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WHAT IS IT?
Large as it is, the A6 is not Audi’s flagship model, that honour falls to the almost identically styled, hi-tech, aluminium bodied A8, which Audi like to refer to as a ‘limousine’. I have never really been sure where this places their traditional A6 model, a descendant of the original big Audi of the 1970’s, the 100.
In simple terms we are talking about a large four door ‘executive’ saloon here, far too large to be an ordinary family car, although I suppose that size is advantageous if you have a big family – although, when all said and done there are only seats for five people.
WHICH SPECIFIC MODEL?
In many respects this, the 2.0 TDie, is, for me at least, the most interesting model in the whole A6 range. It is actually the little “e” that arouses the interest, especially in the company car market, I have never fathomed if Audi’s “e” stands for economy or ecology, but this is, in theory at least, a large economy car.
As is usual with German cars, the A6 is offered with a myriad of different engine and trim permutations. The £24,900, 134bhp, two-litre four cylinder diesel TDie is both the least expensive and least powerful A6 that you can order. At the other end of the A6 spectrum sits the ludicrously excessive five-litre V10 RS6 (intriguingly sharing its engine with the Lamborghini Gallardo) which packs a 572bhp punch and a wallet busting £74,550 list price.
In actual fact, the specific car that I am reviewing here is just one notch above the poverty specification model, whilst there is no SE badge on the boot, a £26,170 SE is what our car is.
IN WHAT CAPACITY AM I REVIEWING THIS CAR?
When I say “our car” it is ours by dint of the fact that it has now spent twelve months and about 18,000 miles on our company car fleet – primarily in the hands of my father, who is our, partially retired, managing director. This car was very much his personal choice and replaced a surprisingly well liked Saab 9-3 1.9TiD.
I have spent plenty of time behind the wheel of the A6 in all weather conditions and on just about every type of road in the south of England. Sadly Audi were absent at last years Company Car in Action event at Millbrook – which, whilst being a much shorter driving assessment, is a far more revealing one.
WILL IT FIT YOUR GARAGE?
Probably not, as it did not fit my standard sized sixteen foot long garage! Width ways there was not a problem, but having squeezed and squeezed, it was still a full back bumper too long to allow the door to close. I used to run a Vauxhall Omega, a similarly commodious car which fitted comfortably inside the same garage.
At 4916mm long and 2030mm wide, this is by any standards a very large car, if you have difficulty parking, or are simply restricted for space then I would not advise you to even consider an Audi A6.
The A6 2.0TDie sets out to prove that running a big car does not have to equate to big running costs. Audi’s marketing boys would like to persuade you that, with its CO2 output figure of 139g/kg, this model is unique in the market place in terms of big car comfort and supermini bills. Unfortunately they are sweeping the fearsomely competitive BMW 520d under the carpet, whilst at the same time wishing that the new Mercedes E200CDi was not quite as efficient (and good) as it is.
The only other car worth considering in the big but parsimonious company car battle is the Volvo S80 1.6 DRIVEe, providing you are never in a hurry, that one actually tops the lot with a CO2 level of 129 and a list price of £22,245 – the perfect company car then…….probably not!
Yes, the vast majority of these big cars, sold when new at least, will be chosen by company executives, often financed on leasing deals, looking for the best motoring bargain, but at the same time still wanting to impress family and clients alike.
As a company car you will be paying a mere 18% in benefit in kind tax, the least powerful 2.0 diesel Ford Mondeo will hit you for 22%, this I think puts into perspective Audi’s achievement with this particular car.
Insurance falls into group 24 in the new 50 band insurance scale, this is one area where it does hold a clear financial advantage over its competitors, the 520d BMW for instance is a whole ten points further up the scale.
PURCHASE COST 9 / 10
At a list price now of £26,700 this car has escalated almost £2000 since ours was purchased a year ago. However Audi did add some expensive equipment to it – primarily a very good integrated GPS system, although my portable TomTom is a better option and set me back less than 10% of that price increase.
However, this car offers strong value for money, the best in the whole range in actual fact. The equipment list is not nearly as short as I would have expected, the quality of the equipment, particularly the interior leather upholstery and sound and climate control systems would lead the uninitiated to quite easily think that this was a £35,000 car.
According to What Car’s Target Price, a tried and tested discount process, you should be expecting about a £2500 discount on one of these cars from your local Audi dealer. Considering the list of (newer) rivals above, I suspect that you will not need to haggle that hard to obtain it either.
THE OPTIONS GAME: 9 / 10 or “How much do I need to spend to make it habitable?”
