This MK5 model Audi A6 has been subtly updated and continues to try and appeal against newer rivals with a package that's based on efficiency, technology and value. It'll have its work cut out dislodging BMW and Mercedes but it's hard not to love the care and attention that's clearly been lavished on this car.
'A first class journey with a business class ticket': that's how Audi describes the travelling experience you'll get in this fifth generation A6 model. Basically, what the Ingolstadt brand has done here is to democratise much of the technology of its larger A8 and enveloped it into smartly proportioned saloon and estate bodywork. There's certainly lots to admire here, with advanced mild hybrid drivetrains, sresponsive yet supple suspension options, sublime cabin comfort and a high-tech all-digital MMI touch response interface. But then then exceptional technology will be needed if his Audi is to be able to face down more recently introduced rivals of the quality of BMW's 5 Series and the Mercedes E-Class. A final round of subtle updates made to this MK5 C8 design has produced the car we're going to look at here.
Audi offers this A6 with a wide range of engines but nearly all of them are 2.0-litres in size and feature mild hybrid tech. The base 40 TFSI is front-driven with 204PS, with the same engine also available in the pricier 45 TFSI quattro in 245PS form allied to 4WD. The mainstream alternative is the 40 TDI diesel, putting out 204PS and only offered in quattro form. The 2.0 TFSI petrol engine reappears again in a plug-in hybrid petrol model, the A6 50 TFSIe, with a combined output of 299PS and an electric driving range when fully charged of up to 43 miles. At the top of the range sit two bespoke sporting models. The S6 quattro uses Audi's 3.0-litre six cylinder TDI diesel engine in a 350PS state of tune. And the top RS 6 quattro (an Avant-only variant) has a 4.0-litre TFSI twin turbo V8 with 600PS, the result being 600PS, 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds, 124mph in 12 seconds and one queasy looking Labrador. As you'd expect in this segment, all A6 models are exclusively equipped with automatic transmission. That'll be a seven-speed S tronic gearbox, unless you've opted for the S6 or the RS 6 (in which case the transmission will be an 8-speed tiptronic set-up to handle the extra torque). In conjunction with the tiptronic transmission, the quattro configuration is based on the familiar self-locking centre differential format, while the S tronic transmission works with more efficient 'ultra' technology, which is capable of engaging the rear axle instantly whenever needed but decouples it during cruising to maximise efficiency. On all models, the driver can select various driving profiles via the Audi drive select system - with 'efficiency, 'comfort', 'dynamic' options, plus 'auto' if you can't make up your mind and 'individual' if you want to set your own throttle, steering and gearshift parameters.
This fifth generation model got a final round of subtle changes in mid-2023, with minor changes to the Singleframe front grille, new side air intakes and a revised rear diffuser. As before, there's a choice of saloon and Avant estate body styles. Otherwise, things are much as before, with taut surfaces, sharp edges and striking lines, plus a long bonnet, a long wheelbase and short overhangs. In profile, three striking lines reduce the car's visual height. The powerfully taut contours, which are drawn over the wheels, are testimony to Audi's quattro genes. This shape is certainly very sleek: thanks to advanced aerodynamics, a class-leadingly-slippery drag coefficient of as little as 0.24Cd has been achieved. The interior updates are equally subtle. The dashboard and roof lining are now finished in black, the multi-functions sports steering wheel features contrast stitching and and footrest and pedals are finished in stainless steel. Opt for 'S line' trim and you get a Dinamica microfiber and leather upholstery combination. Otherwise, everything's as you were. The dash features Audi's usual black-panel design and you're going to need to like screens because this car's classy interior can incorporate no fewer than three of them, the two you'll notice first powering up as soon as the door is opened and dominating the upper and lower parts of the piano black-trimmed centre stack. Legroom in the rear is difficult to better in the class, while headroom and shoulder room measurements are also generous and very comfortable for a couple of adults. Out back, there's a 530-litre boot (though that falls to just 360-litres in the PHEV version). If you need more, the alternative Avant estate variant offers 565-litres in conventionally-engined form.
Prices start at around £44,000 for the saloon - or around £46,000 for the Avant. There are three trim levels in the mainstream range - 'Sport', 'S line' and 'Black Edition'. Plus the sporting S6 and RS 6 performance models. As before, this A6 model's two key rivals will be the Mercedes E-Class and the BMW 5 Series. You'll need to get your A6's spec right. Your dealer will want you to add the optional 'Technology Pack (another £3,000), which brings a Bang & Olufsen Premium Sound System, multi-coloured extended LED interior lighting, a 360-degree camera with top view, the brand's 'Park Assist with Parking aid plus' set-up and a Head-up display. If you want to go further, the 'Technology Pack Pro' option (£6,000 more on mainstream models) adds four-zone climate control, a panoramic sunroof, USB-C ports in the rear, heated rear seats, Advance Key keyless entry and a 'Parking Assist Plus' with Remote park functionality. Across the range, there are four suspension set-ups: the conventional steel spring suspension, the sport suspension, the suspension with damper control and the adaptive air suspension, also with controlled damping. 'Progressive steering', which becomes even quicker and more direct as the steering angle increases, is standard. And dynamic all-wheel steering can also be added to further enhance this agility. Plus you can add in various autonomous driving features. Audi connect online services provide clever 'car-to-X services' traffic sign and hazard information. They use the swarm intelligence from the Audi fleet and network the Audi A6 with its environment.
All engines in this fifth generation A6 feature the brand's mild-hybrid technology. Here a belt alternator starter (BAS) works together with a lithium-ion battery, enabling the A6 to coast at speeds of between 34mph and 99mph in the interest of fuel economy and to initiate its start-stop function earlier - at speeds of 13mph and below. The engine is restarted from standstill predictively as soon as the vehicle in front starts moving. During deceleration, the BAS recovers up to 12 kW of energy. Let's get to the WLTP figures. The volume 2.0-litre 40 TDI diesel saloon version manages 50.4mpg on the combined cycle and 147g/km of CO2. The 45 TFSI quattro petrol saloon variant delivers combined fuel economy of up to 37.2mpg (depending on wheel size and trim choice) and CO2 emissions of up to 173g/km. Go for the A6 50 TFSI e plug-in hybrid petrol variant and, thanks to this derivative's possible 43 mile WLTP-rated all-electric driving range, you can enjoy a tax-beating CO2 return that's WLTP-rated at up to 27g/km. The combined fuel figure is up to 235.4mpg. We'll finish by covering the warranty. All cars in this class get three years of cover, but whereas BMW and Mercedes don't limit your mileage in this period, Audi rather meanly restricts you to 60,000 miles. Optional extra-cost packages can extend the cover to either four or five years.
Has Audi done enough with the fifth generation version of this car? Many thousands of managers who'll put many more thousands of miles under the wheels of their new A6s every month will feel so. As before, they'll value this car for its quiet, understated professionalism, further marvelling in this guise at its mind-boggling technology and rather wonderful cabin. Yes, there are perhaps more characterful cars than this smart, efficient and perfectly mannered business conveyance - perhaps even some that feel sharper at the wheel. But it's hard to think of a more complete or cost-effective choice in this sector. It's all very vorsprung durch tecknik. And at the end of a very long day, you're likely to feel that that's what really matters.