Monday 20 May 2019

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Cork Independent


Evolution, not revolution for Audi’s new A6

Wednesday, 5th December, 2018 4:42pm

Audi has recently said that it wants to ‘redefine’ luxury motoring in 2019 and it’s lining up a positive army of new launches to do just that.

The all-new A1 and Q3, and a special edition of the Q5 are just the tip of a four-ringed iceberg.

Normally, we’d dismiss such a grandiose claim as redefining as baseless marketing puff, but Audi might just be poised to do so as it’s about to launch its first ever electric car, the all-battery e-Tron SUV.

While we, of course, applaud both the ambition and the revolution, there is a new Audi, already on the road, that’s somewhat less revolutionary and rather more conventional in its outlook.

Not to put too fine a point on it, it’s an utterly normal four-door saloon with a 2.0 litre diesel engine driving the front wheels. And it’s the best Audi we’ve driven in quite a long time. It’s the new A6.

Style-wise, this new A6 is clearly heavily-influenced by its predecessors. In fact, the uncharitable may claim that it looks exactly the same as the old one, but actually that’s not — not quite, anyway — true.

From afar, or even from reasonably a-near, the new A6 does look very familiar, but when you get right up close, there’s a level of detailing, and a muscular weight, to the styling that looks really rather pleasing.

There’s a lot of the Prologue concept car in here (no bad thing at all) and a faint sense, when you look at the way the bonnet, bumper, and heavily undercut headlight meet, that Audi is trying to suggest the lines of some vast single-seat racing car.

If the outside is quietly pleasing, then the inside is a positive delight.

Basically, the A6 lifts its interior all but wholesale from the more expensive A7 coupe and the A8 luxury saloon, so in one sense, this is the all-time bargain of the year.

That said, it’s not perfect. The twin-screen, double-decker layout of the centre console is gorgeous, no question but it does take some getting used to. Both screens have ‘haptic’ feedback which means that when you press a virtual button on the screen, it gives a little resistance, and a faint audible click, to make it feel more like a real button, but you’re still having to take your eyes off the road for a bit too long for our tastes.

Physical buttons may be passé but they’re easier and more intuitive to operate, even today.

Still, there’s some wonderful tech in here including sat-nav that learns your regular routes and can offer traffic and diversion advice without you having to key in a destination; plus built-in connectivity that will, eventually, offer hazard warnings transmitted from other Audis and even parking space alerts.

Okay, let’s forget tech for a moment and instead concentrate on the more traditional areas in which the A6, frankly, excels.

The first of these is refinement, which is thanks in no small part to standard-fit double-glazing on its side windows. Thanks to that, and other sound-deadening measures, the cabin is impressively hushed.

It’s also very roomy, much more so that, say, a BMW 5 Series, and the seats are impressively comfortable on a long journey. So too is the level of quality, which is truly impressive.

The 2.0 litre TDI engine up front in our test car was the new 204hp version, which also gets ‘mild hybrid’ assistance, albeit from a simpler 12 volt system, not the more sophisticated 48 volt system of other Audis.

It’s basically a ramped-up stop-start system, one which allows the engine to shut down earlier and start up later, which is a boon to fuel economy, but it can be a little reluctant to deliver decent power right after a re-start, so be aware of that when waiting to pull across tight junctions.

It is very, very frugal though.

Audi claims you’ll get 4.7 litres per 100km (60mpg) on average, and pleasingly we got very close to that for much of our time with the car.

That 204hp is backed up by 400Nm of torque, which is impressive, but perhaps does drive you in the direction of optional quattro four-wheel drive. Once or twice we felt that 400Nm was a bit much to be trying to feed through the front tyres alone, so the all-wheel drive option may well be one worth pursuing, especially if your daily commute is on poor road surfaces.

Is the A6 fun to drive on such roads? Yes, but only up to a point. Those hoping for this latest model to destroy the dynamic performances of such as the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, or Jaguar XF will be left disappointed.

The A6’s steering is just too light and too distant fore proper, serious, fun. It does corner cleanly and crisply, though, and never feels anything less than utterly in command of the road.

There is an upside to this sense of slight aloofness, though, and that’s the fact that the A6 is one of the most relaxing and comfortable cars in which to travel that we’ve driven in a long time. So much so that one would have to seriously question the wisdom of spending vastly more money on the A8 luxury saloon, which isn’t in real terms all that much more luxurious.

Plain of suit it may be, but underneath, the A6 is one of the most impressive new cars we’ve driven all year.

If Audi is truly going to redefine luxury motoring in 2019, it’s starting by getting the basics very, very right.

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