Form meets function as the German car-maker’s newest A6 model ticks all the boxes for luxury performance, says Alvin Thomas.
Silently clawing away at the luxury market for the last 25 years, the Audi A6 has long been placed in a clan of stalwart cars that form the cornerstone of the posh car industry – a market chiefly dominated by Germans.
Perhaps it’s the consistency with which Audi performs that has created a hype around the car that fits in the lineup as an L-sized alternative to the XL-sized A8 ultra-luxury limo.
It’s a winner across all fronts – and always has been.
From the edgy design to the punchy engine options and facile tech toys, there was a lot to the A6 that helped it gain its share in the market, even if it was something of a diamond-in-the-rough early in its production cycle.
Yet six generations is how long it’s taken Audi to realise its mission. And last week, we drove the new A6 to death, putting it through its paces to see if it has what it takes to rough up its competitors from the same side of the pool.
It’s safe to say that the revamped A6 fulfills its mandate. However, it also brings things in line with a dash of pizzazz that’s long been missing in the premium segment of cars (save for BMW with the 5er, perhaps).
The result is a striking car that’s stylish, sleek, and modern – especially in S-Line trim. Take its looks: which we wouldn’t peg as boyish. In fact, it’s youthful enough to steal a glimpse or two when passing by, but with the kind of grandeur you’d best expect when splashing out the big bucks.
From the sharp headlamps with HID lights and daring LED strips, to the bold flares on the fender that hide the otherwise long overhangs upfront and character lines on the hood, the front end remains as busy as any other modern Audi.
This is the takeaway on the side profile and posterior, too. A long wheel-base ensues, but it’s disguised by glass that extends well into the C-pillar. Couple that with the 20-inch rims, and it’s visually significant when compared with the brand’s own A3 and A4 sedans.
The posterior is evocative of Audi’s newer offerings and, although it ditches the large single wraparound light bar for two regular LED ones, the A6 still looks like a million bucks. Our only protest would be the faux exhaust tips embedded into the rear bumper.
Audi does interiors well, and it’s no different in the A6. The overall cabin layout reminds us of the plusher (and pricier) A7 and A8 stablemates, and its materials feel just as plush and solidly put together as in the other cars. Our tester came outfitted in expensive-feeling wood and nickel-finished metal trim on the dashboard, with much of the cabin trimmed up in leather with glossy piano black accents around the two gigantic touchscreens that serve as the vehicle’s control hub.
The latter 8.8-inch screen in the bottom replaces the click-wheel knob from yesteryear, while a larger 10.1-inch unit takes up the top half. The duo controls everything from your audio (even though there’s a physical knob control as well) to your A/C and in-car functions. The system is easy to master, intuitive, and has quick graphics. The unit is also home to the 360-degree 3D around-view monitor, which can come in handy when parking in tight spots.
There’s a third screen too: a 12.3-inch ‘Virtual Cockpit’ display on the instrument cluster that throws on a live map between the digital speedo- and tachometer.
Having grown for the 2020MY, the A6 adds 7mm in length, 12mm in width and 2mm in height. This translates to a roomier cabin; there’s plenty of leg and head room for five passengers. Rear passengers are even treated with dual vents and their own individual climate controls.
Add to all that a big boot: a 530-litre-capacity one to be specific. This is good enough for two full-size suitcases and a few smaller ones. It’s also just as roomy as its competitors – if even a tad larger than the BMW’s.
At the moment, the base GCC-spec A6 comes with a 2.0-litre turbo four-pot motor, while a larger 3.0-litre turbo unit powered our ‘55TFSI’ tester. Power and torque figures are rated at 340hp and 500Nms, respectively. Couple this with an eight-speed tiptronic automatic transmission and the all-wheel-drive ‘Quattro’ system and you’ll be hitting the three-digit mark in just 5.1 seconds.
Performance aside, the car also boasts a mild-hybrid system that we first caught in our A7 sport-back review. It’s a 48-Volt belt-alternator-starter system and a lithium-ion battery that works to harness kinetic braking energy and makes use of a fuel-saving coast function that switches the engine off when you lift off the gas pedal at cruising speeds.
For most parts, the A6 behaves itself well on the tarmac, funneling in only mild nudges when driving over harder, deeper bumps. Our tester, which came with regular shocks and springs got along just fine, though. Tick a few more boxes and you’ll get Audi’s magnetic ride that’s supposedly smoother and can be controlled electronically depending on your drive modes.
Speaking of which, there are four pre-set drive modes: Comfort, Dynamic, Efficiency, and Normal, along with an individual mode for users who want to control separate aspects of the car. Switching modes doesn’t drastically affect the drive quality by much (aside from the Efficiency) save for some nippier gear shifts and throttle response, and a marginally weightier steering (in Dynamic mode).
The Quattro system does well to keep the car planted in fast corners, keeping understeer and oversteer at bay. As is the case with most Quattro-powered Audis, the car finds grip even in skiddy surfaces, while keeping its composure and offering a level of safety not many others in this segment (aside from the Volvo S90) offer.
The car also has character: there’s enough driving feel to keep the driver busy, and even if the steering is weightless and the petrol engine whisper-quiet, the car darts faster than the regular A7 does. It also seems a bit more decisive in tight corners than some of its German and Asian rivals, despite the lack of a spoiler.
Granted, the A6’s target audience probably wouldn’t care less for performance and race stats; not even if they were asked to do so. What matters is how the A6 has matured to become a steadfast companion to its larger siblings and a greater threat to its neighbours who’d have quite a lot to think about come facelift time.
It also looks and drives better than just about any other rivals in its segment and comes with a level of (clinical) sophistication that only Audi can pull off.
• Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged V6
• Transmission: 8-speed automatic
• Power: 340hp
• Torque: 500Nms
• Cruise control
• Speed limiter
• Wood trim
• 20-inch alloy wheels
• 12.3-inch ‘Virtual Cockpit’ instrument cluster display
• Leather upholstery
• 530-litre boot space
• Interior mood lighting
• Electronic parking brake
• 10.1- and 8.8-inch infotainment displays
• 360-degree 3D Around View Monitor system