Audi A6 overview
The Audi A6 has been wrangling with the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class for several generations. But as the market demands shift, Audi is hoping that its plug-in hybrid version can carry the baton as an increasing number of buyers look towards lowering or eliminating tailpipe emissions, as much for financial as environmental reasons.
There's no fully electric version of the Audi A6 yet, so if you want a battery-powered Audi saloon you'll need to pay six figures for the svelte e-tron GT. Audi badges the A6's plug-in hybrid setup as TFSI e and it is available in two outputs with three specification grades in saloon and Avant estate bodies. There is little visual differentiation between this and any other A6 aside from the badge on the boot lid and the provision of a second 'filler' flap for charging the battery.
The S line specification adds some brightwork around the windows and big grille. Metallic inserts in the lower front bumper add to the car's presence, though Audi blanks off most of its honeycomb mesh. It's a similar story at the rear, where a diffuser appears to incorporate a set of chrome exhaust tips. Again, these are blanked off, which is something of an Audi speciality these days.
The Audi A6 model range
Buyers have loads of choice when looking at the expansive Audi A6 range, and the majority of models are available in SE and S line specifications. It starts with the 2.0-litre 40 TDI with 204hp and front-wheel drive for €52,910, progressing to the 40 TDI quattro at €55,605.
A 2.0-litre 45 TFSI petrol, priced at €59,600, slots in above the 40 TDI. Spend a little extra and you can have the 45 TFSI with quattro all-wheel drive for €62,495.
Swinging back to diesel, there is a 45 TDI quattro with 231hp at €64,415. Topping this is the 50 TDI quattro. This is powered by a 3.0-litre V6 with an output of 286hp and price tag of €66,480. These versions also come in the Avant body style for an average premium of around €3,200.
If you prefer a more rugged look and love estate cars, then there's the A6 allroad quattro. This higher-riding A6 Avant gets tougher protective body cladding and a unique grille. It's available in either 45 TDI quattro or 50 TDI quattro guises.
The sportier variants of the A6 range start with the S6, although here in Europe it is only offered with powerful diesel engines rather than the sweeter petrol units served elsewhere in the world. The 349hp S6 costs from €90,060, and yes it has a set of four fake exhaust pipes at the rear, but it does serve up mountains of torque.
All-out performance comes at a price, and you'll need to spend €160,000 for the RS 6 Avant. This 600hp estate car with all-wheel drive is the pinnacle of rapid family cars, although its appearance isn't as discreet as previous versions'.
There are two powertrain options for the plug-in hybrid A6. Although both use the same 2.0-litre petrol engine and electric motor setup, the mapping on the combustion engines does differ slightly.
The plug-in hybrid aspect of the Audi A6 range in Ireland starts with the 50 TFSI e SE at €66,185 (excluding incentives). This version has exterior styling that is more on the conservative side, riding on 18-inch, five-spoke alloy wheels. Exterior details include LED headlights, acoustic glazing and electrically folding door mirrors. The plug-in hybrids gain a few extras over the diesel equivalents, including the Virtual Cockpit digital instrument display and four-zone air conditioning.
For a sportier image, the S line starts at €69,866 and gains 19-inch wheels and different exterior styling including Matrix LED headlights and LED rear lights with dynamic indicators. An interior of leather and Alcantara upholstery includes embossed S line logos and front sport seats.
Topping the A6 hybrid offering is the Competition model. This builds upon what you get in the S line by adding the exterior black appearance pack, rear privacy glass, red brake calipers, its own design of 19-inch alloy wheels and an upgraded leather steering wheel. It's worth noting that the Competition spec is only offered as the more powerful A6 55 TFSI e.
At the time of publishing this review, Audi Ireland is offering finance through PCP starting at monthly payments of €578 with a deposit of €18,201. You can find the latest finance offers on the Audi Ireland website.
The Audi A6 interior
As is well established, Audi knows how to make a high-quality cabin. The A6 needs to be good because its nearest rivals, the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, feature superb interiors, with the latter leading the segment for space and ambience.
