The new 2011 Audi A6 reviewed
Long has it been a mystery why so many people lavish attention on the Audi A4, which has never really considered to be a particularly good car, while ignoring the A6, which is an excellent car.
Anyway, perhaps the arrival of the latest version of the A6 might do something to reset the balance. That aside, it must also take on some stiff competition in the executive saloon sector from the BMW 5 series, the Mercedes E Class and, to a lesser extent, the newly face-lifted Jaguar XF.
All its competitors excel in different things and, to its credit, the A6 is attempting to take them all on at the same time. The E Class sets the standard in technology, roominess and build quality; well, it used to.
The array of kit available on the A6 is mind boggling. This is a car that you can drive along the motorway with your hands off the wheel and your feet off the pedals in perfect safety, thanks to lane assist and radar cruise control.
While the new Audi A6 is a few inches shorter than its predecessor, it has a longer wheelbase and the result is enough room to throw a party in both the front and the back — the boot is cavernous too. The Jaguar is striking in appearance, particularly after the facelift, and has a lovely cabin. The new A6 looks like a scaled down version of the A8 luxury saloon; it is all sleek planes and curved roof-line and the neat tail lights, trademark grill and LED running lights finish it off perfectly.
This really is a very handsome car. Step inside and the Jaguar is decidedly outclassed. The sweeping dash is as classy as can be, the seats are supremely comfortable and the layout of the controls is an exercise in ergonomic perfection.
The quality of materials, the fit and the overall finish is almost up there with Rolls Royce, better than any of its rivals. The amount of kit fitted as standard, even on the base SE model, is impressive too, with leather seats, dual zone climate control, satnav and variable suspension settings all thrown in with the list price.
Then there is the BMW to consider, the ultimate driving machine. Audi has both barrels of the shotgun to tire back at the boys from Munich.
The body is made from aluminium and high tech steel which means it is lighter and stronger, in turn making it faster, more economical and more responsive to drive. Audi has also made its already excellent engines even better.
Interestingly, while there are three diesels available, there is only one petrol, a turbocharged 296bhp V6 which is fast but anything other than frugal, l tried the 2.4 litre diesel which has been tweaked to produce 175bhp. This is an excellent engine, propelling this big car up to G2 in a very reasonable 8.7 seconds while still delivering a commendable 57mpg. It is also extremely refined. The ride, so long an Audi weak point, is remarkably good too, soaking up pretty much everything you throw at it, though the S Line sports pack is best avoided if you like your comfort. The handling is the one area where this car disappoints; the steering is lifeless and weights up randomly while the cornering, though safe and predictable, provides a pretty joyless experience.
The A6 is an excellent aIl-rounder, stylish and well built, spacious and well equipped, fast and yet frugal. Is it better than the 5 Series? Possibly not; the BMW does everything the Audi does but is also a hoot on a twisty back road. Somehow, though, it looks like the A6 will sell like a hot cake.