Audi A6

Debut: 2018
Maker: Audi
Predecessor: A6 (2011)

 Published on 7 Oct 2018
All rights reserved. 

The new A6 attempts to beat its rivals with technology, but is it that simple?

For a long time Audi A6, or its predecessor 100 and 200, was seen as a poorer alternative to Mercedes E-class and BMW 5-Series. People bought it just because they wanted to be different, or they needed permanent four-wheel drive. That perception started changing in 1997, and it took 2 or 3 generations to finally make the A6 an equal of its established rivals. That said, there are still distinctive differences among the three. Most people say, if you want comfort, choose the Mercedes. If you want driving excitement, BMW is the unquestionable choice. If you want style and build quality, Audi is the very best. However, none of them are resting on their laurels. The latest Mercedes E-class has already leapfrogged Audi in design and interior. The new BMW 5-Series has developed a 4WD system that is good enough to put Quattro in shade. Meanwhile, Audi is hit by brain drain and the ripple effect of Dieselgate. This means the new A6 has an uphill battle to fight. It needs to keep its traditional core values. It needs to tackle the market trend of autonomous driving and sophisticated infotainment technology. It needs to close the gap from BMW in terms of driving excitement. It also needs to fulfill the legislation requirements for reduced emission. All carried out by its somewhat instable development team.

But one thing is forgotten: styling. From 1997 to 2011, the A6 remained the best looking executive car in my opinion. That period was also the golden era of Ingolstadt design, during which the TT and R8 was created. Those days are over. Talented designers like Peter Schreyer left the company. Since then Audi design became conservative, always keeping the same proportion. They just tweak the details here and there, sometimes more counterproductive than constructive. They handed the lead to Mercedes.

Slightly pronounced fenders draw inspiration from Ur Quattro.

The new A6 is no exception. Without reading the details, it looks just the same as the last generation. As for the details, a wider front grille might be a good idea, as are the slightly pronounced fenders that draw inspiration from the Ur Quattro, but isn’t the grille, the headlights and the bumpers too edgy? An E-class wins hearts by its coherence. The Audi catches attention but ultimately loses admiration by its lack of coherence. 7 years later, when its designers look back, they might wonder why they took such an odd direction. Automotive design history remembers cars as soft as a Jaguar E-Type or as sharp as a Lamborghini Countach, but an E-Type with a Countach rear wing or scissors doors? No thanks, because it is not coherent.

Having said that, the A6 is better looking in Avant body than saloon form. The Avant looks not only smoother but also better balanced, whereas the saloon feels nose-heavy. Mind you, Audi fits it with ridiculously large, 21-inch wheels for better visual effect in these pictures. That would not help ride comfort though, so you had better to sacrifice a bit of style and opt for 19 or 20-inch items.

Avant body looks better than saloon, thanks to a more balanced proportion.

The A6 is built on the MLB Evo platform of A4 and A7. It is marginally longer (+7mm), wider (+12mm) and taller (+2mm) than the outgoing car, while wheelbase is also slightly longer (+9mm). Drag coefficient is reduced further from 0.26 to an outstanding 0.24, though available only on the base model.

Like A4, the chassis is constructed out of primarily steel and supplemented with a few aluminum structural parts, such as front suspension strut towers and front bumper beam. However, the larger car employs many aluminum skins, such as bonnet, boot lid, doors and front fenders, accompanied with aluminum brake calipers and suspension components to cut weight. That said, revisiting our report of the last generation A6 will find the same goodies were already adopted, so the body-in-white is hardly any lighter. Meanwhile, the addition of 48V mild hybrid system adds about 25kg, so the whole car is said to be between 5 and 25 kg heavier than the old one, depending on models. All engines but the 2.0TDI are equipped with the new 48V mild hybrid system, which has the 48V lithium battery placed under the boot. 2.0TDI uses a cheaper but less efficient 12V mild hybrid system. Either case, a conventional 12V battery is kept to power other electrical devices, and it is placed in the boot for better balance.

The new A6 is no lighter than the car it replaces, blame partly to the addition of 48V mild hybrid system.

The chassis is basically the same as that of the A7, so we have not much to explain. It offers 2 Quattro systems, i.e. Quattro Ultra for fuel-saving or the conventional permanent Quattro for the most powerful diesel. 4-wheel steering is optional, and it is bundled with an active variable-ratio steering such that when the rear wheels are turning in the same direction as the front at higher speeds, the front wheels turn more. There are 4 choices for suspension: standard setup, sporty setup, adaptive dampers and adaptive air suspension. As for driving assistance, it carries over from A8, including Level 3-ready autonomous driving (although not many countries allow) and remote parking by mobile phone. To that end, it employs many cameras, ultrasonic sensors, mid and long-range radars and a laser scanner to detect the surrounding.

