Choosing an executive express has just become a lot more difficult with the introduction of Audi’s latest A6 saloon and estate to the playpen.
Billed as a baby A8, the new car promises more luxury, advanced technology and better drivability than its predecessor.
Crucial in the company car segment is fuel economy, and it’s here that the core A6 holds its own above all its rivals.
From launch, there will be two engines, a 2.0-litre ‘40’ TDI and a 3.0-litre ‘50’ TDI. Both use mild-hybrid technology to boost fuel economy.
The 40 TDI is the fleet pick. In saloon guise, it returns 62mpg and has CO2 emissions from just 117g/km.
With 204PS available, the four-cylinder unit is more powerful than that of key rivals, such as the BMW 520d and Mercedes E 220 d.
Power is transmitted to the front wheels via a seven-speed automatic transmission and the A6 40 TDI has a 0-60mph acceleration time of 8.1 seconds.
The V6-powered 50 TDI is equally impressive, with CO2 emissions from 146g/km. Featuring Quattro all-wheel-drive and an eight-speed auto box, it can still achieve more than 50mpg and develops 286PS. Petrol engines are expected to join the line-up before the end of the year, along with a Quattro version of the 40 TDI.
Externally, the A6 is elegant and sophisticated. It doesn’t have as much road presence as a 5 Series, but it offers a more modern look than the current E-Class.
Audi rarely struggles to produce a class-leading interior and the new A6 is no exception. The dashboard looks as if it is lifted straight from the A8, with two high-definition touchscreens responsible for most of the controls.
The new set-up is easy to use, responsive and offers a range of connectivity options.
A larger wheelbase provides more interior space and a bigger boot than before. The A6 saloon has enough luggage space to match a 5 Series but it is about a rucksack behind the E-Class.
In the A6 Avant it’s a similar story, although the E-Class has a greater advantage.
Customers can choose from two versions of the A6 – the entry-level Sport or the S-Line.
Prices for the Sport start at £38,640 and standard specification is high with LED lights, heated leather seats, sat-nav, lane departure warning and a rear view camera.
S-Line versions cost upwards of £42,000 and feature sportier styling and larger 19-inch alloy wheels plus alcantara upholstery and Matrix Led headlights.
To simplify selection, Audi offers a range of packs to enhance the A6. Fleet customers are most likely to be tempted by the Tour Pack, costing £1,950. It adds Adaptive Cruise Assist – which controls acceleration and braking plus lane keeping – with traffic sign recognition and high beam assist.
However, to get the full suite of driver assistance systems, the A6 also requires the City Pack, which adds blind-spot monitoring and cross traffic alert for £1,375.
For £1,495, the Technology Pack increases the size of the sat-nav screen from 8.8 inches to 10.1 inches. It also adds the Virtual Cockpit digital instruments and wireless phone charging.
Settling in to the A6 for long journeys is a pleasure, thanks to its comfortable seats and quiet cabin.
It is hard to imagine that anyone would need more power than the 40 TDI delivers, especially given its high efficiency and the tax liability of more powerful models.
The A6 is among the cheapest in the segment for benefit-in-kind tax – if you ignore plug-in hybrids – costing a little over £2,000 per year in base trim.
Keen drivers will find the A6 feels light and fairly nimble, although there are four suspension configurations to choose from.
We were able to try only the S-Line version, which features firmer and lower springs than Sport models. The ride is noticeably rough on country lanes. Opting for adaptive dampers (£1,150) should help mitigate this.
Models fitted with the optional air suspension are far more comfortable and dynamically proficient, but cost a whopping £2,050 extra.
Overall, the A6 offers an excellent executive package. Its performance, handling and technology should satisfy almost all drivers while competitive running costs and strong residuals make it an eminently sensible fleet choice.
Figures shown for Audi A6 Saloon 40 TDI 204 S-Line Technology