The new 2019 Audi A6 C8 is a different car depending if you’re European, American or Chinese. Not physically, that is, but conceptually.
To Europeans, the A6 is a luxurious executive saloon: handsomely styled, built to uncompromising standards and comfortably appointed. To Americans, it’s a sports sedan, dynamic and aggressive, designed to fend off not just the usual BMWs and Mercedes but also to distance itself from Cadillacs, Lincolns and the like. And to the Chinese it’s a wheeled smartphone – a flashy, premium-branded device to make your life easier by driving itself through choking traffic and allowing you to control your life through touchscreens. Possibly from the back seat, where there’s more room to lounge than before.
The need to satisfy the more luxury and technology orientated of these diverse goals explains why the A6 is now more like the A8 than ever (just as its rivals, BMW’s 5-series and Mercedes’ E-class, are closing the gap to the 7-series and S-class repectively). Indeed, in so many respects the new A6 is difficult to differentiate from the larger A7 and A8. The exterior styling is cut from the same cloth, with LED lighting and sharp creases, and so too is the interior architecture. The seats are wide and flat, the quality high and the fancy toys abundant – models we tested included options such as head-up displays, night-vision cameras and the provision for up to 39 driver assistance systems in future.
All new A6s feature mild hybrid technology, which in Audi-speak means a belt-driven starter-alternator, firing up the engine without a wheeze and shutting it down again off-throttle to save fuel in certain modes.
The two 3-litre V6 models available at launch – a 55 TFSI petrol and a 50 TDI diesel – use a 48V electrical system, while the new 201bhp four-cylinder diesel engine (using an alloy crankcase for a 20kg weight saving and badged 40 TDI) uses a 12V set-up. All send power to all four wheels, but the petrol V6’s ‘quattro with Ultra’ technology means it’s mostly front-wheel drive until a clutch pack engages to send power to the rear wheels. The four-pot diesel is actually the surprise of the range, keeping grumbles and rattles to a minimum and pulling strongly from low revs without too much audible fuss, though in other respects the TFSI is our preference over either diesel, being less instantly responsive at low revs, but swift enough to clear 62mph in 5.1sec and even easier on the ears.
As is often the case with Audis, the ride and handling balance appears to be spec-dependent. The 40 TDI we tested featured conventional steering and adaptive dampers, while the V6s both used the optional Dynamic all-wheel steering and air suspension, and rode on optional 20-inch wheels (an inch bigger).
While the four-wheel steering does reduce understeer and tighten the car’s turning circle, it also results in a remote and artificial feel to the steering; the regular set-up is more progressive and natural, and better-weighted. On air suspension and the larger wheels the A6 is also less settled than on the smaller rims and adaptive dampers, the car feeling lifted by bumps rather than absorbing them.
Body control on all A6s is good, though, and refinement at a cruise is outstanding. It even does a passable impression of a sports saloon when in Dynamic mode, with high levels of grip, unflappable traction and responsive controls. At no point is it particularly involving, but given the compromises required to be all things to all markets, the A6’s balance of luxury, dynamism and technology is well judged, which bodes well for the next S6 and RS6 models.
TECHNICAL DATA FILE SPECIFICATIONS 2019 Audi A6 55 TFSI C8 4H
Engine V6, 2995cc, turbocharged
Max Power 335bhp @ 5000-6400rpm / DIN nett
Max Torque 369lb ft @ 1370-4500rpm / DIN nett
Weight 1760kg (163bhp/ton)
Top speed 155mph (limited)
Basic price c£47,000 (est)
+ Incrementally improved in every area
– Not the last word in driver involvement
Drive-My rating 4.9