Quattro is a great system to have – it makes the A6 as safe and secure in bad weather conditions as any car on the road – but does have the effect of pushing up emissions and hitting fuel economy.
The 2.7 comes only in front-wheel drive, and it’s very noticeable. Quattro-driven cars need to use the traction control systems about as often as often as Roman Abramovich needs to borrow a tenner because he’s a bit skint.
But the 2.7 calls on electronic intervention on a much more regular basis, particularly when pulling away, which suggests the front wheels struggle at times to deal with all the torque and weight.
So it doesn’t feel as planted to the road as the bigger- engined A6, but it’s a question of degrees – it doesn’t scrabble for traction too much to be a big problem. It is a big, heavy engine for a front-wheel drive car, which means that, if you push it too hard, safely understeers and lifting off the throttle brings everything back into line.
The 2.7 feels much slower than the 3.0-litre although on paper the figures suggest it isn’t. It delivers 176bhp between 3,300 and 4,250rpm and 280lbs-ft between 1,400 and 3,300rpm and accelerates from rest to 62mph in 8.1 seconds.
The reason it feels slower is due to the 2.7’s other key selling point. It is only offered as a manual at the moment, and the fast, snappy changes of the auto exaggerates the speed of the 3.0-litre.
But having a manual gearbox means better fuel consumption and lower CO2 emissions, and 190g/km and almost 40mpg is pretty good for a car of this magnitude.
Interestingly, we’ve found over the years that many manufacturers’ claims of official combined fuel consumption are pretty ambitious, to the point of being fiction, but the 2.7-litre is the second A6 we’ve had that hit its combined figure without any real need to change driving style. It does what is says on the tin, and that’s great for fleets trying to predict running costs.
The gearbox is typically Audi – the gearlever is accurate to the point of being overly clinical – but there is no awkwardness to the shift.
Often, big diesels with a manual box change thumpily, with all that torque surging through the clutch, and the manual 3.2 FSI petrol-engined A6 is also snatchy, but this model is beautifully smooth and easy to use.
It marries well with the engine, which is fantastically smooth. It might not have the punch of the 3.0-litre but it is much more refined and is quiet and vibration-free, even when it is cold, which isn’t always the case with diesels.
At nearly £4,000 less than the equivalent 3.0-litre A6, the 2.7 is an excellent option for drivers wanting big-car attitude and performance with lower tax and running costs.
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £29,357
CO2 emissions (g/km): 190
BIK % of P11D in 2004: 25%
Graduated VED rate: £165
Insurance group: 16
Combined mpg: 39.8
CAP Monitor residual value: £11,750/40%
Depreciation 29.34 pence per mile x 60,000: £17,604
Maintenance 3.29 pence per mile x 60,000: £1,974
Fuel 10.33 pence per mile x 60,000: £6,198
Wholelife cost 42.96 pence per mile x 60,000: £25,776
Typical contract hire rate: £551
At a glance
We don’t like
Three rivals to consider
These four cars are all excellent, and represent some of the best diesel technology available on the market. In particular, the A6, S-type and 525d are some of the most refined engines around, and the E270 CDI is still good, but not quite in the same league as the other three in terms of smoothness. The Jaguar is the best specified, with full leather interior, while the Audi and BMW are decently kitted out, but the equipment in the E-class is thin on the ground.
NONE of these cars are very cheap when it comes to service, maintenance and repair, with the cheapest, the Audi A6 costing a nearly £2,000 over three years/60,000 miles. The most expensive is the BMW 5-series which, at 4.50ppm would cost £2,700 over the same period. Part of the reason will be its run-flat tyres, which fleets are finding are increasingly expensive to replace on all cars that feature them.
IT is not often that Mercedes-Benz comes top of the fuel consumption pops, but on this occasion, its 43.5 mpg combined figure puts it there. Over 60,000 miles, the E270 CDI would rack up a fuel bill of £5,670, while the most expensive, the A6, would cost nearly £6,200, largely due to the fact that it’s a big, heavy car. But the fact that all of these cars hover around the 40mpg mark illustrates what a fantastic job the manufacturers have done to build engines that can deliver such results in such large cars.
In percentage terms, the 525d holds the most value according to CAP at 45%, but thanks to a lower front end price and a percentage retained value of 44%, the E-class is the best for pence-per-mile depreciation, and would lose just over £16,600. The Jaguar struggles against the might of the German brands on retained value and would ship £19,500 while the A6 sits in the middle and would lose £17,600.
THIS is something of a shock result: Mercedes-Benz the cheapest car for wholelife costs. This doesn’t happen often, but a strong residual value showing and good fuel economy put the E270 CDI just ahead of the BMW and Audi. It would cost £24,924 over 60,000 miles – £500 less than the second-placed 525d. The Audi is not far behind, but the Jaguar is a little off the pace. Depreciation is its main enemy, and in total, it would be more than £3,000 more to run than E-class.
Emissions and BIK tax rates
For an employee in the 40% tax bracket, will a few hundred quid either way in tax be enough to seal the deal? The most expensive for benefit-in-kind tax, the S-type, would cost £3,261 in 2005/2006 – about £300 more than any of the others cars. But that’s less than £30 a month more and the others are still nearly £3,000 a year in tax. The cheapest is the BMW at £2,785, despite its high P11D price. Its low CO2 emissions are the reason for that.
The superb S-type is a little too expensive to win here, while the E-class is the entry-level specification, and it shows. That leaves the 2005 Fleet News Awards Executive Car versus the Company Car of the Year, voted for by Fleet News’ readers: BMW and Audi. Thanks to lower tax, better residuals and fuel economy, the 525d just sneaks first ahead of the A6.
WINNER: BMW 525d Sport manual