It’s been 6 years since Audi launched the ‘C7’ variant of the A6; various refreshes and special editions along the way mean it’s aged well, but Audi clearly deemed it in need of a full overhaul. Roll on to the C8, Audi’s latest and technologically most advanced A6 which they very kindly invited MSF out to Portugal to experience
The new A6 carries over the 2018 A8’s design language, with key elements such as the wrap around rear tail lights, detailed headlight cluster and large front grill all present. However, touted as Audi’s ‘versatile full-size sedan’, the A6 has been designed with the intention to offer more in terms of sporty, dynamic driving. Additional design cues have therefore been added to reflect this, particularly at the rear with intricate bodywork creasing across the door and back quarter panel.
There’s real engineering foundation to these changes too, with the new A6 boasting an aerodynamic drag coefficient of just 0.25 (just 0.01 more than the eco-focused Tesla Model S & Toyota Prius). The streamlined body has also been optimised for cabin acoustics, resulting in very little wind noise even when travelling at the upper limit of motorway speeds.
It seems like with every generation cars get bigger and bigger not so with the A6. Carrying over nigh-on the same external dimensions as its predecessor.
The new A6 is no bigger on the road but does boast increased occupant space particularly in the rear where leg room, shoulder space and head room is considerably more generous!
Under The Skin
As you’d expect, the trickle down of engineering and tech from it’s bigger brother goes beyond the aesthetics. Using Audi’s latest chassis platform, overall rigidity of the new A6 has improved greatly, with heavy emphasis put on the reduced vibrational properties this brings – again helping to minimize cabin noise. Rear wheel steering is also available, working to reduce the cars turning circle by around 10% and therefore helping to make it more agile on the road.
The mild hybrid drivetrain of the A8 has also been carried over and expanded, with numerous engine configurations offered at launch and available for us to test. Top of the line is a ’55 TFSI’ V6 petrol, boasting 340hp and 0-60 times of just over 5 seconds. The closest Diesel offering is the 50 TDI, again a V6 configuration pushing out 286hp. The 40 TDI props up the bottom of the ladder, offering 204hp from a smaller 4-cylinder base. The hybridisation varies across the configurations, with the V6’s using a more sophisticated 48-volt system vs a more basic 12-volt on the 4 cylinder.
Having recently spent a week in the new A8 (full review to follow), the cabin on the A6 instantly felt familiar. The infotainment system is all the same, albeit with some of the more luxurious elements of the A8 de-tuned or tweaked slightly. Fortunately, the two central touch-screens run the same fantastic haptic-touch based multimedia software, giving quick and easy access to the multitude of features the new A6 packs.
The cabin feels incredibly spacious and airy. There’s also cubby holes aplenty – great for storing car snacks or valuables you’d rather keep out of eyeshot. Material choice and placement is also top-notch everything looked and felt premium (even if it was a total fingerprint magnet) no cheap plastics here!
Visibility out the front & rear however felt a little limited – both the bonnet and boot line are quite high, making it difficult to know exactly where they end. Fortunately, the various cameras and radar systems fitted to the car alleviate this problem to a large degree, even going so far as to provide an external 3D image of the car to aid tight spot manoeuvring – neat!
On The Road
Having collected the cars from Porto airport, venturing out to our hotel base involved a stint of motorway driving an absolute breeze thanks to the adaptive cruise and lane assist systems fitted. Audi’s efforts to improve the aerodynamics and chassis weren’t in vein either, with cabin noise kept well under wraps, even at the top end of motorway speeds.
Once I’d travelled away from Porto airport, the test routes were dominated by twisty, mountain roads; the perfect setting to put the sedans ‘sporty’ credentials to the test. First up was the rear wheel steering, and having tried cars both with and without the technology, the improvements it offers are very noticeable. Car composure and turn in was fantastic, with the A6 effortlessly gliding around all but the tightest of hairpins. It does a great job of masking the vehicles size, making it handle like a far smaller car.
Sadly this extra agility does come at a cost, with the steering feeling noticeably less communicative on the rear-wheel steer cars, even when set to ‘dynamic’ mode. It was hard to feel exactly what was going on with the front end – made particularly evident when jumping in a car without the option. Whilst it’s a great improvement for leisurely driving and manoeuvrability – it undoubtedly affords higher corner speeds – it does diminish the enjoyment levels from enthusiastic driving.
All three engine configurations were put to the test with the diesel offerings our pick thanks to the extra low end punch. This isn’t a car where it feels natural to rev the engine hard, meaning the extra torque on offer with the diesels was a big plus. Engine choice dictates either a 7 speed dual-clutch ‘S-Tronic’ gearbox or and 8-Speed auto ‘Tiptronic’ in my opinion the 7-speed is the option to go for, with the 8-speed seeming a little lazy by comparison.
Ride quality was superb throughout particular on the slightly smaller 19” wheel offerings. We only sampled the larger 20” wheels with the optional air suspension system fitted, which did a good job of making up for harshness of the lower profile tyres, as well as offering greater versatility in terms of damping quality.
On paper there’s no denying the C8 A6 is a good step forward from its predecessor; oodles of technology and engineering making this version at the cutting edge of 2018 motoring. It’s incredibly versatile, and will surely offer massive appeal to the target business/high mileage market.
It ought to be a slam-dunk success for Audi then, yet it left me feeling a little wanting: there was a bit of magic missing, as if everything was so clinical and mathematical the car lacked character. It’s good at everything, but fails to really throw itself forward and leave a lasting impression.
It’s a good car, a great car even, but it falls just short of being on the MSF elite. MSF would like thank Audi UK for the inviting us along to the A6 launch.