With the big A6, Audi are offering far more for the money, and therefore less “essential” options
Pictures of Audi A6 2.0 TDI
Even sitting on the drive it looks big - that's where it had to stay, my garage was too small! Handsome car though.
than they do in the smaller A4 and A3 models. The A6 looks particularly impressive in the deep glossy black finish, that and white are standard – no cost – paint finishes, all 13 other colour choices will set you back an additional £600.On our SE model a full leather interior is standard kit, our M.D. has very sober taste and opted for a funeral black interior, at the same price, both Amoretto Brown (tan) and Linen Beige are offered as more attractive options, personally I would have opted for the latter, but then I prefer a pale interior in a car.
A single CD player is fitted, adequate here actually as input for an iPod or MP3 player is provided, as is, unusually, an SD card reader, which you can use for storing MP3 tracks – or if you choose – screening photographs on the excellent colour screen on the dashboard.
The only cost option specified on our car was the walnut interior inlay pack – at £350. I think this was a worthwhile option as it looks so much more tasteful than the standard fake aluminium trim kit. My wife, being less of a traditionalist, prefers the standard interior – so at the end of the day it really is a matter of taste; pay your money and take your choice!
DEPRECIATION 8 / 10 – Always the biggest running cost.
Retaining an estimated (thanks again What Car) 44% of its initial cost after three years and 36,000 miles, this is, understandably, the slowest depreciating A6 in the whole range.
This figure is highly class competitive with the BMW 520d, the Mercedes E200CDi is likely to beat it, whilst the Volvo will almost certainly shed more value – but from a lower initial starting price.
FUEL ECONOMY 7 / 10
If it were not for the entirely unrealistic 53.3mpg average consumption claim by Audi I would have scored the A6 2.0 TDie a strong nine points here. As it is, for a car of this size, even taking into account its leisurely performance, our real world average over 18,000 miles, of 42mpg is a very good result.
Well it would be, only on each occasion that I have driven it, I have failed to achieve even 40mpg according to the cars own trip computer – devices which are notoriously optimistic anyway. Pottering along a motorway at 60mph you may come close to 50mpg, indeed my father managed it when on a touring holiday in France last year.
Driven to keep up with faster motorway and urban traffic, as you would any other 2.0 company car, you will find that you are driving it much harder than you feel that you should need to be. The result is fuel consumption figures in the mid-30’s, no great shakes for a car with such loudly trumpeted economy credentials……
……I can only imagine the results from a heavier car with a much smaller 1.6 engine (the Volvo S80)!
SERVICE & MAINTENANCE COSTS 8 / 10: are you going to make the dealer rich?
This has been the biggest surprise of the lot and on two scores:
1.) I actually LIKE Brighton Audi, our supplying dealer, their service is excellent and 2.) So far the Audi has required remarkably little servicing – it tells you when it wants a service and so far it hasn’t! Therefore it does not look as though it is likely to bankrupt us.
Let the “fun” begin! You want to know what this car is like to live with and to drive and be driven in…….
STYLING 9 /10: A very subjective category here.
I and unusually, the majority of my friends and colleagues actually think that this is a very good looking car. This is not a class full of good looking cars it has to be said, in terms of appearance, lined up against its competitors I would have not a second thought in choosing the A6, purely on looks…...
……But then, I have never been known as one who judges a book by its cover and in automotive terms beauty really can only run skin deep!
My one and only criticism, and thanks to the options list it is fixable, is that the standard wheels are plain ugly, difficult to clean and look too small for the car.
Particular A6 styling highlights are the swooping, almost coupe like roof and boot line profile and the gorgeous rear light clusters with their led side and brake lamps.
OVERALL BUILD QUALITY AND FINISH 9 / 10 Does it look as though it was slung together?
Audi have something of a reputation to uphold on this score, and our black A6 does nothing to tarnish this. General build quality, the fit of body panels and the detail finish are again more than acceptable for a car costing twice this price.
SAFETY 8 /10 If it comes to the worst, how well are you and your family going to come out of it.
Well it very nearly did come to the worst as, just before Christmas, a suicidal young lady decided to use the Audi in order to write of her Nissan Micra!
A salutary lesson to all the tailgaters amongst you: DO NOT CHOOSE AN AUDI A6 TO SLAM INTO THE BACK OF! Quite simply the Audi stopped, the Micra did not – at around 30mph she made not the slightest attempt to brake, the rear offside corner of the bumper and exhaust tailpipe taking the full force. Staggeringly, whilst the bumper was punctured and the tailpipe bent out of shape, there was absolutely no panel damage to the A6 whatsoever – nor was the rear light cluster or boot damaged. I suspect that a smaller, less well built, car would have sustained far more than the £1070 worth of damage that our car did that morning.
Behind the wheel you have no concerns about safety, dynamically this is a safe car. On the road it always behaves in a predictable and inherently safe manner. One could argue that it lacks sufficient power to overwhelm the chassis anyway, with other models easily twice as powerful riding on the same chassis, the built in safety margin is considerable on this score.
