July 10, 2020

Audi A6: Top of the class

Devastating good looks, enviable athleticism and all the smarts … the new Audi A6 is a car to be very, very jealous of.

Luddites should stop reading now; the Audi A6 is so loaded with technology it is unlikely even the most tech-savvy owner will ever delve to the bottom of it.

The car we are testing is the Audi A6 45 TFSI quattro. Appearances and standard equipment to the contrary, it is the low end of the A6 range, and squeaks in under $100,000 (and a significant $4000 less than the model it replaces). By the time you read this, there will probably be an even more affordable variant that dispenses with the all-wheel-drive quattro system.

The A6 leaves observers in no doubt that the owner has made his or her mark on the world. Aimed squarely at Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series buyers, the A6 appeals on many levels. According to the folks at Audi (and they should know), 76 per cent of A6 buyers are professional or managerial, and the cars go to homes where annual income is north of $300,000.

The first surprise, however, is under the bonnet, where a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine resides. Engines have been progressively shrinking in capacity, but certainly not in capability. The way the 45 TFSI performs, you’ll want to count the spark plug leads just to convince yourself it doesn’t have six cylinders. (The Audi 55 TFSI is a V6 delivering 250kW and 500Nm, but the 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine is no slouch with its 180kW and 370Nm.)

Another unexpected feature is a touch of hybrid technology, even though the Audi isn’t sold as a hybrid. The 45 (as tested) uses a 12-volt system, while the 55 gets a more potent 48-volt arrangement that recovers up to 14kW of regenerative power, helping to keep fuel consumption down (the 45 TFSI officially sips 7.3L/100km). More technological wizardry is applied to the seven-speed automatic transmission. The car starts in all-wheel (“quattro” in Audi-speak) but then disconnects the rear wheels for maximum efficiency until a need for extra traction is detected.

Driving the Audi is guaranteed to make you feel inadequate. The car uses Audi Connect Plus to find the nearest fuel station (and only those that have the premium fuel the A6 requires), tells you the per litre price, delivers parking station information (where the nearest station is, and how many vacancies are currently available). It even tells you what the weather is at your destination (including a hail warning if appropriate). When it detects road works (and these days, when would it not?) or traffic delays, it automatically recalibrates your route to avoid them. Another clever trick is its ability to overcome that infuriating problem with digital radio. When the digital signal drops out, the radio automatically switches across to web radio streaming.

When you need to input something into the system, you can talk to it or simply scribble what you want on the screen using your finger (doctors may wish to ignore this feature). Meanwhile, five cameras, five radars and 12 ultrasonic sensors are keeping watch in every direction (front and rear cross-traffic sensing is now standard).

The headlights are also smarter than your average bulb. All models get digital matrix LED headlights with intelligent dipping that lights the road more effectively, but without blinding oncoming traffic.

Small touches will also be appreciated, such as illuminated seat belt buckles, improved exit warnings (including a cyclist alert) and even a device that detects if one or more wheel nuts aren’t tight.

As usual with Audi, the interior sets the standard for others to try and match. Horizontal lines and a stepped-back dash convey an open, airy ambience, enhanced by real aluminium or real wood. We’re not so convinced by the haptic push buttons, though. A moving vehicle (even one as capable as the A6) isn’t the ideal place to be looking for a button, or trying to hit it with a wavering finger.

Inevitably, there are option packages, such as the Style Package ($3000) that upgrades the wheels to 20-inch and adds sports suspension and even better headlights. Or you can specify the S Line package that adds some aggression to the lines and some more goodies in the interior such as Bang & Olufsen sound, electric steering column adjustment, colour interior lighting package, privacy glass and panoramic glass sunroof.

Audi calls the A6 its “athlete in a business suit”. A better description would be that infuriating outstanding sportsman who also tops the class in every subject, is impossibly good looking and does it all without even appearing to make an effort. 


This story first appeared in the May 2020 issue of SALIFE magazine.

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