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new A6 attempts to beat its rivals with technology, but is it that
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.