Nothing says ‘evolution’ like the Audi A6 (est. 1968).
The Audi A6, like most Audis of its generation, took our breaths away when it first came about in 2011. But much time has passed since then, and the market has changed. The mid-size saloon segment is one of the most hotly-contested markets globally, and as a result, contenders here are either in top-form and fighting-fit, or off-the-pace and disregarded as immature efforts. This segment is ruthless, and the A6 has regularly been a victim of abuse.
The A6 may be a little long in the tooth now, but we fail to see anything really wrong with it. There are efficient and powerful engines behind the snout, a capable and light chassis beneath the skin, all the tech you ought to expect from a car that can go as high as $125k, and refinement that still brings the game up to the much newer Mercedes-Benz E-Class. It’s practical, it’s smart, and it offers very good value for what it is. We take a look at the Audi A6, the contender that shouldn’t ever be left off your shortlist.
“The Audi A6 isn't the most exciting car to look at, but it remains one of the most elegant and appealing designs in the executive car class. Sharp lines and stylish touches give it a classy feel.” - AutoExpress
The Audi A6 is unmistakably an Audi from every angle. There’s the wide nose, the pert rear, the feature lines that stretch from head to tail… You’d know this was an Audi at twenty paces, though at that distance, you could mistake it for an A4. Or if you’re standing beside it, an A8.
Unadventurous styling aside, the A6 fulfils the ‘executive saloon’ brief to the letter. It packs a tinge of aggression layered over a classy-yet-atheletic body, and peppers itself with jewellery here and there, like the fanciful LED headlights and taillights (replete with ‘progressive’ indicators). For best effect, we recommend specifying the S-Line package for your A6, otherwise it’ll look a little too bland and unimaginative.
If your memory can recall the A6 that came before it, you might notice that the current model is a little shorter. It’s not a visual trick, though the current generation is lower and wider than the previous car. That helps give it that lean stance that we talked about earlier, a prerequisite for any luxury saloon in this segment. It’s not quite as dashing as the E-Class nor as brash as a Jaguar XF, but it’s far from being off the pace.
Engine & Drivetrain
“The revised Audi A6 range consists of one petrol and three diesel models…” - CarAdvice
First, we’d like to quickly point out that the multitronic continously-variable (CVT) gearbox, which detracted from the overall ‘luxury’ experience of the A6 despite its benefits, has been banished in its entirety. The range now bears new gearboxes and a new engine lineup, which starts with the sole petrol-powered unit on offer: A 1.8TFSI with 140kW on tap, mated to a 7-speed S-Tronic dual-clutch transmission. This light and peppy engine is actually capable of hauling even a fully-laden A6, though expect to have to work the gears if you’re trying to get up a hill in a hurry.
Stepping up from the petrol will see you in diesel territory. The oil burners on offer kick off with the 2.0TDI, with 140kW on tap as well. But where the petrol engine had only 320Nm of torque on offer, the 2.0TDI manages a round 400Nm of twist. And with the A6’s aluminium-intensive architecture, that’s enough to get this car up and gone with more hustle than you might expect.
Another step up, and you’ll be in six-cylinder territory. The turbodiesel V6 you’ll find in the 3.0TDI packs 160kW of power and 500Nm(!) of torque, which goes through a 7-speed auto ‘box before putting power down to all four wheels. This gives the A6 truly effortless performance, and imbues the A6 with the ability to munch miles without a care in the world, aided further by the reassurance that comes with quattro all-wheel drive.
The range-topping engine here is the 3.0TDi BiTurbo Quattro. Though it’s the same engine as the lower TDi, in this application it puts out 235kW and 650Nm, which hurtles the A6 from rest to 100km/h in 5.0-seconds dead. This car sees transmission duties executed by an 8-speed torque converter automatic due to the amount of torque on offer, with power going through all four wheels. Despite all the performance on offer, it claims to sip less than 6.0L/100km on combined testing cycles, meaning you can have this cake and eat it.
“Svelte and stylish though the A6 cabin is, it feels one stop short of true luxury.” - Autocar UK
Owing to intelligent design and space-saving architecture, the A6 offers a cabin big enough to rival an A8, with quality that doesn’t disappoint. That said, the main reason for this is because both the A6 and A8 are getting a little long in the tooth, and they fall slightly short of the standards set by the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Jaguar XF. There’s nothing wrong with the cabin in any particular way; It’s just a little off the pace.
The A6’s trump card is practicality, though. With a large boot of a useful shape, it’s easy to cram all you’ll ever need in there. Space in the back is good too, with legroom & headroom plentiful for the outer seats, though the middle-rear passenger will have to negotiate for foot-space on either side of the large central tunnel. All cars get really supportive seats that will see you cosseted in comfort for even the longest of journeys, with plenty of storage spaces around the cabin to keep clutter at bay.
