Audi A6 saloon review
"The sleek Audi A6 looks familiar, but there's cutting-edge technology under the surface"
- Comfortable ride
- Impressive economy
- Futuristic technology
- Evolutionary style
- Expensive options
- Not a 'drivers' car'
The Audi A6 is an alternative to the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class; the three popular models have been vying for a similar set of customers for decades. It’s clear that the BMW is known as the sporty model and the Mercedes is known as the luxurious one but the Audi’s role isn’t quite as clear-cut.
There are other rivals in this class too, including the Jaguar XF, Lexus GS and Volvo S90. This latest version of the A6 is the best yet, thanks to its smart interior, hi-tech equipment and a broad range of engines.
The A6’s design helps it to stand out from the crowd; its sharp-looking bodywork, distinctive headlights and large grille mean that it manages to be understated yet still very stylish for those who take time for a second look. It does depend on the trim level, too - high-spec cars tend to have flashier trim and large alloy wheels.
The interior is even more impressive than the exterior. The materials inside are of a high quality, so it feels as upmarket as you would expect of an expensive saloon car. The design is simple but classy and best of all there is a huge amount of technology inside.
A lot of the available technology depends on which trim level you choose and the options you add when buying. For example, all models come with a large, glossy touchscreen on the centre of the dashboard. It’s used to control the functions of the car including the sat-nav and radio, and it controls just like a smartphone or tablet. Yet some higher-spec models also have a ‘Virtual Cockpit' instrument panel, which replaces dials behind the wheel and can show full-colour 3D maps and directions.
There’s also a screen mounted on the centre console that controls the air-conditioning and other functions, plus it can be used to type in addresses for the sat-nav using haptic feedback (it feels like pressing a button rather than a screen). There is plenty of other tech you can’t see immediately too, including autonomous driving technology.
One of the clever features is remote parking, which allows you to send your car to a parking space by remote control, using a smartphone app. You can add the Tour Pack to get active cruise control with steering assistance to keep the car in its lane, or the City Assist pack to get sensors that look out for traffic crossing your path and apply the brakes if necessary.
The A6 goes beyond cold, calculating technology, though – it's genuinely enjoyable to travel in. It's not the most invigorating car to drive, but few models can match it as a smooth, quiet and relaxing motorway cruiser.
The available engines all make use of 'mild-hybrid' technology, which allows the A6 to coast without the engine running. It'll then restart when acceleration is called for, and Audi claims at least a 5% efficiency increase from this system alone. The entry-level car is a 201bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder '40 TDI' diesel, and a 282bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel (badged 50 TDI) occupies the next rung on the ladder if you stick to diesel power. High-performance S6 and RS6 models are also offered, and we've reviewed them separately, but the fastest A6 until then in the regular range is a 335bhp 3.0-litre petrol V6-badged 55 TFSI. There are also 2.0-litre petrol 40 and 45 TFSI models with 201bhp and 261bhp respectively.
The 2.0-litre diesel is fast and quiet, and returns up to 52.3mpg, significantly better than the 39.2mpg of the 3.0-litre diesel. It’s cost-effective and great for motorway trips, though if you drive in town you’ll probably want a plug-in hybrid model instead.
The plug-in hybrid A6 50 TFSI e uses a 14.1kWh battery and electric motor along with its 2.0-litre petrol engine. This gives it an electric range of around 25 miles, increasing its figures to 188.3mpg and cutting CO2 emissions to 35g/km. The latter is a major advantage for business buyers, slashing the cost of Benefit-in-Kind liability for 40% tax payers by around £4,000 a year. There’s also a 55 TFSIe Competition model that has 362bhp, which combines low running costs with impressive performance.
We recommend the Sport trim, as the larger wheels of S Line and Black Edition cars can make the car more uncomfortable over bumps. Sport offers almost everything you might need, including LED headlights, sat nav, a rear-view camera, leather seats (heated in the front), 2-zone climate control and DAB radio. S Line adds sporty styling and seats, plus larger alloy wheels and Matrix LED headlights, while Black Edition cars feature even larger wheels and black styling elements. The range-topping Vorsprung grade brings huge 21-inch wheels, all-wheel steering and luxuries including a panoramic sunroof and Bang & Olufsen stereo.
Audi doesn't have everything its own way, however – the brand came a disappointing 21st out of 30 in our 2020 Driver Power survey, but this was still significantly higher than its German rivals. Thanks to the A6's strong construction and cutting-edge safety technology, it was awarded a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.
Does the A6 finally have an edge over the 5 Series and E-Class? It's certainly a consummate all-rounder. The BMW is still the sharper drive and the Mercedes still the most opulent. But the A6 finally has a USP – it's the most sophisticated executive car you can buy.
Which Is Best?
- Name40 TFSI Sport 4dr S Tronic
- Gearbox typeSemi-auto
- Name50 TFSI e 17.9kWh Quattro Sport 4dr S Tronic
- Gearbox typeSemi-auto
- NameS6 TDI 349 Quattro 4dr Tip Auto
- Gearbox typeSemi-auto