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Audi A6

Audi

Review

AUDI believes its revised A6 range will allow company car drivers to take full advantage of next year's emissions-based company car tax regime.

The latest A6 went on sale this month, and while it looks like little has changed, there are new engines and subtle technical improvements to keep the model fresh.

New to the range is an entry-level 130bhp 2.0-litre petrol variant (also available in the A4), while the entry diesel, the 1.9 TDI, gains a power boost to 130bhp. There is also a mid-range diesel - a 155bhp version of the 2.5 V6 TDI, as well as the 180bhp TDI at the top.

Audi claims the 1.9 TDI is the most economical executive car available in the UK, returning almost 50mpg on the combined cycle, as well as being the cleanest executive car. This also allows it a good score for BIK liability from April, while the 2.5 TDI fitted with a Multitronic gearbox is heralded as the six-cylinder executive with the lowest BIK liability.

Audi is hoping these factors will help the A6 gain brownie points with fleet managers, who will help point executives in its direction rather than other premium marques.

As facelifts go, the one on the revised A6 must be the most difficult to spot. Exterior changes are limited to detailing around the grille and headlights at the front - all A6s now use the front end formerly only available on 4.2 litre models - and a black surround to the rear registration plate instead of a red reflective one.

Anoraks might also be interested to know that the passenger door mirror is slightly larger and there are new windscreen wipers - made of flexible plastic rather than metal and helping reduce noise as well as offering more efficient wiping.

The only obvious interior change is an aluminium-effect strip on the dashboard, but work has been done in invisible areas like sound insulation with a two-decibel improvement at motorway speeds.

The interior has always been one of Audi's strongest features. It must be flattering to know that when Jaguar was developing the new X-type, it looked to Audi as the benchmark for build quality. The instruments and dashboard layout are carried over from the previous A6, but there was little to fault with them. Quality is top-notch, and all the switches and controls are a delight to use.

Although some wholelife costs experts place the A6 behind rivals from BMW and Mercedes-Benz for holding its value, its key weapon is its lower list price which often results in less cash lost over its life on a fleet. This, along with variable service intervals, should ensure the A6 is as sound an investment as ever.

I took the 1.8T petrol saloon out on the test route, followed by the 155bhp diesel 2.5 V6 TDI Avant. If there was ever any doubt that an executive car would feel adequately powered by a 1.8-litre engine, then the A6 provides a resolute answer. Admittedly the turbo boosts power to 150bhp, but the 1.8T is responsive and effortlessly keeps pace with the flow of traffic.

The A6's handling prowess is not compromised by its cosseting ride quality, with neat turn-in and nicely weighted steering. The engine works away giving out a distant hum, while the five-speed manual 'box is as smooth as anything else on the market.

Anyone already familiar with the A6 will not be surprised by the generous space in the rear - passengers will feel more comfortable than in a BMW 5-series - while the boot is also usefully large.

The new 155bhp 2.5 TDI offers similar performance on paper to the 1.8T, but the diesel offers more torque and lower carbon dioxide emissions. However, there is a £2,000 premium on list price.

I also tried the 2.5 TDI Avant quattro with a six-speed manual gearbox. The change felt notchier than the five-speeder, with the lever unable to find its home quite as easily.

However, the engine is astonishingly flexible, making frequent gearchanges unnecessary. On the test route I set the engine a challenge of picking up speed at idle in sixth gear. It worked as long as the road remained flat with 30mph showing on the speedometer and about 800rpm on the tacho.

The all-wheel drive system ensured the A6 felt secure on demanding sections of road, while the tyres provided plenty of grip.

For those whom an automatic transmission is essential but are unhappy about the extra company car tax, Multitronic will be available on front-wheel drive models up to the 2.4-litre petrol and 2.5 TDI, and in each case there is no penalty in fuel consumption or CO2 emissions.

The revised A6 is a subtle improvement, but radical facelifts are almost unheard of in this sector. With strong driver appeal and a greater choice of engines - and ways of making the best of next year's company car tax changes - will ensure the A6 builds on its success.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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