The sudden realisation that you are getting old is a tough pill to swallow. Once you were a fresh-faced young pup, laughing at the prospect of turning 30; then 30 passes you by and suddenly the joke is on you. I have noticed this a lot recently. I have passed 30 and am now entering a strange no-man’s land where I am no longer a young man, but I am not quite old either. I don’t really know where to fit in. On my days off, I’m still partial to wearing a hoodie, jeans and runners, but they look a little contrived now. I find myself admiring clothes from Gant, and I have even taken to wearing polo shirts. The last straw was when on a night out with some old New Car colleagues, a bar I used to love suddenly felt too noisy. So we all moved somewhere else, ‘so we could have a good chat.’
The Audi A6 hadn’t quite reached the point where it looked decrepit, but with the arrival of cars like the Jaguar XF and with the once-radical BMW 5-Series now finally starting to look normal, a change was needed. And with Audi’s newer bucks, the A4 and A5, scoring major beauty brownie points, there was a greater need than ever to send the A6 down to the salon for a facial. So here it is. No, we haven’t mixed up the pictures, this isn’t an A4! It is indeed the A6, but you would be forgiven for making the mistake. There is a new front bumper, as well as redesigned headlamps and wing mirrors, but most importantly the car gains those pretty LEDs that sit just under the headlamps. They make the A4 and A5 look superb, and they have a similar effect on the larger saloon, too. There is no change to the size of the car, but it’s still big, even by today’s standards. The old car never really looked right – this time, it’s a lot better proportioned. Finally, the A6 truly looks the part.
So now you know about the visual changes, however the really important differences are found under the bonnet. Audi tells us that it has reduced average emissions and fuel consumption by 15 per cent across the range, and there have also been some additions to the engine line-up. One of these is the 3.0-litre V6 with 290hp. The TFSI 3.0-litre is not a turbo but in fact uses a supercharger. This engine produces 420Nm of torque, and twinned with a Tiptronic gearbox and the Quattro system, it’s good for 0-100km/h in 5.9 seconds and a limited top speed of 250km/h. This engine will also be found under the bonnet of the new S4 and in the A6 it still feels urgent, however as is so often is the case with the higher-powered A6 Quattro models, it doesn’t really feel that engaging to drive.
It’s previously been the case that the lighter, front-wheel-drive A6s have been more craic to drive and with our market generally favouring these anyway for tax reasons, we have tended to buy the most entertaining ones almost by accident. Now that we have changed to a CO2-based emission tax, the main seller is going to be the 2.0-litre diesel engine, with about 80 per cent of Irish buyers expected to opt for this engine. Gone is the old 2.0-litre 140hp unit, replaced by two versions, one with 136hp and another with 170hp. The 136hp version, also known as the ‘e’ version, puts out 139g/km, putting it in Band B. Power is sent through the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. It’s a perky enough engine for most Irish buyers in this segment, but it still falls short of what the BMW 520d can do. It’s almost two seconds slower to 100km/h for a start. And while it is reasonably fun to drive, the 5-Series still has it licked dynamically. All of the A6’s engines from 190hp upwards get Quattro all-wheel drive. This system has a slight rear bias and uses a Torsen differential to split the power.
There have been changes to the suspension too, and while they are minor in the big scheme of things, the new large-diameter shock absorbers on the front axle have a better spring response, improving comfort and agility. Inside, there have been minor improvements, too. The MMI system has been upgraded again, and there are improvements to the instruments and to the front and rear seats. Very much like the old model, the new A6 is a nice place to spend time in and a nice way to travel. It looks much better than before, too. It still feels just ‘okay’, but the real ace up its sleeve is the price. We would expect all of you to be flocking to BMW showrooms for your 520ds this January (that is of course if anyone buys cars anymore), but for that you are going to have to spend at least €46,057. However for €42,100 you can have the A6 2.0-litre TDi with 136hp and Band B road tax. It is sure to bring more customers to the brand, but in truth doesn’t do anything different. The new model is on sale this month, and the estate lovers get a new Avant version, too.
Audi A6 2.0 TDi e
Engine: 1,968cc, four-cylinder turbo diesel
Output, 136hp, 320Nm torque
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Acceleration 0-100km/h in 10.3 secs
Top speed: 208km/h
Fuel economy: 5.3 litres/100km
CO2 emissions: 139g/km
CO2 Tax Band: B (€150 p.a.)
Boot capacity: 546 litres
Base price: €42,100
For: New design freshens what was an awkward looking car
Against: Still not much fun to drive