Go for S line trim and above, and you also get LED headlights and ‘sweeping’ rear indicators
The A6 is a terrifically subtle and understated executive car, and even this estate version has a relatively streamlined shape. With the headlight units incorporating the foglights, there’s no need for separate lights, leaving a very clean front end, while the daytime running lights and rear lights are LED units. Go for S line trim and above, and you also get LED headlights and ‘sweeping’ rear indicators, where the lights don’t just flash, they appear to ‘run’ across the car. Every A6 comes with alloy wheels, and body-colour door mirrors and handles, as well as aluminium roof rails and a body-coloured roof spoiler, while S line models sit on lower suspension (although you can have standard suspension at no extra charge) and have a unique, sporty bodykit. Black Edition models – as the name suggests – have their own look, with tinted rear windows and much of the chrome replaced by black features, while the high-performance S6 models are differentiated by a bespoke twin-spoke grille design, black painted brake calipers and quad exhaust tail-pipes.
The materials used, and the fit and finish, are as good as in the very best rivals
Audi has become known for the quality of its interiors, and the A6 is a perfect example of why. The materials used, and the fit and finish, are as good as in the very best rivals, even in the ‘basic’ SE models. And, if you upgrade to S line trim, you get a leather sports steering wheel and sports seats, as well as smart aluminium inlays. Black Edition cars are much the same, but with black – rather than aluminium – inlays, while the S6 has its own unique look. Common to all, though, is a cabin that’s as easy to use as it is to admire – admittedly, the MMI system that controls the infotainment system isn’t quite as good as BMW’s iDrive, but you can get used to its idiosyncrasies pretty quickly – and the wide range of adjustment on the seat and steering wheel meaning that pretty much anyone is guaranteed an excellent driving position.
The interior of the A6 is spacious enough for four adults to travel long distances in comfort, with excellent leg-, head- and shoulder room. It doesn’t sacrifice space for the sake of style, either: the boot will take 565 litres with rear seats upright, slightly more than a BMW 5 Series Touring. Fold the 60/40 split seats down (levers either side of the boot do the job) and there’s 1,680 litres to fill. Again, that’s a little more than in the BMW, but the Audi can’t match the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate, with its massive 1,950-litre load bay. However, the A6 does have a few neat creature comforts, such as a powered tailgate fitted as standard on every model, as well as a double cargo floor and a dirt-resistant tray. We also like the way the luggage cover retracts automatically as the tailgate is opened, before returning into position once the boot is closed.
Ride and handling
With the notable exception of the S6 and RS6, the A6 is not an executive car that labours under the mistaken belief that it’s a sports car. Instead, it concentrates on providing a refined and comfortable drive – and, as long as you avoid the larger wheels and sportier suspension set-ups, the car does a pretty decent job. Its most impressive aspect is its refinement – much helped by the double glazing on the windscreen and front windows – and, in keeping with that, the car is at its best over long distances on major roads, rather than along the twists and turns of a country B-road. So far, we’ve only had relatively limited experience of the latest A6 in the UK, but we found the Quattro models were better to drive than the Ultra models – and there’s more to it than just the extra grip and traction on the four-wheel drive models that make them feel more sure-footed. Overall, they’re also more composed, with a smoother ride and better-controlled movement in the suspension. However, the Ultra models aren’t so bad that you wouldn’t be prepared to put up with their shortcomings for the excellent economy they provide. Truth is, though, that – good as it is – the A6 isn’t quite as good to drive as the BMW 5 Series, with steering that’s a little too light and handling that lacks the ultimate crispness of the Five.
All mainstream A6 Avants come with a diesel engine, and all give very acceptable performance – even the ultra models that concentrate on excellent economy and low emissions. With peak pull coming in at below 2,000rpm, they respond very well, and you’d never know the 2.0-litre engine was optimised for economy – especially when it has enough power to set the front wheels squirming if you floor the accelerator on a greasy road. Beyond this basic engine, things get much quicker, but rather than the outright pace, what impresses you is just how little effort you have to put in to get the car going very quickly. In all honesty, the 2.0-litre engine is strong enough that you don’t really need to look beyond it unless you want four-wheel drive, but both versions of the 3.0 TDI engine give very strong performance, and the bi-turbo 3.0 BiTDI is seriously quick.
The desirability of the Audi badge ensures that the A6 only loses its value as slowly as its rivals
Given the performance they provide, all the A6’s engines return very good fuel economy. The star, though, is the 2.0 TDI ultra, which (when paired with the S tronic semi-automatic transmission and 17-inch wheels) averages a barely credible 64.2mpg and emits just 114g/km of CO2; but, even the 3.0 BiTDI – which gets the A6 to 60mph in 5.2 seconds – averages a very respectable 47.1mpg. The result is that the A6 looks very attractive as a company car. Insurance costs are also at least as low as on any directly comparable rival, and it’s the same story with residual values: the desirability of the Audi badge ensures that the A6 only loses its value as slowly as its rivals.
Audi may have a reputation for high quality, but that’s not necessarily borne out by the evidence. In fact, the company sits low down in Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, while previous versions of the A6 are well below average for reliability, with repairs being particularly costly. On the other hand, if you scan through the reviews from owners of the most recent A6 on this website, they report excellent reliability.
This latest A6 Avant hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP, but the 2011 saloon (which is based on a very similar platform to this model) earned the maximum five-star rating when it was tested. Standard equipment across the range includes six airbags, stability control and Isofix mounts on four seats, and there are plenty of options beyond that. For instance, you can specify rear side airbags, the Pre-sense system (which warns the driver in advance of potential dangers), a Night Vision Assistant and a Head-up display, while the advanced technology pack incudes adaptive cruise control, a lane departure warning system and a blind spot warning system.
The extras on S line and Black Edition models are primarily style-focused
The A6 is offered in SE, S line and Black Edition trim levels, and every model comes with alloy wheels, sat-nav, DAB radio, cruise control, park assist and auto headlights and wipers, as well as four-zone climate control, leather upholstery and what Audi calls the Luggage compartment system (double floor, rails in the floor and bag hooks). Beyond that, the extras on S line and Black Edition models are primarily style-focused, but you can also choose from a whole host of options that include everything from style to technology, many of which are available in affordable packages. Of particular interest will be the Adaptive air suspension (which automatically adjusts the car’s ride height) and the Convenience Pack, which includes a reversible boot floor mat, tie-down straps and a set of fixings to be used in the rails.
The Audi A6 is one of those cars that seems to do pretty much everything well. Not only is it spacious, practical and versatile, it also plays the executive car role very well, with the kind of stylish looks that will turn heads in any company car park. Above all, its economical and refined engines make for very affordable running costs.