Stylish as the interior of the A6 is, if you've sat inside any of the other models orbiting in the upper stratosphere of the Audi range you'll struggle to find much to differentiate it. That may sound like quite the first world problem to have, but while everything appears to be made well, it does lack a certain amount of pizazz. It's more demure, and some might say, sophisticated. It perfectly ties in with the pin-sharp Hugo Boss suit that the Audi salesperson is likely to be wearing when you place your order.
These days there are no longer click wheels that replicate the action, feel and sound of a heavy-duty safe combination lock. A double helping of touchscreen displays occupies the centre console, resulting in a monolithic look when the car is switched off.
The lower screen handles all of the climate control settings, temperature and additional functions such as the heated seats and the EV mode - more on that in the driving experience section below. You can conveniently rest your left hand on the sizeable flat-topped gear selector when using this bottom screen. You do get a few physical buttons at its base comprising the engine start button, volume knob and drive select functions, parking functions and the hazard light switch.
The upper screen is for the native infotainment system, which provides all the settings and data on driving and powertrain performance for those keener to understand what the car is doing. Most may prefer to use the smartphone mirroring functions of Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Meanwhile, a digital instrument display offers a few different viewing options, such as a split of battery range with an overall range. Unlike its nearest rivals, the Audi's steering wheel isn't festooned with buttons. The essential ones are there for adjusting volume, skipping tracks and accepting a phone call.
Sitting in the rear seems like the more appropriate place to be given the sizeable nature of the A6. Honestly, one of these with some choice options could have you questioning why you'd need the grander Audi A8.
There is as much legroom as any average adult would want in the outer rear seats. Only the middle position fares worse due to the firmer and narrower seat base combined with the substantial transmission tunnel to straddle. Boot space is impacted by the battery packaging, leaving 360 litres of luggage capacity. For reference, the Mercedes-Benz E 300 de holds 370 litres, while the BMW 530e offers 410 litres of space.
The Audi A6 driving experience
With virtually any version of this C8-era Audi A6 you get a hefty dollop of refinement. But with the plug-in hybrid powertrain of the A6 50 TFSI e that turns up another notch when you run it using only the battery. The powertrain comprises a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine working in tandem with an electric motor fed by a 14.1kWh lithium-ion battery that resides below and behind the rear seats.
It can be eerily quiet at slow speeds when you don't have the stereo on, yet the electric motor alone can deliver a 350Nm thump of acceleration at a moment's notice. Assuming you've fully charged the battery, then you could be looking at squeezing as much as 62 kilometres of driving with solely the electric motor, but that figure will fluctuate from user to user depending on driving style, speed and ambient conditions.
Show some prudence and the Audi makes progress in a quiet and relaxing way. When avoiding more urgent progress, the car uses the battery as much as it can. Drivers can control the battery's operation through three settings - EV, Hold or Auto - with the latter running the car as a hybrid. The Audi will prompt you in certain instances to encourage more efficient driving. A pulse of haptic feedback through the accelerator pedal and a message suggesting you lift off the accelerator when approaching a roundabout may impress or annoy depending on your perspective.
All good stuff if all you want to do is complete your commute in a relaxed fashion, but the A6 does lack the driver engagement that a BMW 5 Series can provide. The steering is almost entirely devoid of communication and even when you hurry it along it never feels like a car that wants to do so. It also has to carry around some additional weight in the rear with its hybrid battery, but this doesn't seem to adversely affect ride quality in everyday driving.
Alternatives to the Audi A6
Two of the closest rivals to the Audi A6 are also available with plug-in hybrid powertrains. BMW's 5 Series comes in the form of the 530e and is available in saloon and estate (Touring) body styles. It produces marginally less power and has a slightly shorter electric range at 51 kilometres, but there's little to separate the two in reality. There's also the more powerful 545e to consider. Available only as a saloon, this gets 54 kilometres of range and a 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine for total outputs of 394hp and 600Nm. It's a good deal more expensive, however.
From Stuttgart comes the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and it has a more diverse plug-in hybrid offering as it is available with petrol or diesel combustion engines. The E 300 de may go down better with those doing longer distances.
Our verdict on the Audi A6
If you're looking for a substantial slice of refinement from a premium brand car, the Audi A6 50 TFSI e could meet your needs. However, it only makes absolute sense if you're in the position to charge the car's battery at home or work, and ideally both. That way, you can best exploit the fuel-saving potential of the plug-in hybrid system.