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
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)