Audi’s new A6 has near A8 levels of comfort.
The mid-range model in almost every car manufacturer’s lineup is often the optimum combination of design, engineering and features. That has certainly been the case with the Audi A6 and its 5 Series and E-Class rivals from BMW and Mercedes. One of the complaints about the previous model was its visual similarity to the smaller A4 and A8. Audi thus made a conscious decision to put many more degrees of separation into the styling of its new models, resulting in a much more distinctive range yet one that’s still linked by a strong family look.
The all-new 2019 Audi A6 is 0.3 inches longer, 0.5 inches wider and 0.1 inch taller than before. And despite pedestrian crash safety rules, the design team managed to reduce the front overhang, giving the new A6 less of a front-wheel-drive look. Meanwhile the wheelbase is longer, to the benefit of cabin legroom, and the generous trunk has a 530-liter capacity. “The shorter nose was a challenge for us since the pedestrian safety rules mandate various angles and shapes that can and cannot be used,” explained Parys Cybulski, one of the two exterior designers whose submission won the styling competition for the new A6. The design philosophy of the new car is significantly different from the outgoing A6 C7.
The C7 model was wider than the C6, mainly through a drawing out of its round wheel arches. Where BMW uses wider rear arches to emphasise the rear-wheel-drive of its models, the team were keen to highlight the quattro all-wheel-drive theme with the C8 design. “Our inspiration was the ur-quattro whose wheel arches say ‘four-wheel-drive’, and if you look at the car from above you would see these four arches,” Parys explained. “We use 19, but particularly 20- and 21-inch wheels to give the car its purposeful stance,” he said, elaborating on his team’s design philosophy. “The wide stance of the new A6 cars implies a low center of gravity, while the graphic line running from nose to tail gives the car its length and elegance.
Meanwhile the window arc above this is typical Audi in its shape and proportions.” Each model has unique grille proportions in line with its role in the range. Starting at the top, the A8 has the largest, most imposing grille for maximum status, especially in China. The A7’s grille is the lowest and most dynamic, with the A6 somewhere in between. On a fine detail level Parys explained that unique rubber door seals contribute to the impressive average 0.25 drag coefficient of the new A6, and also keep the inner sill areas clean in bad weather. Powered door closers are an option that enhances the cars premium feel.
Another nice detail is the incorporation of the windscreen washer jets into the wiper blades to ensure that washing fluid is applied to the screen ahead of the wipers first sweep. One new function I am in two minds about is the ability to program your mobile phone as an electronic car key. In light of the recent revelations about how easy it is to hack into electronic car security systems, and also how careless people are with their mobile phones, this is one convenience feature that is not for everyone. The dashboard of the new A6 is almost identical to that of the A7. However, as the A7 is fractionally wider there are some minor differences in the dashboard architecture that contains the same instrument pack and two big screens on the center console.
As on the A7, these are a 10.1-inch top screen for the infotainment system, and an 8.6-inch lower screen that looks after the HVAC system, and provides a keyboard for texting. The moment you move off the new A6 impresses with its refinement. With 340 hp between 5,000 and 6,400rpm, underpinned by 369 lb-ft of torque from 1,370 to 4,500 rpm the turbocharged 3.0-liter gasoline V6 in the 55 TFSI is smooth and potent, and despite having less peak torque than its diesel counterpart, it more than makes up for this with its pleasingly sharp throttle response. That crispness and the distinctive V6 snarl when being worked hard made this my favorite motor of the three variants.
While its 0-62 mph time of 5.1 seconds is rapid, the overall cocktail is what really impresses. Here the engine power and response is supported by the dynamic all-wheel steering for a car that belies its physical size on a twisty road. The dynamic all-wheel steering is operated by a spindle drive and turns the wheels up to five degrees in the opposite direction to the fronts at speeds up to 37 mph. Above this speed, the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the fronts to enhance stability. On tight bends, the fact that you can feel the rear end being guided nicely outwards to help you turn in removes the sinking feeling that you may catch a rear wheel on something solid and immovable when taking bends on small roads in a large car.
As with the A8 and A7, the new A6 uses a mild hybrid system to improve efficiency. The V6 models use a 48 V electrical system with integrated starter/generator that helps to reduce fuel consumption. The 3.0-liter V6 engine in the 50 TDI makes 286 hp and 457 lb-ft of for a 5.5- second 0-62 mph sprint and electronically limited 155 mph top speed. A lusty, torque rich motor with good economy, this will be a popular model in Europe and a good all-rounder for most people. However, this engine is not as quiet as I thought it would be with a distinctive V6 diesel clatter from behind the wheel. In acoustic terms the gas V6 is significantly more refined.
However, the really big surprise of the three models I drove was the 40 TDI, which goes on sale in Europe in the summer. As the brand new alloy cylinder head equipped 2.0 TDI motor develops just 204 hp and 295 lb ft of torque, I expected it to feel underpowered, but to my surprise it proved to be both lively and rapidly enough to be an engaging steer. The 40 TDI shares the seven-speed dual-clutch S-Tronic gearbox from the 55 TFSI, whose output coincides with the torque limit for this dual-clutch gearbox. The V6 diesel engines dispense their greater twist through the eight-speed Tiptronic gearbox.
While Tiptronic equipped A6 models have a self-locking center differential, those with the S-Tronic transmission use the ultra-technology introduced with the new Q5 last year. This means they effectively run in front-wheel-drive on a light load on the flat. When you apply throttle or the electronic sensors detect slip due to an incline or bend, the system locks up the clutches to bring the rear axle into play. While air suspension is an option, the chassis engineers have done a really impressive job with both the steel suspension too. The 40 TDI I drove had steel springs and 19-inch wheels shod with 245/45R19 Michelin tires, and handled the bumpy Portuguese country roads with aplomb.
This set up also resists roll quite well allowing you to make full use of the lively motor and the quattro 4WD grip. Lacking the cushioning effect of the air suspension the 40 TDI’s ride felt firmer, but never left the zone that can be described as comfortable. The smaller footwear obviously helps here, and the 19-inch wheels are large enough not to leave the car looking top heavy. The air suspension on the other hand achieves a level of ride comfort worthy of writing home about. Despite the fact that my 55 TFSI and 50 TDI test cars were shod with 255/35R21 and 255/40R20 tires respectively their secondary ride was nothing less than impressive, filtering out short, sharp bumps at a level not far off that of the A8.
When I drove the SWB A8 50 TDI last year I speculated that it might be a glimpse of what the new A6 might feel like. Having now driven the new A6 with the same engines I am happy to say that I was not far off the mark in this respect. As this is a four-door sedan I took the opportunity to play VIP passenger for a few miles, sitting in the rear seat diagonally opposite the driver with the front seat moved forwards. Rear cabin refinement is superb, with adequate headroom for six footers and the air suspension effectively filtering out road imperfections across a broad spectrum of surfaces. Extraneous road and mechanical noises are also very low.
With its air suspension option the ride of the new Audi A6 does not seem to suffer one iota from wearing fashionably large 20- or even 21-inch alloys wheels. The steel sprung BMW 5-Series, and even the Mercedes E-Class with its air suspension option have their work cut out to match the secondary ride of the new A6. Meanwhile, the Audi’s optional dynamic rear steering makes it noticeably more agile on twisty roads. The new A6 will appear in European Audi showrooms in July, with US sales following in the third quarter.