Hi-tech new Audi A6 revealed at Geneva

More individual looks and latest technology help Audi A6 fight Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5 Series for the executive crown

An all-new Audi A6 has been launched at the Geneva Motor Show, following the hi-tech footsteps of the latest Audi A7 Sportback and Audi A8 saloon. The A6 competes in one of the toughest areas of the car market and buyers of its Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5 Series rivals are fiercely loyal to their chosen brands. Audi hopes that the new model's crisp looks, sophisticated fuel-saving technology and promise of a more involving drive will encourage executive buyers to switch to the four-rings badge.

It may come as no surprise that Audi hasn't exactly reinvented its style; it's clear that design boss Marc Lichte has concentrated on further defining the A6 identity, rather than re-imagining it. It still looks fresh, though, with shorter front and rear overhangs than the outgoing model, and a lower stance for a more 'athletic' look.

The A6 doesn't only take after the A8's styling, though – it, too, will be offered with mild-hybrid engines across the range, as well as sharing many of the larger car's driver-assistance features.

New Audi A6 design

The most dominant feature of any Audi is its front grille and the new A6 is no exception. The trademark 'single-frame' six-sided grille is almost as wide as that of the larger A8 and gives a head-on look that's very similar. LED lights are standard front and rear, with matrix beam and laser upgrades available. Top models can also have an A8-style lock/unlock exterior light 'animation'.

Elsewhere, though, the two models are more easily told apart, especially by a roofline that's more curvaceous on the smaller car. The smooth, flowing roof is actually a little taller than before, bringing an increase in headroom, while remaining sleek enough to ensure good fuel economy and a quiet interior.

Speaking of fuel economy, aluminium is used for certain exterior panels in an effort to offset the extra weight of the mild-hybrid power system, although the net gain claimed as between just 5 and 30kg. Alloy wheels of between 17 and 21 inches in diameter will be offered, while S line versions sit 10mm lower and have their own design of front and rear bumpers.

The new A6 has only grown very slightly compared to the previous version; although 12mm has been added between front and rear axles, it's only 7mm longer overall. Audi claims that the interior is 21mm longer than before, though, bringing an increase in rear-seat legroom, while increases in head, elbow and shoulder room are promised, too. There's no change to boot space, though – it remains at 530 litres.

When the A6 Avant estate arrives, it's expected to share the saloon’s dynamic looks – it’ll remain practical, but will have a less boxy shape than it does now. Later, a rugged Audi A6 Allroad will place emphasis on rough-terrain capability, as with the present model.

New Audi A6 technology

Audi has always taken pride in offering high levels of technology in its cars, with its pioneering user-configured virtual cockpit instrument display much imitated across the industry. The new A6 continues in this vein, bringing features that debuted in the more expensive A8 saloon.

These include the latest version of Audi's MMI Touch control system. Although not standard across the range, cars thus equipped boast a 10.1-inch infotainment screen sited above an 8.6-inch lower screen devoted to climate and comfort controls. Haptic and acoustic feedback is provided – function selection is confirmed by a physical and audible 'click'. The third screen belongs solely to the driver – a 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit instrument panel replaces conventional dials with configurable colour displays.

Easier journeys are promised, with "self-learning" navigation that can recognise frequently driven routes by analysing data supplied by service provider HERE. Every new Audi equipped with this technology adds to an Audi 'fleet', which can share real-time hazard and traffic data as part of a 'Car-to-X' communication system.

Audi is among several manufacturers to offer a smartphone app to access certain on-board features remotely. Audi Connect Key enables up to five nominated smartphones to lock, unlock and start the car securely, without a conventional key being needed. Topping off this is a package of up to 38 safety assistance features, which include Audi's first side-impact pre-crash assistance system. Like the Audi A8, the A6 will be capable of Level 3 automomous driving.

New Audi A6 engines

As mentioned above, the A6 will follow the A8's example by offering mild-hybrid engines across the range. There's a 12v system for the 201bhp, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine. It uses a belt-driven 'starter-generator' that allows the engine to cut out and restart at speeds of up to 14mph, as well as being able to switch off and 'coast' between 35 and 100mph, instantly restarting when engine power is needed. A CO2 reduction of up to 4g/km is claimed for this feature, which will also be standard on a 2.0-litre petrol engine that's in the pipeline.

The more expensive V6 engines employ a more sophisticated 48v system, which uses a lithium-ion battery to store energy recovered during braking, as well as delivering the same stop-start and coast features as the four-cylinder engines. A CO2 reduction of around 10g/km is claimed for this system, which you'll find on two 3.0-litre V6 diesels that produce 228 and 286bhp, as well as the 335bhp 3.0-litre petrol. All are automatic as standard.

Audi promises a "more direct" feel, as well as improved ride comfort, after changes to the A6's suspension and steering system. The former makes much use of light, strong aluminium, with conventional springs, adaptive dampers and full air suspension all available. There's a four-wheel steering system, too, which is claimed to not only improve handling agility and high-speed stability, but also reduce the car's turning circle by 1.1m.

Price and on-sale date

Audi has yet to announce exact details of the new A6’s price, but further details are expected soon after its debut at the Geneva Motor Show. We expect prices to roughly correspond with the present model, which starts at around £35,000. UK order books are expected to open in June of this year.

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