£33,720 - £52,870 Price range
45 - 67 MPG
The Audi A6 is an executive saloon that, along with the BMW 5 Series, is starting to look a little past it when parked next to the shiny new Mercedes E-Class and Volvo S90. It can be had in a variety of flavours including the Avant estate and the rugged Allroad.
It may be getting on a bit, but the A6’s interior quality is top notch, with squidgy plastics and expensive trim pieces on show everywhere you care to cast your eyes – it feels and looks expensive. What it doesn’t offer, though, is the technology of newer models, which feature ever-bigger infotainment screens in place of conventional buttons.
The driving experience could also do with a freshen up. The A6 has never been the most enthralling steer – unless you opt for the foaming-mouthed RS6 model, of course – but it also falls behind rivals when it comes to ride quality.
Another disadvantage is the lack of a basic petrol engine – just the high-power S6 and RS6 are petrol powered. As a result, the diesels are a better option for most people – they’re cheap to run and offer plenty of performance. The 2.0-litre Ultra is phenomenally fuel efficient for this size of car, while the six-cylinder 3.0-litre bi-turbo diesel has all the performance you could really need.
Equipment levels are very generous and every A6 comes with sat-nav, climate control, xenon headlights, a leather interior and a powerful stereo. However, most buyers go for the S line trim that gives the car sportier, more distinctive looks and a contemporary interior finish.
A replacement Audi A6 is rumoured to be in development, with a predicted release date in 2017. See how the current model compares to its closest rivals in our dedicated Mercedes E-Class vs BMW 5 Series vs Audi A6 group test review.
It’s genuinely hard to believe that the Audi A6’s interior is a six-year-old design because it still oozes sophistication and is extremely easy to use. The standard leather interior helps here – it’s real unlike the man-made material fitted to a Mercedes E-Class – and you also get quad-zone climate control that gives all four passengers their own ventilation controls.
There’s a sense of inner quality that newer rivals can’t match – be it the solid thunk of the doors closing, the quality feel of the leather-bound steering wheel or the metal trim pieces that are cold to the touch – you get the impression that the A6 will be rattle free 150,000 miles and many years down the line.
And huge distances present few issues – truth be told, the A6 positively relishes long motorway jaunts. The seats are extremely comfortable and the cabin quiet enough to allow for hours of high-speed cruising. That’s true whether you’re on a UK motorway or a delimited German Autobahn.
The only slip up comes in the form of the MMI infotainment system. Its screen is much smaller than the latest infotainment displays and the graphics fall behind in terms of clarity – a Mercedes E-Class’ system looks almost space age by comparison but, unlike in the Merc, you don’t need a degree in computer programming to master the Audi’s sat-nav.
Audi A6 passenger space
Getting comfortable behind the wheel of the Audi A6 should present few issues – there’s a huge range of adjustment for both the seat and steering wheel that means getting comfy will be easy, no matter your size or shape. Visibility is pretty decent too, though – this being a large saloon – the rear screen can seem awfully far away when reverse parking and over-the-shoulder visibility is restricted by the large C pillar.
It only takes a quick glance to the rear to see that back-seat adults are well catered for. Actually, the roomy rear quarter gets close to matching the space offered by the more expensive Audi A8 – two adults will feel spoilt for head and legroom. And they can also sample the novelty of having their own ventilation controls.
Audi A6 boot space
Even though the boot is a tad smaller than the one in the E-Class, at 530 litres, it is larger than what you get in a BMW 5 Series and is easily big enough for four suitcases. Anyway, what the Audi loses in terms of outright capacity, it makes up for with its wide boot opening that makes loading bulky items simple. As an added bonus, 40:20:40 splitting rear seats come as standard (they’re optional on rivals) and mean the A6’s boot can be extended to carry longer items such as a bicycle.
One thing that the A6 has never offered is an enthralling drive – if that’s what you’re looking for then the BMW 5 Series or Jaguar XF remain the go-to choices. Thrown into a corner with gusto, the front-wheel drive Audi loses grip long before the rear-wheel drive BMW or Jaguar, although the quick steering makes it feel reasonably enthusiastic up until that point.
Audi offers the option to fit quattro four-wheel drive, which gives lots of traction no matter how miserable the weather conditions are, but doesn’t make the A6 any more entertaining to drive. For this reason, it’s better as a cruiser than it is a sports saloon. Stick to the motorways and you’ll be perfectly happy…
…so long as you pick the right suspension setup that is. Black edition and S line models come as standard with lower and stiffer sports suspension that can dish out a bottom-bruising pummeling on bumpy B roads. Thankfully, the more forgiving standard setup is a no-cost option. If you want a magic-carpet ride quality then the £2,000 adaptive air suspension is an option that needs ticking.
Gearboxes also figure prominently on Audi’s notoriously vast options list. Basic models get a six-speed manual transmission that slots through the gears with precision. If you’d rather let the car shift through the cogs for you, you can opt for Audi’s seven-speed DSG ‘box, which delivers the quick changes expected of a twin-clutch system. Finally there’s an eight-speed conventional auto. It comes fitted as standard to the top-of-the-range 3.0-litre diesel models and slushes through the gears almost imperceptibly, working perfectly in tandem with the engine’s lazy power delivery.
Audi only offers one petrol engine in the A6 range and – as it’s the 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 fitted to S6 and RS6 performance variants – it’s fair to say it or, at least, its running costs, will not be for everyone. Not to worry, the diesel engines are actually some of the best on the market – they’re quiet, cheap to run and offer more pace than most cars on the road.
