16 April 2015

Review: Audi A6

When Audi set out to give a mid-life refresh to its A6 range, they didn't have to do much in style changes to keep it modern, the 2011-launched generation was already a strong and distinctive car, writes Brian Byrne. But there were underlying changes which combined to make the 2015 version just that little more of a serious player in the mid-sized premium market.

And so far this year it really is a player, in sales slotting not too far behind the BMW 5 Series and ahead of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Traditionally the arch-rivals of each other, but both now very much in the sights of Audi.

Is it as good as either of them? Well, yes it is. Purists will say that the FWD format of the Audi doesn't have the drivability of the rear-drive BMW and E-Class, but the truth is, that doesn't mean a thing to the important cohort — the people who actually buy and own the cars. They want looks, reliability, and a level of luxury commensurate with the money they're spending.

The A6 has the looks. Sleek, sporty, and nothing that dates very quickly. It has the reliability — that's something that the parent group does very well, but which its premium brand has honed carefully and steadily to another level. And the luxury? ... well, any A6 I have driven in recent years is right up there with any competition, and the interior styling and design feels much more 'today' than the main competition.

The review car in white had quite a presence, and it's a colour the shape takes to well. In S-Line trim, it has a lowered suspension which added to the overall sleekness, and the grade's individual bumpers and side skirts provided even more good looks. LED headlights pumped up the modern ethos. Overall, a car that made people look again, and nod in appreciation.

Inside, that grade added a few upgrades too, among them a different steering wheel and seats, leather, and a black cloth headlining. The other elements that come on all A6s, such as the pop-out screen for navigation and entertainment management, and the MMI selection knob on the centre console, are familiar by now.

The car had the 190hp version of Audi's 2.0 diesel, and with a 7-speed dual-clutch S-tronic automatic it was a strong highway performer, and an easily driven car for urban traffic too. I have driven the lesser 150hp version, and found it more than adequate, but the extra horses here just make everything in terms of acceleration and general driving just that bit more pleasant.

This is a frugal car despite its size. A fuel consumption of 4.4L/100km (64mpg equivalent) in official terms is impressive. And related emissions mean the road tax at the moment is a mere €200.

Driving at night I was very impressed with the LEDs, a system which Audi has pioneered in production cars for some years now. It includes static turning lights, all-weather lights and and an LED motorway light function. The main beam assist for automatic switching between main and dipped beams works really well, and there's also an additional motorway light which automatically increases headlight range at speeds above approximately 110km/h.

The Audi A6 starts at €43,900 plus charges. In this review version it drove out at around €52,000. And it seems that there are enough people willing to spend that kind of money around to put the car in the very enviable sale place it is now.