress, and even when pushed the four-cylinder diesel is quiet and smooth. Although many will choose an automatic the manual is sufficiently slick, and even though the steering now uses electronic power assistance, it still maintains sufficient feel that you don’t feel divorced from the action. In SE specification the A6 is designed for comfort over handling, but it tackles bends without fuss in a reassuring fashion.

The good news on the inside is that A6 inherits much of the fine cabin design and materials from the bigger A7 Sportback and A8. An Audi cabin is rarely anything other than a pleasant place to be, but the A6 is packed with kit even on the humblest model, works with precision and is finished with good taste. There are the usual wealth of options too, including Audi Pre-Safe collision protection, wireless connectivity and an infra-red camera, while the colours and trims inside can be specified in numerous configurations – the light oak finish is particularly appealing.

All of which gives the impression that the A6 repsents a considered and through evolution of the old car rather than a major departure for Audi, and rightly so. While that might seem like a conservative course of action, it’s hard to argue with the solidity, versatility and all-round appeal that the new A6 offers. Whatever you might think of Audis, there’s no question this is a fine example of the breed.

Audi A6 2.0 TDI SE, £30,145
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel unit producing 175 bhp
Transmission: Six-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels
Performance: Top speed 142mph, 0-62mph in 8.7 seconds
Economy: 57.7mpg combined
Emissions: 129g/km

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