Initially there’s a choice of four completely redeveloped engines – one 300PS 3.0 V6 TFSI petrol plus three diesels: a 177PS 4cyl 2.0TDI, a 204PS V6 3.0TDI and the 245PS V6 3.0TDI tested here. Complete with the supersmooth, quick-changing S tronic 7-speed auto, this model’s mountainous 369lb/ft of torque gives it surging acceleration from very low revs and makes 70mph cruising on the motorway seem like a crawl. Given a stretch of unrestricted German autobahn it would doubtless effortlessly rush to its governed 155mph max and could dispatch the 0-62 sprint in a piffling 6.1 seconds, which, given that this isn’t a more sporty S or RS model, is impressive indeed.
At £2,000 the A6’s Adaptive Air Suspension is an expensive option, but as also tested on the A7 Sportback, which uses the same platform, it’s an option that’s worth it if you can afford it, especially considering the current lousy state of UK roads. As you’d expect, the standard A6 feels nimble, and it rides and handles impeccably. However, the electronically-controlled, self-levelling adaptive air suspension is uncannily proficient in Auto mode, both in terms of luxurious ride comfort and in limiting body roll when cornering hard, while the ride and/or handling is enhanced still further by the additional Comfort and Dynamic modes.
The build quality of current Audis isn’t just hard to fault, it’s effectively impossible. All the A6’s interior leathers, plastics, metals and woods are to an impeccable standard, as is the paint, chrome and alloy finishes of the exterior. Like the new A8, A7 and A5s, the new A6 is also is remarkably quiet and refined. In the most recent (2010) JD Power ownership satisfaction study, the A5 and old A6 both scored a top three placing in their respective classes, and although Audi as a brand ranked lower than rivals Lexus, Jaguar, Mercedes and BMW, it still managed a comfortably above industry average score.
It almost goes without saying that the SE spec A6 comes as standard with items like an anti-theft alarm, light and rain sensors, ESP, front and side airbags with curtain airbags, ISOFIX child seat mountings, Xenon and LED lights and a tyre pressure monitoring system, but it also features Audi’s Pre-sense system which helps prevent collisions, or mitigates the consequences. Key safety-related options include a night vision assistant employing a thermal imaging camera to highlight persons in front of the car, the Audi side assist blind spot warning system, the Audi lane assist lane departure detection system, LED headlamps and the pre-sense system first seen in the 2010 A8.
Unlike the 4-seater A5 and A7 Sportbacks, the A6 saloon is a full 5-seater with generous head, shoulder and legroom in both front and rear. A6 boot capacity is a useful 530 litres, extending to 995 litres with the rear seatbacks folded. Satnav is standard on all new A6s, but practicality and convenience on my test car was further enhanced by a Storage package, a load thru facility and a power-operated boot lid, while comfort was boosted by Comfort seats, deluxe 4-zone aircon and Milano leather with an ‘extended leather package’.
Many options have already been mentioned, but they’re merely the tip of the iceberg as this test car also had MMI Navigation Plus with Google mapping, a top spec Bang & Olufsen audio system, Park Assist, Night Vision Assist plus a whole lot more, and all this hiked the basic OTR price of my test car from £39,110 up to a very substantial £67,120. At that price the impressive 47.9mpg and 158g/km (tax band G) figures may not be too relevant, but there’s no doubting that the new A6 is a remarkably fine car – probably the best-in-class – but you need very deep pockets to spec it to this level.