The controls are well-weighted, and every part of the A6’s cabin has a feeling of quality about it. From the operation of the buttons and stalks, to the weighting of the door handles. This manic attention to detail means that the A6 is always a special car to be in, regardless of where you sit.
Behind the Wheel
“Despite the handling acumen, the ride quality didn't feel too firm during mundane driving tasks. I felt rougher sections of road, but the suspension proved very competent at minimizing vibration in the cabin of excessive body movement. The A6 strikes an excellent compromise between comfort and handling.” - CNET Australia
The Audi A6 has always been an above-average car to drive, with more focus and pointedness at the helm than most of the competition. However, it continues to fall short of the BMW 5-Series in terms of outright agility, while the Jaguar XF is leaps ahead. It’s not quite as comfortable as a Mercedes-Benz E-Class either, though the front-wheel drive architecture of some A6s means that they return better fuel economy.
Progress is smooth and quiet, with noise well suppressed in the cabin. Even the diesel engines are muted from inside the A6, with the only significant aural intrusion coming from tyre roar (but only with the biggest wheels at considerable speed). Around town, the standard suspension setup copes with all but the very worst potholes with ease, with the S-Line cars transmitting more bumps than the standard setup.
Where the A6 really shows its age is in the tech department. Where the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5-Series are showing off their autonomous driving capabilities, the Audi A6 offers only adaptive cruise control, and even that is an option. That said, the adaptive cruise is very well executed and smooth in operation, and makes for smooth progress in traffic.
Safety & Technology
“As you'd expect, the A6 is brimming with safety kit…” - WhatCar
The A6 maintains a 5-star EuroNCAP safety rating, with an impressive 91% scored for adult occupant protection and 83% for child occupant protection. Pedestrians won’t fare well, with just 41% managed for pedestrian protection. All A6s get six airbags, advanced stability control systems, and three ISOFIX mounting points (front passenger seat, outer two rear seats). There are things like an alarm and an immobiliser, which nets the A6 a five out of five for its safety from thieves.
Optional technology is readily available on the A6, like most Audis, and we’d advise potential buyers to think long and hard about the options list. Get too impractical and the cost of options can quickly balloon to ridiculous proportions, though not specifying enough could hurt resale value later. An option worth avoiding is the adaptive air suspension, which never really lets the car settle. The S-Line suspension is also worth taking a miss, as the standard suspension setup (which you can specify on S-Line cars should you want a plusher ride) is plenty good enough at controlling body roll and handling rough patches.
We have a sneaking suspicion that many of people in this segment have disregarded the A6 as a proper contender, though we urge them to reconsider. The A6 is still a fabulously accomplished car, with the efficiency of a compact but the presence and ability of a proper executive saloon. It’s still very, very quiet on the go, and packs some of the best oil-burners that money can buy. And with Audis fairing decently in reliability surveys, the A6 will likely give you very few headaches through its lifetime.
If you want a subtle, discreet executive car, the A6 will be a fabulous fit. If a little more visual flair (inside and out) would make you smile wider, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class will never fail to impress. For drivers, it has to be the Jaguar XF, though compromises will have to be made elsewhere. Mile-munchers will also appreciate the A6’s refinement and very impressive fuel economy, as well as the capacious boot and load-through ability.
AutoExpress - 4.0/5.0 - “In the battle for supremacy in the corporate car park, the Audi A6 is a great choice. Its understated style, classy interior and host of tech on board make it a saloon car to aspire to, and when you do get behind the wheel, there's super frugal or high-performance engines on offer that deliver penny pinching running costs or deceptively quick acceleration.”
WhatCar - 4.0/5.0 - “Classy, refined, spacious and good value for money, the Audi A6 is an impressive executive saloon.”
Autocar - 4.0/5.0 - “The Audi A6 is very good in every department - but never exceptional. This tells you much that you need to know. Equipped with a decent chassis, the A6 sets impressively high standards across the board without once threatening to blow the class out of the water.”
AutoBlog - 4.0/5.0 - “The Audi A6 is the great luxury sedan we forgot about.”
CarBuyer - 4.6/5.0 - "The Audi A6 is a large executive saloon with an impressive interior and efficient engines. Several updates have kept it competitive, too.”
CarAdvice - 4.2/5.0 - “If you don’t want to spend a small fortune, but still want a large prestige car that performs well with all the expected luxury trimmings, then the A6 [1.8 TSFI] needs to be at the top of your short list.”
Telegraph UK - 7.0/10 - "The Audi A6 is a very capable and competent executive car choice. Spacious, comfortable and classy. That said, it lacks the flair of some of the other options in this class. For example, a Mercedes E-class is even smoother, a Jaguar XF is more fun to drive, and a Volvo S90 is more stylish, inside and out.”
TopGear - 7.0/10 - “Gather round, smart and sensible people. The classy, underrated Audi A6 is a car for you.”