My very first introduction to Audi executive saloons was back in the early 1980’s. My Uncle Vincent drove a navy Audi 100 (C3). A few years later he changed it, for a navy Audi 100. He liked them a lot. Back then, it was far from a common site on Irish roads and if you did happen to come across a German Executive saloon, it was more likely to be a BMW 520i (E28) or an E200 Mercedes-Benz (W124). They had more flair and presence than the more awkward looking Audi that basically just looked big and German.
Back then however, Audi was a much more conservative brand and it wasn’t until the early 1990’s that Audi decided to go upmarket and take on BMW and Mercedes. Famous for their bullet proof 5 cylinder units, Audi decided if they were going to compete they would have to go bigger, and the Audi 100 2.8L V6 was born. These were the days when people thought a ‘polar ice cap’ was something you wore in winter and the word ‘emissions’ was not in the vocabulary. Roll on 2014 however and you have a very different competition indeed. It’s all about downsizing and turbos now, but this is not a bad thing.
Today, Audi is very much a luxury brand with an impressive executive line. They produce very handsome, elegant cars with some of the nicest interiors you are likely to experience in today’s car market. You could say that BMW and Mercedes now compete with Audi, and for this reason the Audi A6 is not such a rare sight on Irish roads now. Turning to the latest version of the Audi A6 and the improvements that come with it, It’s not hard to see why. It now features more efficient and more powerful ‘turbo charged’ engines, new transmissions and a new infotainment system. The exterior improvements are enhancing too with front receiving new headlights and larger front grille. The rear is the biggest improvement with revised tail lights and the integrated exhausts at either side. This gives the A6 more presence and an aggressive stance which for me is welcome on a car of this stature. It should be a fine balance between elegance and aggression.
Our test model was the 2.0 TDI Ultra SE Business Line with 150bhp which was mated to a 6-speed manual. A setup which initially struck me as odd. After driving the more powerful 190bhp version of the same engine mated to the new 7-speed S-tronic at the launch back in November, the manual stick just didn’t look right. For me, my initial thoughts turned to ‘not enough power with the wrong transmission’. What did initially impress me though was that I did not notice that this was in SE trim. At first glance I thought it was an S-Line. The revised body also gets new air inlets at either side of the enlarged front grille, new bumpers, side sills and Xenon lights as standard. It was sitting on 18 inch 10 spoke V design alloy wheels. You could always separate the SE from the S-line with the blink of an eye but now, the SE looks really good.
Over the course of the week, I became quite accustomed to the 6 speed manual. It was smooth and crisp with the perfect distance between ratios. Acceleration was quite linear too despite having to change the gears manually and thanks to the lightweight aluminium structure of the A6, it felt quite agile with the 150bhp on tap never feeling like it lacked despite the A6’s size. After all not such a bad setup. If I was ordering a new A6 today however, I would be ticking the box of the 190bhp with the 7-speed S-tronic. The manual does have impressive combined fuel economy figures of just 4.4l/100km but the S-tronic is better at 4.2l. It’s also 1.3 seconds faster from 0-100kmh in the 190bhp version. For me that’s significant and in 2 to 3 year’s time, second hand buyers will be scrambling for this specification. I would be ordering it the SE guise however because it looks just as good plus the S-line suspension setup is slightly firmer. The SE does a better overall job of absorbing the various inadequacies of Irish B roads.
What really separates the Audi A6 from its competitors is the interior. The sleek design and immaculate finish are second to none. The centrally mounted 8 inch MMI Navigation screen raises from the centre console as you touch the start button. Controlled from either the centre console or multi-function steering wheel, it all feels intuitive and simple to use. Our test car featured a few additional options over the standard business pack which lent themselves to the already enhanced cabin. These included Advanced key, Sports seats, interior lighting pack, 3 spoke leather multi-function steering wheel, headlight washers, Electrically folding & heated side mirrors, Audi Connect and Metallic paint adding €5,604 to the list price.
The Audi A6 SE starts at €43,900 with our SE Business Pack test car starting at €46,600 which includes additional equipment of 18” alloy wheels, Four zone deluxe climate control, Electrically adjustable front seats with memory, Electrically controlled and heated exterior mirrors and aluminium inlays in Delta Silver. Taking into account the above listed additional options, our test car came in at €52,204. While it did have quite a few extra toys, the fundamentals of the A6 which include its efficiency, build quality, refinement and the way it looks make it the exceptional and efficient executive machine that it is today.