Sharp new saloon squares up to 5 Se­ries and E-Class

Evo India - - CONTENTS - Antony In­gram

THE AUDI A6 IS NOW IN ITS fifth gen­er­a­tion and like its ex­ec­u­tive car ri­vals from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, the lat­est ver­sion con­tin­ues to of­fer a taste of life in the lux­ury car leagues, with lev­els of re­fine­ment, driver as­sis­tance sys­tems and tech­nol­ogy to make you think twice about pay­ing ex­tra for larger sa­loons from the class above.

From semi-au­ton­o­mous func­tions and hap­tic touch­screens to mild hybrid tech­nol­ogy, the A6 cer­tainly com­petes on pa­per, but our re­cent dis­ap­point­ment with the A7 Sport­back sug­gests Audi can’t get com­pla­cent. The good news is, the A6 is a bet­ter ef­fort than the A7 - but once you get past all the tech­nol­ogy, what’s it like to drive?

We drove the A6 at its launch with three dif­fer­ent en­gines, a pair of them diesel and one pow­ered by petrol. The lat­ter is the same 3-litre tur­bocharged V6 we’ve seen re­cently in both the new A7 and A8 (plus a se­lec­tion of Audi’s other mod­els, in­clud­ing S vari­ants in a higher state of tune), badged 55 TFSI and de­vel­op­ing 335bhp through a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch au­to­matic. It’s claimed to reach 100kmph in 5.1sec and run on to 250kmph. Of course the more im­por­tant en­gine is the 40 TDI, the 2-litre EA288 Evo turbo-diesel power unit that now uses an al­loy rather than a steel block for claimed re­fine­ment ben­e­fits and 20kg less over the front wheels. It’s a lit­tle more po­tent than the old diesel too with 201bhp, and it uses the same seven-speed S tronic as the 55 TFSI.

The last re­main­ing unit is the fa­mil­iar tur­bocharged V6 diesel be­ing badged 50 TDI and putting 282bhp and 620Nm to the road. Like all A6s it sends power to all four wheels, though un­like the 40 TDI and 55 TFSI, it uses an eight-speed Tip­tronic torque con­verter au­to­matic, and un­like the 55 TFSI, its quat­tro sys­tem uses a self-lock­ing cen­tre dif­fer­en­tial, rather than a multi-plate de­cou­pling clutch.

Top speed is 250kmph with a 5.5-sec­ond 0-100kmph run, plus the po­ten­tial for 17.9kmpl econ­omy on 18-inch wheels.

The 40 TDI is prob­a­bly the most sur­pris­ing en­gine of the trio, with high lev­els of re­fine­ment and the abil­ity to de­liver a solid whack of per­for­mance across a broad spread of the rev range. Ul­ti­mately it can’t quite match the V6s in terms of re­sis­tance to noise and vi­bra­tion and it lacks their per­for­mance too, but nor does it feel like a com­pro­mise too far. The V6s still feel more ap­pro­pri­ate and, of the pair, it’s the petrol that feels sweet­est, but the diesel digs deeper for its per­for­mance from lower revs so there’s not a lot in it for real-world pace. And nat­u­rally, the TDI mod­els’ econ­omy will see them com­fort­ably out­sell the TFSI when the A6 goes on sale in In­dia early next year.

All new A6 mod­els use mild hybrid tech­nol­ogy, which in Audi-speak means a belt-driven starter-al­ter­na­tor with the abil­ity to turn the en­gine on and off in an in­stant, with a backup pin­ion starter mo­tor for cold starts. The sys­tem uses 48-volt electrics in the six­cylin­der mod­els and 12v electrics in the four­cylin­der cars, but the idea is sim­i­lar – en­ergy re­cu­per­a­tion un­der de­cel­er­a­tion, re­duced turbo lag, and the abil­ity to oc­ca­sion­ally coast with the en­gine off - good for a 0.7-litre fuel sav­ing every 100 kilo­me­tres, ac­cord­ing to Audi.

