Audi A6 v Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Can the Audi A6 shake the E-Class off its tail? We head to one of our favourite driving roads to find out

Evo India - - DRIVEN - Pho­tog­ra­phy: Ro­hit G Mane

THE W124 STARTED INDIA’S LOVE af­fair with Mercedes-Benz, and 25 years on, the E-Class is still the best-sell­ing Merc. It is the epit­ome of the ex­ec­u­tive lux­ury sedan and for good rea­son. This gen­er­a­tion of the E re­de­fined what we can ex­pect from this seg­ment — in terms of space, lux­ury and com­fort, not to men­tion that it re­mains a great car to drive. Any­one step­ping out to buy an Audi A6 would, in all like­li­hood, have al­ready been to a Mercedes deal­er­ship to check out one of these. They would be crazy not to — this Merc has been the bench­mark since its launch in 2017.

Looks are ob­vi­ously sub­jec­tive, but there’s no de­bat­ing the fact that the Audi A6 is the fresher de­sign. The A6 looks young, screams dy­namism and will def­i­nitely get you more at­ten­tion on the streets. The E-Class on the other hand, as hand­some as it is, has be­come a bit com­mon­place. The fact that the styling on the C-, S- and E-Class are so sim­i­lar means you’re see­ing it around ev­ery street cor­ner. Rus­sian dolls, the Ed called them once, and I couldn’t agree more. The E-Class’ lines are also softer and more rounded off, whereas the

A6 has a sharper, more chis­elled look. Audi’s core fo­cus on tech­nol­ogy is also very ap­par­ent on the out­side with the light­ing el­e­ments, whereas the E-Class is a lot more som­bre in this re­gard. To my eye, the A6 is stun­ning and gets my pick.

The E-Class gives you more va­ri­ety with what is un­der the hood — you can get it with both petrol and diesel en­gines, for starters. Go­ing straight up against the A6 is the E200 with a 2-litre petrol mo­tor that puts out 194bhp. Pic­tured here is the E 200d, that makes 192bhp and there’s also a V6 E 350d though that is a fair bit more ex­pen­sive and there­fore an un­fair com­par­i­son. The fact that the E has a diesel im­me­di­ately makes it more ap­peal­ing to a wider au­di­ence, how­ever if you were to com­pare just the petrols, the Audi has the edge. It makes more power (241bhp) and this gives it bet­ter per­for­mance, reach­ing the ton 1.2 sec­onds quicker than the E200. The 200d’s per­for­mance is slightly bet­ter, but the A6 is still quicker.

Be­hind the wheel though, the E feels more in­volv­ing; the steer­ing is much nicer. It is rear­wheel drive and that leaves the front wheels un­cor­rupted to fo­cus on steer­ing du­ties. The

E-Class isn’t a car that you’re go­ing to try to get side­ways up hair­pins, it’s too dig­ni­fied for that, but the rear-wheel drive na­ture of the sedan does keep things more ex­cit­ing than the front-wheel drive A6. The steer­ing feels more con­nected (it is more weighty too) and you don’t have to deal with the torque steer like on the A6. Up a wind­ing road, the E feels more di­alled in, de­spite the fact that it is the long wheelbase and has ab­so­lutely no in­ten­tions of be­ing sporty.

What the E-Class nails and the A6 misses out on, is how hun­kered down it feels. The E feels solidly planted both on the high­way, and on a wind­ing road. Mean­while, the A6 has a light­ness to all its con­trols; even the chas­sis has a sense of float­i­ness when it is re­ally be­ing gunned. The E may not be able to match the A6’s low speed ride qual­ity, but it feels more tied down and solid — some­thing we have come to as­so­ciate with Ger­man cars.

What re­ally tips the scales in the favour of the E-Class, though, is its size. The E is the king when it comes to space, the long-wheelbase vari­ant ab­so­lutely de­stroy­ing the rear seat space of any of the com­pe­ti­tion. Equip­ment lev­els are great as well, and you get plenty more than the A6 in­clud­ing elec­tric sun blinds, a re­clin­ing rear seat, a tab to con­trol the air-con and mu­sic from the rear, panoramic sun­roof and a flashy-look­ing Burmester sys­tem. That said, it would be un­fair to say that the E-Class’ dash is bet­ter than the A6’s or the other way around. Both cars have very dif­fer­ent ap­proaches here. The A6 is more tech-laden, with screens and more glossy pan­els, whereas the E-Class is a lit­tle more ma­ture and stately with acres of open-pore wood and just one mas­sive screen in ad­di­tion to the dig­i­tal in­stru­ment clus­ter. En­ter­ing the E-Class af­ter the A6 is like en­ter­ing a whiskey tast­ing room, af­ter spend­ing the day in a gam­ing ar­cade. Both places you won’t mind be­ing in, but both at op­po­site ends of the spec­trum.

At `61.8 lakh for the E 200 and `62.8 lakh for the E 200d, the Mercedes-Benz ac­tu­ally de­liv­ers great value. It feels a lot nicer to drive, and has su­pe­rior equip­ment lev­els, and most im­por­tantly has far more rear seat space than the A6. What does the A6 have go­ing for it then? It is fresh and thus a bet­ter look­ing car with a flashier cabin and great ride. That said, it is still hard to rec­om­mend it when put sideby-side with the long-wheelbase E-Class. Audi has upped its game sig­nif­i­cantly with the A6, but the E re­mains the bench­mark. ⌧

Aatish Mishra (@whatesh)

Up a wind­ing road, the E feels more di­alled in, de­spite the fact that it has no

in­ten­tions of be­ing sporty

Be­low: The A6 looks sharper, com­pared to the Merc. Far left: The E-Class (top) has far more leg-room than the A6 (bot­tom)

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