Audi A6 (2011-2017) review
The Audi A6 is an executive saloon that 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.
What's not so good
Find out more about the Audi A6 (2011-2017)
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 diesel range is 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.
The A6 is like a model work colleague – great at its job, but no fun to hang around with
A replacement Audi A6 is set to go on sale in the middle of 2018, but you see how this current model compares to its closest rivals in our Mercedes E-Class vs BMW 5 Series vs Audi A6 group test review.
With a new A6 about to arrive, 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. However, in many ways, the A6 still feels competitive and if you want to see a more in-depth review of the Audi, read our review below. Finally, with a new model on the way, there’s the opportunity to make some impressive savings buying a current model via our A6 deals page.
The Audi A6 has a tremendous amount of room inside for four passengers, and the boot is large and easy to load, although it is a little smaller than in the Mercedes E-Class
The A6 is about as practical as saloons get, with a nice, wide boot opening and three-way split-folding rear seats to extend the boot 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 is pretty good at cramming its cars with interior storage – that much is clear when you step inside the A6, not only are the door bins huge, the glovebox is as well and there are smaller cubbies aplenty for everything from drinks and snacks, to your phone and wallet.
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.
I've said it before and I'll say it again – if you want a fun executive buy a BMW
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
*Please contact the dealer for a personalised quote, including terms and conditions. Quote is subject to dealer requirements, including status and availability. Illustrations are based on personal contract hire, 9 month upfront fee, 48 month term and 8000 miles annually, VAT included.