Even on this, the most basic model in the range, Audi have not scrimped on standard safety kit – airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners etc – there are no safety upgrades which is always a good sign.
ERGONOMICS 6 / 10 Before I can start the engine and drive away I need to feel at home in the “working environment”. The relationship between the controls and how I, the driver, am able to instinctively operate those controls is, all important. This for me is make or break, before I drive a car, if it does not instinctively “feel” right in this department then I will never like it or ultimately buy it.
For me, the A6 invokes strong feelings both good and bad on this score. Whilst very attractive to look at – I really like the dashboard styling - many of the controls on this car are duplicated, triplicated even in a couple of cases thanks to the steering wheel controls - and maddeningly fiddly to master.
Actions such as releasing the annoying electronic handbrake and using the complex infotainment system are things best carried out after an all-night session with the hand book.
In a nutshell, the A6 is a triumph of interior form over function, no matter how many times I get in and drive it, I am left thinking how do I do this, or how do I control that? It is not an instinctive car to get into and drive, in the back of my mind also is the thought that this is the A6 in its’ simplest form – heaven knows how you ever learn all the fancy kit in that £74,000 RS6!
My second criticism here – a minor one you may say, is that there are one or two obvious signs of cost cutting, the most obvious being the lack of any seat back pockets – invaluable for storing the maps that we always travel with.
To end on a high note here, I am delighted to report that the A6 does not share the smaller Audi A4’s dreadful offset driving position. Having mastered the complex controls, this is a car in which you are comfortably seated behind the wheel.
VISIBILITY: 7 / 10
With a car this size, you need all the visibility that you can get, visibility could be better – particularly to the rear, but to be fair it is no more challenging to drive on that score than its competitors, apart possibly, from the new Mercedes E200.
Were this my own every day car I would undoubtedly fit a reverse park radar system to it as the boot lid and therefore rear of the car are out of view when reversing.
The view straight ahead is good, as are the door mirrors, both of which make placing this big car correctly on the road a piece of cake. The modern all-rubber windscreen wipers also make an unusually good job of clearing the windscreen.
SPACE: 7 / 10:
I find myself, very unfavourably, comparing the A6 to my more compact and still much missed Vauxhall Omega.
For such a large car the interior is not as impressively spacious as you would expect. The very tallest front seat passenger and driver have an extraordinary amount of space to stretch out in. Place a tall person in the rear however and that swooping roofline will find them restricted for head room, in terms of rear seat space my, much smaller, Subaru Legacy is a more comfortable car in which to travel.
Opening the boot you find a large space, which can easily be extended by dropping the rear seat back, which splits 30 / 70 hatchback style. However, again, thinking back to the Omega, it had far more useable boot space as it was so much deeper, the A6 has a long, but shallow boot.
STYLE 9 / 10:
As you already know, I rate the interior style very highly indeed. The A6 has probably the most attractive dashboard on the market. The rest of the interior, the door panels and centre console integrate seamlessly with the dashboard too.
MATERIALS, FIT & FINISH 9 / 10: Aspreys or Ratners?
The interior tour de force continues in that the materials, fit and finish all combine to give the image of total quality, there are actually few interiors that come anywhere close on this score.
However Audi have been very clever indeed in the choice of plastic materials and have succeeded where so many others fail, in choosing a material and texture and sticking to it – rather than mixing various materials resulting in a mess.
The actual material quality – touch and press the door casings for example – are no more than average, indeed many are positively lightweight and flimsy – but ultimately that does not matter as they look so good.
AUDIO & CLIMATE CONTROL SYSTEMS 5 / 10: Strange grouping?
On both counts the A6, even in this basic 2.0 TDie form is extremely well specified. However, thanks to the terribly confusing, complex and downright hard to master controls I have found it impossible to get the best out of either the audio or climate systems.
Fortunately in the case of the climate system – a good one – it is possible to set it and leave it on auto. With the audio set up, even having worked your way through levels of menus on the very clear screen, I could not make adjustments that left me with a satisfactory sound quality. Unusually I am left telling you that I have no idea if Audi have fitted a poor audio system, or that I am just not intelligent enough to use it…..frustrating to say the least!
ON THE ROAD……..
……Time to start it up and to offer you a driving assessment.
From the first time I took to the road in this particular car I was impressed with its refinement and smooth progress. Thanks to a light and progressive clutch, combined with a friction free six speed manual gearbox, it is one of those cars that can disguise bad drivers’ failings and yet flatter a good driver.
Whilst not very powerful, the four cylinder 2.0 turbodiesel engine is very smooth and quiet. At town speeds its characteristics are most un-diesel like too, it produces torque at very low revs and, for a diesel, is extremely quiet and vibration free from 1000rpm. This should theoretically enhance economy as you are able to drop down to – and pick up again – from low speeds in higher gears, not a usual diesel trump card and, on that single score, this rates as the best diesel that I have actually driven.
