While the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series have always been the popular kids in the large luxury sedan class, the Audi A6 has long been the silent but smart one, just waiting for its moment to finally shine.
And now, it looks rather like that time has come as the A6 has finally arrived here in its all-new fifth-generation iteration after a year or so of being on sale in Europe, and although sedan sales may be slowing on a global scale, the A6 looks to make a particularly good case for itself in a world of SUVs.
Two engines and three variants are available for Australia, with the $95,500 45 TFSI on test here positioned as the entry-point to the range. The next step up from here is the sportier-looking 45 TFSI S Line, while the range is topped with the sportier-driving 55 TFSI S Line. That means there’s no diesels and no wagons at this stage, although in the case of the latter, the new RS6 Avant will make its way here at some point for those of you that like your wagons with a side of ghost peppers.
Although what you see here may be the base model, step inside and there’s nothing basic about it at all – especially when you bear in mind that no optional extras were fitted to my tester aside from metallic paint.
As standard, then, you get full leather upholstery, heated front seats with power adjustment and memory for the driver, Audi’s amazing Virtual Cockpit digital gauge cluster, and the fantastically elegant MMI Touch Response dual-screen infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and a brilliant 360-degree camera.
It’s the technology that really sets the A6 apart in my eyes, as it really does feel incredibly modern inside because of it. In particular, Virtual Cockpit, thanks to the standard fitment of Audi Connect plus, now uses data from Google to overlay a real view of what’s actually going on around you on the map which is just mindblowing, while the infotainment system with its 10.1-inch and 8.6-inch screens not only sees both angled perfectly towards the driver from their respective positions, but is incredibly slick and easy to use.
Granted, the screens themselves do smudge very easily which is a big downside since you’ll be using it a lot, but the system works brilliantly. Thankfully, Audi has thought about the battery drain that wireless phone mirroring will cause on your iPhone as well, since a wireless charging pad is also standard.
Rounding out the standard features list is the full range of active and passive safety technology including adaptive cruise control, front and rear AEB, active lane assist, emergency manoeuvre assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and surround parking sensors.
It’s an incredibly modern array of technologies that Audi has packed in here, which is fitting for an interior that looks so utterly modern, right down to the rectangular shifter. Sleek and minimalist, it’s an interior you can tell the designers actually sat in and made sure it all worked, as everything is perfectly laid out and always exactly where you expect it to be.
Interior space up front is excellent with plenty of room to get comfortable and the armrests on both sides of you feeling comfortable and well positioned, and the seats themselves feeling nice and supportive. In the back, it’s still as comfortable in terms of the seat itself, but for those over six-feet it is a little on the tight side with similarly-sized folks up front, although there are cutouts in the back of the front seats for your knees which does help.
And I shouldn’t forget to mention that not only is the interior design incredibly attractive, but so is the exterior. I’ll admit that this non-S Line model may look a little plain and business-y in some regards, especially finished in grey, but there’s no doubt it’s a very handsome thing regardless.
But then, there is one problem with the A6’s design, and that is the A7 Sportback. You get the same interior and same engines, but a much sexier exterior. It is more expensive however, so the A6 is probably the thinking person’s option, then.
Speaking of engines, the 45 TFSI on test here, which you won’t be able to deduce from the company’s incredibly unintelligible new naming system – packs a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine under the bonnet making a solid 180kW from 5000-6000rpm and 370Nm from 1600-4500rpm.
It’s the same basic engine we recently tested in the A4 45 TFSI, but in the A6 it has a 48V mild hybrid system attached which, while it won’t power the wheels, will allow the car to coast on flat ground or declines with the engine totally switched off, before firing back up again at a press of the throttle. The 55 TFSI also has the same system fitted, for reference.
Much like in the A4, while the four-pot A6’s power outputs seem down a tad compared to the likes of the competition, the fact it’s paired to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and the company’s famed quattro all-wheel drive system means that the rest of the driveline is able to effectively harness every ounce of power this engine has to offer.
Able to get from 0-100km/h in a very impressive 6.0 seconds, given the small size of the engine, it definitely feels as quick as it is, with it easy to tell from the driver’s seat that all four wheels are putting the power down effectively.
The shifts from the dual-clutch ‘box are bang on, too, with it never really hesitating and always seeming to find the right gear, and when you take over and shift it yourself with the wheel-mounted paddles, it’s incredibly prompt and responsive to command.
For a turbocharged engine, the throttle response is pretty decent as well, with it feeling quick to spool up and carrying plenty of torque across the best part of the rev range, while that wide peak power plateau up top helps it feel fit for aggressive driving.
The quick-thinking gearbox will happily let you rev it out and hold it in it’s sweet spot, with it making progress far more rapid than you may think. Sure, the V6 makes it only feel even more muscular, but the four-pot is honestly all you really need.
Through the bends, it feels very solid and planted, with it holding its line confidently without the need to fight with the wheel to keep it on track. Body roll is well managed as well, and thanks to the quattro system, it’ll allow you to get back on the power nice and early on the exit.
Even more impressive though is how well it rides and handles given the base model’s fixed-rate springs which have been tuned with just enough rigidity to keep it balanced, but the right spring rate to prevent big hits upsetting the in-cabin experience. No doubt the 19-inch wheels – the smallest available – and the chubby sidewall of the tyres fitted to them make a difference when it comes to comfort as well.
Confident and confidence-inspiring, the A6 may look sleek and sedate, but it does make for a surprisingly good driver’s car as it does everything you’d want a big sedan to do, and does it all well.
It might not be the cheapest car around given this base model is nudging six-figures, but when you consider just how well equipped it is and how well it performs in totally standard form, it’s a price tag that in many ways does feel justified.
Now is finally the A6’s time to shine, and shine brightly, it certainly does.
2020 Audi A6 45 TFSI List Price: $95,900 | As Tested: $98,100
Pros: Looks and feels thoroughly modern inside and out, next-level infotainment technology, much faster than you’d expect a four-pot to be, well-balanced handling and planted feel
Cons: Back seat is a little tight for taller folks, pricey for a base model even if well-equipped
In a nutshell: The A6 is not only a better car than it has ever been before, but it finally stands out as being better than its primary competition.
Full Disclosure: Audi Australia provided the vehicle tested here for a week with a full tank of fuel. Additionally, our friends at MPF Detailing gave it a complimentary express detail for us prior to our photoshoot.
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