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Audi A6 2.0 TDI SE

Click to view picture gallery“Deliveries have just started of the
  most important car in Audi
s ever-
  increasing armoury of premium
  brand model ranges
the all-new
four-door A6 executive saloon...”

AUDI HAVE FASTER, MORE EXPENSIVE AND 4X4 and specialists sports models but it is the A6 that links the A1, A3 and A4 volume models with the executive niche A7s and A8s. New A6 prices start at 30,145 and range up to 41,640 but even so Audi expect to sell in the region of 10,000 units, split equally between the saloon and Avant models, in a full year.

Interestingly, Audi customers' appreciation of new technologies is reflected in the way they choose and buy their new cars: 80% of customers use the Audi website 'car configurator' to select the model of their choice the engine type, specification, colour and options and then print off a PDF of the information and take it to their dealer and say "I want this car". Latest figures supplied by Audi show a 305 per cent increase in the use of PDFs for car selection and ordering.

Top speed is a more
than adequate 141mph
and the zero to 62mph
acceleration time is
a very respectable 8.7
seconds. But it’s the fuel
economy that impresses
Although the all-new A6 is an image heavyweight in the Audi line-up, the headline-grabbing news is its new lightweight construction using composite aluminium and high-tech steel.

This not only makes the car more nimble but, more importantly, better performing and more fuel efficient with less tax incurring CO2 emissions.

The most popular model in the new A6 saloon line-up will be the 2.0-litre TDI SE it weighs 15 per cent less than the outgoing version. This contributes to CO2 emissions as low as 129g/km which in turn means the customer benefits by not having to pay a penny for road tax in the first year and then just 95 for the second and subsequent years. Company car users also make savings with the Benefit-in-Kind tax a keen 18 per cent. For a car of this size, prestige and performance, the savings are impressive.

Ninety-eight per cent of A6 customers will choose diesel power and the initial four engine options are: 2.0-litre TDI diesel with manual or multitronic auto transmission (which will be the choice of 75 per cent of owners); 3.0-litre TDI with multitronic auto as standard; 3.0 TDI with S tronic auto and quattro drive; and a 3.0 295bhp TFSI turbocharged petrol unit with S tronic and quattro drive. Fuel efficiency across the range has improved by up to 19 per cent and all engines have a start-stop and energy recovery system as standard.

Much of the drivetrain and lightweight body design technologies and the latest in driver aids are cascaded down from the recently introduced Audi A8 limousine and the A7 five-door executive Fastback.

All the usual Audi design hallmarks, from grille to LED lighting, are present and correct and although marginally shorter and lower than the outgoing model, the new A6 saloon is wider and its lower stance gives it a sporty and much more imposing and edgier appearance.

Inside, the roomy cabin has a cocooning style with a 'wraparound' dashboard linking neatly to the styling of the front doors. As usual with expensive Audis, the feel and the build qualities are impeccable. Supportive seats are upholstered, as standard, in Milano leather so first impressions on entry are of sumptuous luxury.

The most popular model
in the new A6 saloon
range will be the 2.0 TDI
— it weighs 15 per cent
less than the outgoing
version and owners
t pay a penny in
road tax
for the first year
There is the usual array of 'driver assist' items including Audi's Multi Media Interface with its 6.5-inch retractable monitor and large central control knob fitted as standard.

MMI provides easy and intuitive access to the high-quality audio system, the Bluetooth 'phone connectivity and the SD card-based navigation system.

This system can be upgraded to incorporate Google Earth mapping and data from the SatNav which, when upgraded, will supply advanced information to the car's systems about the road coming up so optimising gear change points on automatic transmissions, headlight beam orientation and much more.

The list of optional driver aids also includes a night vision assistant employing a thermal imaging camera to highlight 'warm-blooded' road users in front of the car, a head-up display projecting key information onto the windscreen so that it appears to float about 2.5 metres ahead and a park assist system which automatically takes care of the steering function for the driver when manoeuvring into parallel or right-angle parking spaces. More familiar options such as the Audi side assist blind spot warning system and the Audi lane assist lane departure detection system are also available.

Two specification levels SE and S line are offered in the UK, each including alloy wheels, leather upholstery, cruise and front and rear parking controls, SD-based satellite navigation, Bluetooth 'phone preparation, split/folding rear seats (boot/load bay: 530 to 995 litres) plus light and rain sensors.

S line models gain larger 18-inch alloy wheels, Xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lamps, sports suspension, upgraded Valcona leather upholstery and an exclusive S line exterior and interior styling treatment.

From the options list customers can choose features such as comfort seats with heating, cooling and massage functions, acoustic glazing, supple leather trimming for the centre console, a 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system with 1,200 watts, TV reception and various connectivity upgrades for the MMI system.

My first drive of the all-new A6 was with the least expensive, and predicted best-selling version: the 2.0-litre TDI 174bhp SE with manual transmission and a price tag of an appealing 30,145.

The new lightweight
bodyshell has definitely
made the latest A6
more wieldy and it feels
very well balanced and
nimble for its size
The new lightweight bodyshell has definitely made the latest A6 more wieldy and it feels very well balanced and nimble for its size.

It also has a good blend of comfort and control and has virtually no body roll during cornering.

The electronic power steering also benefits from the improved agility and is sharp to react and precise. But like other energy-saving steering systems it doesn't convey as much feedback to the driver as the previous generation hydraulic-only types.

The coil spring steel suspension does a reasonable job of cushioning the occupants from the UK's weather-damaged road surfaces. The extra-cost (2,000) air suspension with Comfort, Dynamic and Auto modes might help soften the impact slightly but in my experience the air system takes the edge off the sharp handling.

All A6s have 'Drive Select' as standard which allows for the tailoring of the steering and throttle responses and in addition gearchange points for automatic models. A nice function to have included in the price.

The latest version of the 2.0-litre TDI four-cylinder engine is, for most of the time, the best and most sensible powerplant to have. With 174bhp and 280lb ft of torque linked in to a slick six-speed manual gearbox, it's a real delight to use. Only hard acceleration will raise the engine note but in the cruise it felt relaxed and is very quiet. The high torque easily copes with the long-legged fuel saving overdrive sixth gear ratio and does away with the need to keep dropping down a gear to regain momentum.

Top speed is a more than adequate 141mph and the zero to 62mph acceleration time is a very respectable 8.7 seconds. But it is the fuel economy that impresses the most. Officially, this unit will return an average 57.6mpg and my drive over a mixture of roads and conditions returned 49.2mpg. Even more welcome is the 0 charge for the first year's road tax (it's 95 for the second year onwards).

From its nose to its tail, inside and out, the new A6 is an impressive package ideally suited for today's executive customers who, like most of us, still want luxury cars but no longer want to pay out heavyweight motoring costs from our ever-decreasing financial budgets. Well priced, this all-new lightweight A6 offers a high level of standard equipment and supreme build quality, is fuel and CO2 efficient, has a classy interior and is very quiet. Sounds good to me! David Miles

Audi A6 2.0 TDI SE | 30,145
Maximum speed: 141mph | 0-62mph: 8.7 seconds | Overall Test MPG: 49.2mpg
Power: 174bhp | Torque: 280lb ft | CO2 129g/km