Audi’s New A6 treads lightly

The launch of Audi’s new A6 feels like it’s been overshadowed by the A7 which arrived on the scene back in July. Back then Audi described the A7 as “..standing almost toe to toe with the current A6 Saloon” and now that we’ve pored over the details of this new A6, this quote could be reworded from ‘almost’ to ‘exactly’ – we’re struggling to spot the difference between the two, apart from the A7’s fastback rear and higher price.

To distinguish the A7 from its 4-door sibling, Audi have chosen to start the A6 range with the 2.0 TDI SE entry level model priced at £30,145 OTR, extending up to the 3.0 TDI quattro S line at £40,650 OTR. The A7 starts where the A6 finishes off with the equivalent 3.0 TDI quattro S line dropping in at sizeable £49,790 OTR. That’s quite a hike for some pretty rear hips, but perhaps we’d find more justification for the difference if we took the full standard specifications into account.

In most other respects you’d easily mistake A6 for A7, from the front-end at least. Audi are placing great emphasis on the relative lightness of the new A6, combining composite aluminium and steel construction means the 2.0 TDI model weighs just 1,575kg, 15% less than an all-steel equivalent despite enhanced equipment levels. The resulting gain in efficiency is worthy of praise, with a 57mpg-plus economy potential and low CO2 outputs of as little as 129g/km.

Spot the difference. This is Audi's A7 by the way, although you'd be forgiven for not realising.

The range of engines available at launch in the UK include the 175bhp 2.0-litre TDI, 201bhp 3.0-litre TDI, 242bhp 3.0-litre TDI and 296bhp 3.0-litre TFSI which all make use of advanced direct injection technology for the leanest possible fuel burn rate, and work in conjunction with important technologies from the brand’s modular efficiency platform – the start-stop system, the energy recovery system and the innovative thermal management concept. As a result, fuel economy has improved by up to 19 per cent compared to the previous model.

The headlines of the not-too-distant future are likely to be claimed by the A6 hybrid, which by combining a 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine with an electric motor will be capable of zero emission urban driving and up to 45.6mpg, yet will also have 245PS on tap for strong performance.

As was the case with the previous model, the new Audi A6 will also be available with a wide range of drivetrains. The choice, based on the engine version, will include a manual six-speed transmission or continuously variable multi-tronic CVT for front-wheel-drive models, and the new seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch transmission for quattros. Each unit features a wide gear-ratio spread which makes a significant contribution to their overall efficiency.

The quattro permanent all-wheel drive system fitted to the new A6 Saloon is of course the latest incarnation, with a crown gear centre differential and a torque-vectoring function for the ultimate in traction, stability and dynamic response. For the top-of-the-line engines, the quattro sport differential that has already won acclaim in performance cars such as the S4 will also be offered as an option.

New energy efficient electromechanical power steering, in conjunction with the lightweight suspension set-up with its considerable aluminium content, will impart even greater precision and composure in the new A6. The standard fit Audi drive select adaptive dynamics system will allow drivers to fine-tune the car’s responses as desired via the MMI screen, and in front-wheel-drive models the latest Electronic Stability Programme with electronic limited slip differential will imperceptibly boost agility and subtly maintain order during challenging driving.

Roomy interior shares much in common with the A7

The roomy interior with its cocooning ‘wraparound’ dash panel combines the latest Audi design language with the most salient technological advances and the finest materials. Supportive seats upholstered as standard in Milano leather position occupants perfectly in relation to the cabin’s focal point, the Multi Media Interface with its 6.5-inch retractable monitor and large central control knob. MMI provides easy and intuitive access to the high quality audio system, the Bluetooth phone interface and the SD card-based navigation system – a much prized asset which, uniquely in the premium sector at this level, is standard in the A6.

An 8-inch monitor and fingertip sensitive touch pad are available to upgrade MMI to MMI Touch. The system’s touch pad enables characters to be ‘drawn’ by the driver using an index finger for navigation or telephone data entry. As well as ultra-intelligent 3D navigation mapping, the new MMI Touch system can store audio tracks and telephone data on its sizeable hard disk.

Vorsprung durch Technik comes as standard

Online services including news and weather information supplied by Google will also be accessible if the Mobile Telephone Preparation High option is specified. This option will enable drivers to plot detailed routes on a home computer and download them to the navigation system when they start a trip. Google Earth images will also be beamed via the car’s internal UMTS module to the MMI monitor for navigation purposes. Through its wireless local area network link passengers will also be able to connect to the internet using their own computers.

MMI navigation plus will be able to work closely with the optional assistance and safety systems in the new A6. It can forward route data to the control units for the headlights, the automatic transmission and the adaptive cruise control with stop & go function. This will enable these systems to recognise complex scenarios and assist the driver, although what this feels like in practice we’ll have to wait and see.

The Audi pre-sense basic system first seen in the new A8 will also provide further safety back-up by analysing the information from the ESP sensors and intervening to activate the hazard warning lights, close the side windows and sunroof and tension the seatbelts when maximum brake application or skidding is detected.

The list of optional driver aids will also include a night vision assistant employing a thermal imaging camera to highlight ‘warm-blooded’ road users in front of the car, a head-up display projecting key information onto the windscreen so that it appears to float about 2.5 metres ahead and a park assist system which automatically takes care of the steering function for the driver when manoeuvring into parallel or perpendicular parking spaces. More familiar options such as the Audi side assist blind spot warning system and the Audi lane assist lane departure detection system will also be available.

When will it be available?

Audi will begin supplying the A7 to UK customers in early 2011, whereas first deliveries of the new A6 will follow a few months later. Two specification levels – SE and S line – will be offered in the UK at launch, each including alloy wheels, leather upholstery, cruise and front and rear parking controls, SD-based satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone preparation, split/folding rear seats and light and rain sensors.

S line models will add larger 18-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lamps, sports suspension, upgraded Valcona leather upholstery and an exclusive S line exterior and interior styling treatment.

Customers will be able to choose from a wide range of options such as comfort seats with heating, cooling and massaging functions, acoustic glazing, supple leather trimming for the centre console, a 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system with 1,200 watts of power, TV reception and various connectivity upgrades for the MMI system.

Prices

The new Audi A6 Saloon    
A6 2.0 TDI SE Manual six-speed, 177PS £30,145 OTR
A6 3.0 TDI quattro SE S tronic seven-speed, 245PS £38,300 OTR
A6 3.0 TFSI quattro SE S tronic seven-speed, 300PS £38,200 OTR
A6 2.0 TDI S line Manual six-speed, 177PS £31,850 OTR
A6 3.0 TDI quattro S line S tronic seven-speed, 245PS £40,650 OTR
A6 3.0 TFSI quattro S line S tronic seven-speed, 300PS £40,550 OTR

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