The business end
Audi’s executive sedan and its swoopy hatch stablemate are a peak package
DECORATIVE heads of state don’t involve themselves in the mundane business of running the empire.
The same now applies to car companies: the nominal leaders — the top-of-the-range limousines — are figureheads, while the real business is conducted further down the pecking order.
Enter the facelifted Audi A6 and its A7 hatchback stablemate. Much like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series with which it competes, the mid-sized Audi now furnishes buyers with all the technology found in the large luxury sedans at a fraction of the cost.
The A6 isn’t due for a total overhaul based on age or sales. It does need to stay relevant and in this case that calls for augmenting the features and improving the efficiency.
It is still a sumptuous executive sedan, just one with more connectivity and better graphics than ever before.
Given the target market is aged over 50 and has a young family, that will look appealing no matter which seat you’re in.
Slipping a turbocharged fourcylinder into the line-up gives Audi a sharp starting price of $79,900.
That buys a big four-door sedan with cruise control, electrically adjustable leather front seats, eight-inch touchscreen with satnav, digital radio, blind spot alert and front and rear parking sensors with a reversing camera.
The downside is the 1.8 is front-wheel drive rather than quattro AWD and makes do with xenon headlamps in place of LEDs higher up the tree.
A 2.0-litre turbo diesel is due later this year but for now the entry diesel is the 3.0-litre V6 turbo (the A6 so fitted is $99,900 and the A7 $115,400).
Beyond AWD it adds lane assist warning, four-zone aircon and different finishes to the dash and door inlays.
The seriously quick biturbo diesel costs $129,900 for the sedan and $144,900 for the fastback.
A Technik package adds 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control, Audi connect with mobile Wi-Fi hotspot and internet connectivity and autonomous emergency braking. It adds $5800 to the 1.8-litre variant and $4800 to the rest.
Premium paint is a gouge at $2280. There are only two “non-premium” hues, which should have owners seeing red.
The V8 turbo under the bonnet of the S6 and S7 is for now the most powerful engine in the line-up. You pay for the privilege of reaching 100km/h in luxury in less than five seconds to the tune of $159,900 and $169,900 respectively.
The entry car is the one most buyers will gravitate to and it won’t be a hardship. Yes, you miss out on the signature quattro AWD and the fancy headlamps, which is no big deal.
There’s some lag off the line as the engine winds up and the dual-clutch transmission engages, compounded by the car’s refusal to contribute full power if the wheels are angled. Slipping the gear selector to Sport overcomes the delay — and, unlike some rivals, the A6 won’t cling to gears if the accelerator is only partly depressed.
Under way, the Audi feels big but not bulky; not much flesh covering a decent frame.
Consequently the car changes direction better than a car this size should and the added acoustic dampening means drivers need to keep a close eye on the speedo — or the optional head-up display — to hold a legal pace. The four sounds faintly enthusiastic at full throttle but it is a distant display, like hearing the roar at a nearby footy match.
The diesels are the sweet spot for the regular A6 and A7. The huge torque outputs— 500Nm from the regular turbodiesel and 650Nm from the twin-turbo version — overcome inertia and inclines with equal lack of fuss.
Mechanical grip is tenacious despite suspension that feels softer than its competitors. That’s good news for rear passengers, though, who are isolated from unwanted jolts.
The S6/S7 top out the range with a profoundly sonorous V8 capable of seriously urgent action. Until the arrival of the RS6 wagon and RS7 fastback, this is as good as it gets for the four-ringed marque.
The good gear — dynamic steering and sports exhaust, for example — is still on the options list but the basic package reeks of understated opulence, from the faint whiff of well-tanned leather to the clarity of the digital displays.
Audi is outselling BMW in Australia this year and the A6 is a prime example of why. It is a well-built, well-executed executive limousine.