Drive the A6 at higher speeds though and whilst mechanically it remains acceptably refined, the amount of road noise passed through to the interior is most disappointing. Many cars are highly surface sensitive on this score – the A6 seems to suffer excess road noise on all surfaces. There is a possibility that this could be attributable to the original fit low rolling resistance Michelin Primacy tyres, or more likely the lowered sport pack suspension. Wind noise fortunately is far less of a problem.
PERFORMANCE 5 / 10 Sh*t off a shovel or a constipated tortoise?
This strikes me as one of those cars that has “just” enough performance. For 75% of your motoring life that will be fine, however the other 25% is spent frustratingly “caning” this large car, knowing that you have no safety margin in reserve in terms of acceleration.
The closely stacked gearing helps make the best of the limited performance, although fifth and sixth gears are both over drives, in practice I find that I very rarely engage sixth and that around town third gear is in use almost all the time.
The benefit of the low down smoothness and torque is that at high speed, you’ll need to be above the legal limit though, on a motorway, the car will run comfortably in sixth gear.
For many, the A6 2.0 TDie will have sufficient performance. For me however, in the cut and thrust of my daily business life, the A6 is a frustrating companion as I am aware of driving it far harder than feels right to do so, that merely in order to keep up with the general pace of motoring life.
RIDE & HANDLING 5 / 10
Regrettably the A6 fails to come anywhere near close to my old Omega here – apologies for repeating the comparison, but that car, launched in 1994 had far superior ride and handling characteristics and could also be genuinely fun to drive,. There is no fun to be had in driving the A6.
In order to maximise the aerodynamics and thus economy potential of this model, Audi have lowered the car by fitting the “Sport Suspension Pack” from the more sporty models in the range. This has reduced the amount of wheel travel and consequently stiffened the ride – a questionable move in a car that, in all other respects, has no sporting pretentions whatsoever.
It is not that this is a bad handling car, no it is safe at all times, does not roll excessively and is easy to hold through a corner at decent speed. The steering is far too light and woolly to provide anything approaching a sporty drive and indeed may be spoiling an otherwise good chassis……
…..or maybe not.
Cars that handle well, usually, but not always, ride well too. Unfortunately the Audi A6 2.0 TDie rides very much the way that it handles. There is a looseness to the ride, that, when combined with the road noise, gives the ride a coarse edge, an unsettled feeling at all speeds. This is completely at odds with the overall air of sophistication imparted by the refined engine and total build quality.
An interesting experiment on this car would actually be to swap the wheels and tyres in order to discover if larger diameter wheels and lower profile tyres with a different tread pattern may make a discernable difference, they would almost certainly suit the sport suspension package better.
CONCLUSION – Would I buy one myself and would we want to drive it to Poland in a day?
In so many respects I actually really like the Audi A6, it has so many static qualities that I look for in a car. It is also a much better car than the grossly over-rated Audi A4, in which incidentally you can now specify this same economy engine.
Obviously the simple fact that it is too big to fit our garage would stop me from purchasing one. Its’ sheer size does not offer us the advantages that we expect in terms of space, or ultimately comfort, thanks to the ride quality, either.
No, I would not buy one, new or second hand, nor would I wish to drive it to Poland in a day – it simply lacks sufficient performance and an acceptable ride quality to make that journey comfortably in a single sitting.
FINAL SCORE: 127 / 170 - 74.7%
Putting that score into perspective are the following cars based on identical scoring criteria:
AUDI A4 2.0TFSi SLine – 71.1%
AUDI A6 2.0TDie SE – 74.4%
ALFA ROMEO 147 1.9JTD Lusso (5 Dr) - 67.8% FIAT PUNTO GRANDE SPORTING 130 Mjet - 75.9% FORD KUGA 2.0 TDCi TITANIUM - 64.7% HONDA ACCORD i-DECT EX GT (2008 Model) Saloon - 69.4% HONDA ACCORD i-CTDi Saloon - 80.0% HONDA CIVIC 1.8i VTEC SE - 78.2% HONDA CIVIC 1.8i VTEC S i-SHIFT - 68.8% HONDA CIVIC IMA SE - 73.5% HONDA JAZZ 1.4 SE CVT-7 (Automatic) - 74.7% SUBARU OUTBACK 2.0D RE - 85.3% SUBARU LEGACY 2.0D RE SALOON – 85.8% SAAB 9-3 TiD Vector - 68.2% SAAB 9-3 TiD Linear CONVERTIBLE (2007 Mondel) - 74.1% VAUXHALL ASTRA TWINTOP 1.9 CDTi DESIGN - 78.8% VAUXHALL VXR8 - 84.1 % VAUXHALL MONARO VXR - 71.1% VW PASSAT TDi 140 S ESTATE - 71.7% VOLVO S60 D5 SE - 70.6%