The busi­ness end

Audi’s ex­ec­u­tive sedan and its swoopy hatch stable­mate are a peak pack­age

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive - CRAIG DUFF craig.duff@news.com.au

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.

VALUE

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.

DRIV­ING

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.

VER­DICT

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.

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