4 familiar engines are available at launch:
  • 3.0TFSI V6 turbo: 340hp / 369 lbft
  • 3.0TDI V6 turbo diesel: 286hp / 457 lbft
  • 3.0TDI V6 turbo diesel: 231hp / 369 lbft
  • 2.0TDI turbo diesel: 204hp / 295 lbft
The 2.0TDI comes from the new EA288 Evo family, producing more power and employing aluminum block to save weight. Itself and the 3.0TFSI are mated with 7-speed S tronic gearbox, while both diesel V6s employ 8-speed ZF automatic.

Twin-touchscreen sacrifices some practicalities for showroom appeal.

Shared with A7, the interior design sells on a high-tech theme. There is Audi Virtual Cockpit digital instrument up front and a center console occupied by twin-touchscreen. Build quality and material richness are just as you would expect for Audi. Space is also generous, as it offers 17mm more rear legroom and 10mm more headroom than the old car.

However, is the twin-touchscreen layout really an advancement? Slick and cool-looking it might be, more practical it is not. The 10.1-inch upper screen is used to display infotainment, while the 8.6-inch lower screen is for climate control. Wait, why do you need a touchscreen instead of some easy-using rotary knobs to control air-conditioning? The MMI Touch system offers haptic feedback on touch, but there is some delay, and it is not as easy to operate as the old MMI rotary switch when the car is moving. Moreover, the glass surfaces catch up fingerprints easily. Audi sacrifices some practicalities for showroom appeal.

To drive, the A6 does not disappoint, nor it is surprising. Put it straight, this car demonstrates the core values of Audi without breaking ground in any particular areas. The engines? V6 petrol is smooth and responsive, V6 diesel is gusty and refined, and even the 4-cylinder diesel is quite good. All of them lack the tuneful exhaust note of the old supercharged V6, but a subdued manner is suitable to a luxury car. Refinement? Excellent, it is free of wind and mostly road noises.

4WS adds agility, but its response is inconsistent and unnatural.

Ride quality? If you can avoid the largest wheels, it ranges from excellent on highway to acceptable on broken pavements, certainly smoother than A7, but no match for an E-class or to lesser extent the 5er. Air suspension handles its imbalanced weight better, but the leanest 2.0TDI with passive suspension is actually the smoothest of the bunch. It is also the best to steer. All A6 models have their body movement nicely controlled and understeer suppressed reasonably well. They all lack steering feel though, just as the tradition of Audi, but the 4-cylinder car carries significantly less weight at the nose thus it is keener to steer and its chassis response is more consistent. 4WS helps the nose-heavy V6 cars to feel more agile than they have any rights to be, especially at low speed in urban area. Still, it is no driver’s car. Inconsistent steering load and non-progressive turning rate result in an unnatural driving experience. This means, while standard Quattro offers good grip and traction, you are not encouraged to exploit its chassis.

The A6 is still a credible choice in the executive car segment. Choose it and you are unlikely to be disappointed. However, this generation fails to edge closer to the territory of its German rivals in the areas it is the weakest, i.e. ride comfort and driving pleasure. Meanwhile, it fails to keep the lead in the areas it has been leading for long, i.e. styling and interior. Yes, it is very sophisticated – even complicated, but the technologies have yet to be put to good use. The result is less than the sum of its components. What a pity.

Length / width / height
Valve gears
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
A6 2.0TDI
Front-engined, 4WD
Steel + aluminum monocoque
Aluminum, steel
4939 / 1886 / 1457 mm
2924 mm
Inline-4, diesel
1968 cc
DOHC 16 valves
VTG turbo
204 hp
295 lbft
7-speed twin-clutch
F: 5-link
R: 5-link
Adaptive damping
1645 kg
153 mph (c)
7.7 (c)
A6 3.0TDI
Front-engined, 4WD
Steel + aluminum monocoque
Aluminum, steel
4939 / 1886 / 1457 mm
2924 mm
V6, 90-degree, diesel
2967 cc
DOHC 24 valves
VTG turbo
286 hp
457 lbft
8-speed automatic
F: 5-link
R: 5-link
Adaptive air spring+damping
1825 kg
155 mph (limited)
5.2 (c)
A6 3.0TFSI
Front-engined, 4WD, 4WS
Steel + aluminum monocoque
Aluminum, steel
4939 / 1886 / 1457 mm
2924 mm
V6, 90-degree, Miller/Otto-cycle
2995 cc
DOHC 24 valves, DVVT, VVL
340 hp
369 lbft
7-speed twin-clutch
F: 5-link
R: 5-link
Adaptive air spring+damping
1770 kg (est)
155 mph (limited)
4.9 (c)

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