Audi A6 diesel engines
It’s the basic diesel that comes recommended. Its 2.0-litre capacity produces 187hp, which is enough to get the car from 0-62mph in a shade more than eight seconds and, with a top speed of 144mph, it brushes off the UK’s 70mph national speed limit with the same ease that Usian Bolt collects gold medals. But, unlike Bolt, it’ll keep on going like a long-distance runner – fuel economy of more than 65mpg and a 73-litre fuel tank mean that an 800-mile range is readily attainable, plus annual road tax is laughably cheap – costing just £30 a year.
The rest of the diesel range is composed of the 3.0-litre models – two single turbo versions with 215, 268 or the biturbo range-topper with 316hp. Along with offering wads of power and torque for effortless overtaking, their six-cylinder design means they’re even quieter and smoother than the basic four-cylinder model, plus even the biturbo returns close to 50mpg fuel economy.
Audi A6 petrol engines
Choosing a petrol A6 means opting for either the seriously rapid S6 or the downright explosive RS6 Avant. Both models come with four-wheel drive, offer acceleration to worry the space shuttle (the RS6 does 0-62mph in just 3.9 seconds), but also have running costs that could bleed the Bank of England dry – try fuel economy of no better than 30mpg on for size, and getting that will take some doing.
It has 175bhp and the critics say it's reasonably quick, great for motorway cruising and won't have trouble overtaking. There are a a couple of complaints that it's not as refined as the bigger diesel engines available, with a bit too much noise when accelerating. Running costs won't be too bad, with 57mpg and road tax of just £95 a year (£115 with the Multitronic gearbox).
This engine will be the most popular choice, with 75% of all buyers going for it. 2.0 TDI SE is the trim level to go for; it has all the kit you need, is well priced and the suspension set-up makes it more comfortable than the S-Line version.
In summary then it's very easy to recommend the 2.0 TDI. The reviews are impressive and it's decent value for money.
To see a summary of what the experts made of the A6, click on the 'overview' tab above.
Such a combination is commended by the experts. One says the engine's "outright force is formidable"; another describes it as "effortless". The eight-speed automatic gearbox is smooth and quick, and even the engine's aural qualities are praised - not always the case with diesels.
A couple of testers note a brief delay when you prod the throttle, but once it gets going there's plenty of pace. While the A6 wrapped around it isn't overly exciting, the BiTDI engine is truly impressive.
You’ll not want for much from the 3.0 TDI Quattro - it can offer you pretty much everything, judging by the reviews. Want performance? Of course you do, which is why the 245bhp variant with Audi’s twin-clutch gearbox can reach 60mph in just over 6 seconds, and do 155mph. Want economy? You’ve got that too - 47mpg from this twin-clutch, Quattro variants.
Want refinement? Well this is an engine that critics say is barely audible on startup, and even quieter on the move. Thanks to Audi’s weight-reducing efforts it’s also an incredibly under-stressed engine, barely working hard at all even when using significant proportions of the performance on offer. The seven speed S-Tronic gearbox works nicely with this engine, changing quickly and seamlessly.
If you want ultimate economy then the 2.0 TDI will be a better bet and some testers prefer the drive, but the 3.0 TDI Quattro suits the A6’s character perfectly.
There's no doubting it's a great car, but as with every A6 engine though, there's complaints that it's just not fun enough to drive.
Just make sure you don't want to go for the 3.0 TDI instead. It's slightly slower but considerably cheaper to run.
While the S6 itself isn't the tactile driving machine you'd get from BMW, there aren't many complaints about the V8 engine - with power described as "colossal", "remarkable" and "scorching".
Opinion is split on its sound - the S6 features noise-cancelling tech to improve refinement, but one or two reviews reckon it takes some drama from the rumbling V8. More impressive is the cylinder deactivation technology, letting the ballistic S6 achieve nearly 30 mpg combined.
The A6 is well stocked with standard safety equipment. It’s possible to add many other options too, including a night vision assistant (infrared camera) with pedestrian detection, tyre pressure monitoring systems, and a reversing camera, to name few.
It scored five stars in the Euro NCAP test in 2011, and it scored full marks for protecting an 18-month-old infant. It can detect how close to the steering wheel occupants are, and adjust the airbag inflation to suit by letting gas out of vents in the airbag. That’s smart.
To make up for the fact that it’s an ageing design, Audi loads the A6 with plenty of standard equipment – so you get a windscreen and front windows that are sound insulated for whisper-quiet cruising, leather seats, bi-xenon headlights and sat-nav, although the latter operates via a smallish 6.5-inch display.
Audi A6 S line
Despite all the standard equipment, most people steer clear of SE Executive in favour of S line trim. It gains a body kit and larger 18-inch wheels that make the car look a lot more distinctive, while sports seats and metal trim pieces give the interior a contemporary air. The bigger wheels and sports suspension that’s 20mm lower firm up the ride, but you can always spec the standard spring setup for no extra cost.
Audi A6 Black Edition
Black Edition trim adds more of the same. The S line’s 18-inch alloys are skipped in favour of 20-inch versions and much of the exterior chrome is replaced with sinister looking glossy black plastics. Inside you also get shiny black plastic trim, as well as a powerful BOSE surround-sound stereo.
With a new A6 due for release in 2017, some might question the idea of buying the current model, and they would have a point – the newer Mercedes E-Class and Volvo S90 are fundamentally better cars. But in many ways the A6 still feels competitive and, of course, with a new model on the way, there’s the opportunity to make some impressive savings buying a current model using our A6 deals page.