Audi A6 saloon - Engines, drive & performance
It's not tops for excitement, but the Audi A6 is a great car in which to take on any journey
The big question is whether the Audi A6 can finally equal or beat the BMW 5 Series for driver appeal, and the quick answer is that it gets closer than ever. It's now a close enough comparison that you might want to sample the Audi's handling before picking the 5 Series by default.
The Audi A6 is one of those cars that you can simply step inside and embark on any journey, safe in the knowledge that you'll be fresh and relaxed when you arrive. And it doesn't matter what kind of roads you encounter: the A6 is as relaxing and stress-free to drive on a country road as it is on a heavily congested motorway. Even when fitted with larger wheels and sportier suspension in S line or Black Edition trims, the A6 has good ride quality. It’s particularly impressive at low to medium speeds, where the suspension works well to isolate the car’s body from bumps.
Foolproof handling contributes a great deal to this. The steering isn't exactly alive with sensation but it’s light and quick, with strong grip from the tyres and loads of traction from the quattro four-wheel-drive system, which means you can attack fast corners with confidence. That ability is more geared towards making driving easier and covering distances quickly, though, rather than serving up entertainment. Ironically, the entry-level 40 TDI with standard steering and no 'dynamic assistance' feels the best to drive. A lighter weight means it feels more agile and pure. Note that this version now comes with four-wheel drive as standard, which adds weight but brings all-weather stability.
Where the A6 also shines is for ride quality, especially when fitted with air suspension. This shrugs off road imperfections as if they weren't there, even when big 19-inch alloy wheels are fitted, but the standard suspension of the entry-level model actually gives the car a slightly more nimble feel, even if it isn't as smooth. The range-topping Vorsprung trim also gets all-wheel steering, where the rear wheels turn slightly in the opposite direction to boost agility, making the A6 feel like a smaller car from behind the wheel.
Audi A6 diesel engines
The latest A6 has a slimmed-down range of engines compared to previous generations, and Audi has recently reduced the choice even further. Diesel no longer takes centre stage. The smallest engine, the 201bhp four-cylinder 40 TDI, is likely to prove plenty fast for most drivers, accelerating the car from 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds and reaching a top speed of 152mph. Above 2,000rpm, it provides an impressive surge of acceleration and fast gearchanges, so it feels anything but slow. Previously offered with a choice of front- or four-wheel drive, the front-wheel-drive versions have now been withdrawn.
That’s now the only diesel option. While quick, it can't match the turbine-like 3.0-litre V6 50 TDI for outright smoothness, which is a good used choice. With 282bhp, the 50 TDI is very fast, too – 0-62mph is claimed to take just 5.5 seconds. The A6’s diesels are less noisy on the move than those found in its Volvo S90 rival, too.
All are fitted with Audi's 'mild hybrid' technology, which enables the engine to shut down when coasting from cruising speeds (34-99mph is quoted), only to restart when acceleration is required. The system feels unobtrusive and contributes to the car's quiet nature on long journeys.
The fastest diesel is the Audi S6 saloon, with 339bhp extracted from the 3.0-litre V6. Its mountainous torque figure is perhaps even more important, and is why the S6 can slingshot towards the horizon. Zero-to-62mph takes just five seconds, which is usually the reserve of powerful petrol hot hatchbacks.
There are two petrol options in the A6. The entry-level model is a 40 TFSI 2.0-litre petrol with 201bhp and there’s also a 45 TFSI with 261bhp if you want a bit more power. The model to choose if you want the best performance is the 55 TFSI petrol, which is a 335bhp 3.0-litre V6 that brings a 5.1-second 0-62mph time, although this model was discontinued in 2021. Sitting at the very pinnacle of the A6 range is the Audi RS6 Avant that boasts almost 600bhp; it can be thought of as a supercar in practical clothes.
The A6 TFSI 50 e is powered by a 2.0-litre petrol turbo engine and an electric motor, giving it a maximum output of 295bhp. This makes it pretty quick, with 0-62mph coming up in 6.2 seconds, aided by four-wheel drive traction and fast shifts from the seven-speed automatic gearbox. There’s also the discontinued 55 TFSI e version, which only came in sporty Competition trim with an increased power output of 362bhp - allowing 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds.
Much of the time, though, you'll want to be gentle with the accelerator to keep the petrol engine from cutting in. It's fairly easy to keep the A6 in electric mode and keep up with traffic, but we weren't fans of the ‘Active Accelerator Pedal’ that uses haptic feedback to help you stay in EV mode. To us it just felt like a sticky pedal, and the DSG gearbox can also be rather jerky here.
Which Is Best?
- Name40 TFSI Sport 4dr S Tronic [Tech Pack]
- Gearbox typeSemi-auto
- Name50 TFSI e 17.9kWh Quattro Sport 4dr S Tronic
- Gearbox typeSemi-auto
- NameS6 TDI 344 Quattro 4dr Tip Auto
- Gearbox typeSemi-auto