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Audi A6 review (2011 onwards)
Summary - Seventh generation of Audi's executive saloon hits all the right spots. Elegant and refined, and with surprisingly good equipment levels.
We like - Sophisticated, elegant interior, space, comfort and technology
We don't like - Rear seats a bit low, ride on standard suspension rather firm
The Audi A6, and the Audi 100 before it, has been a well-established front-line contender in the full-sized executive sector for over 40 years. Saloon and Avant estates, front or four-wheel drive, modest diesels to a version to rival supercars, the A6 covers many bases.
The 2011 model is all new. The longer wheelbase pushes the front wheels forward and reduces the length of the front overhang. Combined with some sculpturing to the sides and a distinctive design to the lights, in our eyes it looks particularly elegant.
The skin not only looks different, it's new too. Although far from an all aluminium car like the A8, the A6 makes use of a considerable amount of this alloy for its body panels and some of the structural members. That cuts the weight to aid CO2 and economy.
Every engine offers more in both areas, with better performance too. The big seller will be the two-litre diesel in both manual and automatic form. The 2.7-litre V6 diesel of the old A6 is replaced with a lower powered 3.0 V6 that produces 204hp.
The full-fat diesel V6 gets 245hp along with quattro four-wheel drive, and there's a 300hp petrol three-litre quattro for the 2% of A6 buyers who don't care about the horrific price of fuel.
The techno-battle of the German premium brands is played out in full force here, with a list of options that boggle the mind. We particularly liked the Google Earth mapping that comes with the upgraded sat-nav system.
Real-life images of the roads you are driving on are downloaded before your eyes. Tests have shown that drivers find these maps actually less distracting than the usual graphical display.
There's a bit of a catch though. All this is achieved through Sim-card roaming, so using Google abroad, or indeed the associated in-car wi-fi hotspot, could get very expensive indeed.
Other features are less contentious. Pay the money and your A6 will brake for you in an emergency, adjust LED headlights according to the oncoming traffic, project vital information onto the windscreen in your eye line, even give you a massage. Oh, and the A6 can park itself too.
But the important bits are now standard on every model. Satellite navigation, leather, Bluetooth and stop-start engine technology are part of the package. All for a touch more than £30k on this entry 2.0 TDI SE.
In this latest incarnation Audi's two-litre diesel produces a very respectable 177hp. That's quite sufficient to provide pleasing levels of performance when accelerating along with relaxed motorway cruising, with little need to change down when you need an extra spurt of progress.
It's not the quietest of diesels but noise levels are pretty acceptable and there's a straightforward six-speed manual transmission that quietens things down in the higher gears.
Ride and handling
As standard the A6 gets traditional coil springs, with firmer settings for the S-line sports derivative.
In the slightly softer SE specification the A6 rides adequately well, but it's no class leader. The worst of the bumps do make themselves felt in the cabin, and the ride is rarely completely smooth.
As an option there's air suspension, which is notably better and gives the possibility of switching to a stiffer sports mode when you want a bit more involvement. Not that the A6 is ever a particularly involving car to drive, even in the top-spec supercharged petrol model.
The handling is fine, composed and able no matter what's thrown at it. It's the steering, either very light or adjustable to add a bit more weight, that gets in the way of the new A6 offering a truly entertaining drive.
Yet it is easy to forgive these minor dynamic issues when you step inside. The interior is simply the best you'll find in a car if this class.
It's not simply the feeling of quality - of which there is an abundance - it's the artful way all the elements blend together.
There's real interest here, not the straightforward clinical approach it's been all too easy to accuse Audi of the in past.
We didn't get into an A6 with the regular seats - Audi was overly keen for us to experience the 'comfort' and 'sports' seat options. They give all the comfort and support you might hope for, though you have to ratchet up your invoice several notches to get the massage function from the A8.
There's a little more room in the A6 than before, despite less body length. It feels light and airy inside, although the rear seat cushion is set lower than optimal for real long-distance comfort.
As is critical on these prestigious saloons, luggage space is fabulous, with a good-sized opening and folding rear seat backrests as standard.
Economy and safety
The power may be up a touch, but this 2.0 TDI now returns an average of 57.7mpg. That's a pretty amazing figure, but it is the statutory government result and while it might be all-but-impossible to achieve, the message here of high economy is a real one.
So too is the environmental angle, with a CO2 of 129g/km when equipped with the manual transmission. That's almost unprecedented for a car of this size and class.
There are no Euro NCAP safety figures yet, but five stars is a certainty. Bundles of airbags and electric safety systems will make sure of that.
The MSN Cars verdict
The new A6 is extremely close to being a five-star car. Indeed, we'd understand why, for many, this Audi will become the most desirable car in its class.
Our only real reservation is that the ride on this car, without the optional air suspension, doesn't quite live up the promise shown everywhere else. If your pockets are deep enough, a tick on the options list will deal with this issue immediately.
|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||3.0 supercharged|
|Engines, diesel||2.0 turbo, 3.0 turbo|
|Power, hp||177 - 300|
|Torque, lb ft||280 - 369|
|0-62 mph, secs||8.7 - 5.5|
|Top speed, mph||141 - 155|
|Mpg combined||57.7 - 34.4|
|CO2, g/km / tax||129 - 190/18% - 27%|
|Ratings||Audi A6 2.0 TDI SE|
|Ride & handling||****|
|MSN Cars verdict||****|
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