In a market where diesel is the dominant fuel, the executive sector has seen plenty of launch activity with petrol-engined models recently.
BMW has introduced its EfficientDynamics fuel-saving technology across the 5 Series range, and now Audi is adding to its petrol line-up with a new lean- burn FSI unit.
The reason is simple – with such a heavy reliance on diesel. the manufacturers want to spread the model mix to maintain healthy residual values by ensuring a broader selection of cars being defleeted in three years’ time.
And the new A6 2.8 FSI could be the car to tempt drivers away from diesel versions.
The new engine is a development of the 3.2-litre V6 FSI unit found in various Audi models, but it debuts a new system which controls the engine valves very precisely to increase efficiency.
The result is that the engine cuts fuel consumption by 10%, returning a claimed 32.4mpg on the combined cycle. CO2 emissions are 207g/km.
While not at diesel levels of frugality, the figures aren’t bad for a car offering 210bhp and accelerating from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds.
The impressive thing about this new engine is how refined it is. At motorway cruising speed, it is virtually silent and only makes its presence felt under hard acceleration.
The 2.8 FSI is allied to the Multitronic continuously variable transmission which, unlike a conventional automatic, doesn’t have stepped gear ratios.
In most circumstances it works well, but when you floor the throttle and accelerate it seems to spend an age buzzing the engine around the red line before deciding to change up.
This doesn’t suit the relaxed nature of the A6, but as it’s the only transmission offered on this engine you’ve got to put up with it.
The ride is on the firm side, as you would expect of an Audi, and the optional 18-inch alloy wheels on our test car didn’t help matters. They do fill out the arches well, though, which prevents the A6 looking under-wheeled.
On winding roads the A6 still lacks the agility of a 5 Series and feels rather nose heavy, but it never feels anything less than planted during cornering and high-speed changes of direction.
Everything else is as you would expect from Audi. The A6 is a spacious car with a huge boot and first-class interior design and quality.
The MMI system, which controls functions ranging from climate control to the satellite navigation, leads the way in the premium market, while the level of standard equipment is high.
While diesel (and the 2.0 TDI in particular) will remain the model of choice for company car drivers, there is plenty to recommend in the 2.8 FSI.
P11D value: £28,775
CO2 emissions (g/km): 209
BIK % of P11D in 2007: 28%
Graduated VED rate: £205
Insurance group: 16
Combined mpg: 32.1
CAP RV (3yr/60k): £10,725/37%
Monthly lease (3yr/60k): £598
THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Audi leads the way with the most powerful engine, delivering 210bhp, with the turbocharged Volvo close behind on 200bhp. The BMW produces 190bhp and the supercharged E-Class 184bhp. All are mid-spec SE trim except the entry-level Mercedes-Benz.
Despite having the highest P11D value, the BMW is the cheapest in tax thanks to a low CO2 figure. It will cost a 40% taxpayer £219 a month in benefit-in-kind tax, compared with £261 for the Mercedes-Benz, £268 for the Audi and £317 for the Volvo.
Less than one pence-per-mile separates first from last here but it’s the Volvo that comes out on top. And that is despite having set service intervals of every 18,000 miles, compared to the rest which have variable intervals. The E200 has the lowest tyre bills as it runs on 16-inch alloys and the rest on 17-inch wheels.
S80: 4.88 (pence per mile) £2,928 (60,000 miles total)
523i: 5.12 £3,072
E200K: 5.14 £3,084
A6: 5.80 £3,480
With claimed average fuel economy of 37.7mpg the BMW is well ahead again, with a likely petrol bill of £7,000 over 60,000 miles. The E200K returns 33.2mpg for a fuel spend of nearly £8,000. The Audi returns 32.1mpg and the Volvo 28.5.
523i: 11.70 (pence per mile) £7,020 (60,000 miles total)
E200K: 13.29 £7,974
A6: 13.75 £8,250
S80: 15.48 £9,288
The BMW is predicted to hold on to its value best of the four, with CAP estimating it will retain 39% of cost new after three years/60,000 miles. The Volvo wins thanks to its low front-end price and 37% RV figure. The Audi will retain 37% and the Mercedes-Benz 35%.
S80: 29.62 (pence per mile) £17,772 (60,000 miles total)
A6: 30.08 £18,048
523i: 30.18 £18,108
E200K 31.29 £18,774
Despite being the most expensive at the front-end the BMW secures a convincing victory thanks to its fuel efficient engine and strong residual value forecast. The Audi will cost £1,500 more to run over three-years/60,000-miles, coming in at just under £30,000.
523i: 47.00 (pence per mile) £28,200 (60,000 miles total)
A6: 49.63 £29,778
E200K: 49.72 £29,832
S80: 49.98 £29,988
With a £40-a-month advantage in driver benefit-in-kind tax terms, and a huge advantage in wholelife costs, it’s hard to argue against the BMW. Factor in that it’s the best of the four to drive and it seals a convincing victory. The other three are well off the pace in this comparison, although the Audi would be the clear second choice thanks to its understated styling and excellent build quality.