Just as with the A7 and A8, the lat­est A6 has grown phys­i­cally com­pared to its pre­de­ces­sor

(lib­er­at­ing more in­te­rior room) but also grown in weight, start­ing at a claimed 1825kg where the old car be­gan at 1770kg. For ref­er­ence, it’s also heav­ier than its clos­est com­peti­tors from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar, though Audi’s stan­dard all-wheel drive will ac­count for some of that mass.

Audi failed to find the right bal­ance be­tween dy­namism and com­fort with its A7 Sport­back, but thank­fully it’s got much closer to the mark with the A6. It han­dles about as well as the A7, but seems to ride with a lit­tle more pli­ancy and with the saloon body rather than in large four­door fast­back form, the A7’s un­com­fort­able struc­tural res­o­nance is nowhere to be heard.

Time with the A6 has con­vinced us that you’re still bet­ter off avoid­ing some of Audi’s flashier tech­nol­ogy how­ever, as the best of the bunch to drive on the launch event was the 40 TDI Sport, rather than the four-wheel steer­ing and air sus­pen­sion-equipped V6s on hand.

On adap­tive dampers and op­tional 19in wheels (both V6 cars were on op­tional 20in wheels) the 40 TDI rode with a flu­ency alien to the slightly lumpier air-sprung cars. Bumps can still be felt, but the sus­pen­sion feels like it’s ab­sorb­ing them rather than be­ing lifted by them, and while an E-class feels more pli­ant still, the ba­sic A6’s ride is still more than ac­cept­able with no ap­par­ent penalty in terms of body con­trol.

Equally, while four-wheel steered cars un­doubt­edly feel nim­bler, re­sist­ing un­der­steer for longer and dart­ing into cor­ners sooner, the con­ven­tion­ally-steered car felt more pro­gres­sive, had more nat­u­ral weight­ing as the steer­ing loads in­creased, and put you in bet­ter touch with what the front wheels were do­ing. The brakes on all mod­els are re­as­sur­ingly firm and pow­er­ful, once past an ini­tial soft patch in the pedal travel.

Are they fun cars to drive? Not as such – fan­tas­tic re­fine­ment, high lev­els of grip and unflappable sta­bil­ity are un­doubt­edly wel­come for a car of this type but do sep­a­rate you from the ac­tion some­what. It’s quiet, com­fort­able, spa­cious and well-de­signed cabin and its slick con­trols will all de­light more on a bleary-eyed early-morn­ing air­port run more than they will on a coun­try road, and to­ken ges­tures such as a Dy­namic mode and the abil­ity to change gear man­u­ally can only go so far (though to be fair, throt­tle re­sponse and steer­ing weight are both very well judged in Dy­namic).

It’s an ex­cel­lent ex­ec­u­tive saloon though up there with the 5-se­ries and E-class, al­beit with strengths in dif­fer­ent ar­eas. We’ll just have to wait for the in­evitable S6 and RS6 mod­els for the A6 lineup to show its more en­ter­tain­ing side.

Audi hasn’t yet con­firmed In­dian pric­ing for the A6 range but it will have to be closer to the BMW 5 Se­ries’ en­try point of `52 lakh than the (long wheel­base) E-Class’ `57 lakh. To be fair there’s not a lot be­tween the three Ger­man cars – all three of­fer out­stand­ing lev­els of re­fine­ment, with the Audi prob­a­bly edg­ing the oth­ers on cabin qual­ity, the BMW on dy­namism and the Mercedes on com­fort. And you al­ready know which badge you pre­fer. ⌧

The A6 is an ex­cel­lent ex­ec­u­tive

saloon, al­beit with strengths in

dif­fer­ent ar­eas

Be­low: Mas­sive 12.3-inch touch­screen comes with a full HD dis­play and also of­fers hap­tic feed­back; Even though we have seen the Vir­tual Cock­pit across the Audi range it is still very cool

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