Audi A6 Saloon (2018) first drive review

The new Audi A6 is the most important arrival in the executive car market so far in 2018. The new saloon is set to take on four-door versions of the BMW 5 SeriesMercedes-Benz E-Class, and Jaguar XF. It’s hugely important for the company, and clearly has some very capable opposition – so has Audi done enough to build the best car in its market sector?

 

Despite its familiar styling, the fifth-generation A6 is all-new from the ground up. It benefits from a huge number of changes across the board, including its new body – which is larger than before, more efficient engines, and a more tech-laden interior.

It still looks unmistakably Audi – and that entails – but has a lot of new, sharp design elements also seen on the fresh Audi A7 Sportback and the luxurious A8 Saloon.

The whole car is long, low and wide; in fact, it’s 7mm longer but with a wheelbase extended by 25mm for increased interior space. It’s also 14mm wider than the previous-generation A6 Saloon, which Audi says is better for handling stability. Its 530-liter boot has a wider opening as a result.

What engines can I get with the new Audi A6 Saloon?

The engine range comprises four engines available from launch – one petrol and three types of diesel. The entry-level model – branded 40 TDI – uses a 204hp 2.0-litre diesel, is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and is available with either front- or Quattro all-wheel drive.

The mid-range diesel both use 3.0-litre V6 units, with the 45 TDI producing 231hp and the 50 TDI making 286hp. These engines are available in all-wheel-drive form only and are connected to an eight-speed automatic.

The top-of-the-range petrol (for now, until S6 and RS 6 versions arrive), is a 3.0-litre V6 that’s good for 340hp and, like the base diesel offering, uses a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox for better performance. An entry-level 2.0-litre TFSI petrol is also being considered, but there are no A6s with manual gearboxes.

Economy figures aren’t quoted yet, but all engines use mild-hybrid technology to help aid in keeping fuel economy high and emissions low.

The mild-hybrid system (12-volt for the 40 TDI, 48-volt for the rest of the range) allows the A6 Saloon to coast between 34 and 99mph (when the accelerator isn’t being pressed) for that extra bit of fuel-saving and allows the start-stop system to kill and quickly re-engage the engine smoothly.

If you want to be even more environmentally friendly than that, you’ll have to wait; Audi is currently gauging whether to add a plug-in hybrid to the range, which would be a rival to the BMW 530e performance Saloon.

What’s the 2018 Audi A6 Saloon like to drive?

We’ve driven three versions of the A6, and the overriding impression is that there’s been enough of an improvement here to worry the very best in the class. It’s still not quite as sharp-steering as a 5 Series, but it’s noticeably more engaging to drive, comfier and features more relevant tech.

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We’ve tried three engine options – here are our notes:

  • Audi A6 40 TDI Quattro – our choice of the launch line-up. This engine has more than enough power for most users, yet is quiet and refined on the move
  • Audi A6 50 TDI Quattro – If you’re after a bit more power and theatre, the 3.0-litre V6 diesel does the job nicely. However, it’s appeal is limited by higher fuel economy and tax costs, along with the associated purchase price
  • Audi A6 55 TFSI Quattro – This one’s more difficult to make a case for. It’s effectively a halfway house until the higher-performance A6 models arrive, and while it’s very powerful, it does sound particularly interesting. It’s actually better driven slowly to enjoy the quieter engine note compared with the diesel

All of the above engines have the mild-hybrid technology, which allows the car to coast at some speeds with the engine off. This feels strange at first, but you soon get used to it and learn to drive around the lack of engine braking.

Audi A6 (2018) ride and handling, suspension, and chassis options

We also had the chance to try three of the four available suspension configurations. On launch, Sport models have the option of either standard steel sprung suspension – which is the one we’ve yet to try – or electronically controlled adaptive damping that works very well indeed, absorbing bumps as well as any other car in the sector in Comfort (though we found the steering too light in this drive mode), and eradicating excess body roll in Sport.

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However, on S Line cars confusingly you’ve got two different options. Standard-fit is 10mm lower than the Sports set-up mentioned above, and by rights should be firmer, but we tried this and were highly impressed with its performance on the sometimes terribly surfaced roads we drove it on.

Forget the old-school S Line suspension with its spine-crippling ride; the latest effort is an impressive compromise between comfort and handling. We’d stick with this if ordering an S Line.

That’s because the other option is an air spring set-up and while the gulf between Comfort and Dynamic felt the widest of all configurations, in Comfort there was a slightly unsettled ride common to many similar air set-ups. Small imperfections create a shimmy through the car that never seems to stop, and we reckon after 100 miles or so it could become very tiring.

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The low-speed ride is impressive, however, so if you’re buying an A6 for predominantly lower-speed driving them it could still be a decent box to tick.

We were very impressed with the way Audi has managed to engineer the rear-wheel steering, though. In some cars, this sort of system can feel very unnatural or at times counter-intuitive, but in this case, it’s cleverly judged. At lower speeds, it means the A6 has a turning circle only slightly larger than an A3 because the back wheels can steer in the opposite direction to the fronts.

Go quicker and you’ll notice extra stability and thus confidence because those rear wheels turn with the fronts. It was only during second and third gear hairpin corners where we actually noticed much difference at all in the way the car handles: it feels a little like the engine accelerates mid-bend because your cornering speed increases quicker than expected. You’ll have to really concentrate to notice that, though.

The Audi A6 Saloon interior lowdown

Inside, it’s classic Audi: it’s impeccably well-built, comes with oodles of technology and looks great. We’re promised more rear leg and shoulder room, plus more space for taller passengers’ heads.

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Like the A7 and A8, there’s a twin-screen infotainment system named MMI Touch that reserves the upper screen for navigation, media, and vehicle controls, with the lower being used for seating and ventilation switches.

The system benefits from user-sourced traffic data from mapping specialists Here to give you the best route, plus there’s the option for remote parking in bays or your own garage, and the ability to use an Android smartphone as your car key.

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Lesser details in the A6’s cabin include illuminated seatbelt sockets, textured wood veneers, a newer generation of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital instrument display and a chunky automatic gear lever. Other options include air suspension for a more comfortable ride and rear-wheel steering that turns against you at low speeds to aid maneuverability, and with you at higher speeds for better stability.

Voice control is a key feature here too, with Audi’s latest cloud-assisted natural-language database employed to make things as simple as possible. We think this is great news because the twin-screen set-up takes a bit of getting used to…

Audi A6 Saloon: price, specification and release date

The latest Audi A6 Saloon will be available to order soon, available in the UK from June 2018 with a starting price of around £35,000 for a 40 TDI SE.

UK trims are initially expected to consist of Sport and S Line, with more to come in the future.

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Here’s what we know about the kit breakdown so far. Sports models will get:

  • Full LED headlights
  • 18-inch alloys
  • Audi Drive Select drive modes
  • MMI Navigation with twin touchscreens
  • Heated electrically adjustable door mirrors
  • Lane-departure warning
  • Automatic Braking
  • Cruise control and speed limiter

Moving up to S Line spec additionally nets you:

  • Matrix LED headlights
  • 10mm lower sports suspension
  • S Line body kit with 19-inch wheels
  • Headlight cleaning system

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History of Audi

Audi AG (German: [ˈʔaʊ̯diː ʔaːˈgeː] ) is a German automobile manufacturer that designs, engineers, produces, markets and distributes luxury vehicles. Audi is a member of the Volkswagen Group and has its roots at IngolstadtBavaria, Germany. Audi-branded vehicles are produced in nine production facilities worldwide.