First it was the E-class in 2016, then the 5-series in 2017, and finally this year, it’s the A6 that has moved onto its next generation. The new car will most likely be the last Audi to be built using the MLB Evo platform, as the carmaker plans to adopt Porsche's MSB platform; however, that's still a big leap ahead.
The A6 is a massively important car for Audi. In India, however, the car moved away from the action in the last few years and the competition stole a march on it, thus the new A6 could not come a moment too soon. There’s still time for it to hit our shores, as older brother, the A8 is set to be launched first this year, with the A6 coming in, sometime next year.
More importantly, Audi will only bring in the standard wheelbase to India. Thanks to Mercedes launching the E-class in only long wheelbase form and BMW bringing in the 6 GT, a long wheelbase has become more of a norm in this segment. However, the long-wheelbase A6 is currently only in left-hand-drive configuration (and isn't and option for India) and Audi wants to present more of a balanced car and not one tilted in favour of any one type of consumer.
What’s it like on the outside?
Sticking with family styling cues is standard these days, and Audi is no exception. The new A6 looks pretty similar to the new A8 – this isn’t a complaint, but more a lament, something on the lines of 'oh, but why?' One look at the car though, and it’s easy to see that it comes across as a lot sharper, more muscular and lower slung compared to the older can; it’s really massively attractive.
At the front, the hexagonal Audi grille is placed lower as are the signature Audi Matrix LED headlights that retain the stepped lower edge from the earlier car. Below that sit rather large air dams formed by very sharp and aggressive lines. The sides of the car have two neat crease lines, each originating from the front and rear fenders and ending on the doors. Wheel options are plenty and sizes go up to 21 inches; 20 inches was the largest offered on the earlier car. At the rear, the tail-lights are large horizontal units split across the fender and boot lid and has a neat chrome strip running between them. The bumper has two rectangular exhaust trims, but these aren’t exhaust outlets but just stylistic touches; the exhaust pipes are actually tucked away below.
What’s it like on the inside?
Let’s begin with the rear. First thing to remember is that this isn’t a long wheelbase car. So how does it fare on space? Pretty good actually, you can’t of course stretch out like you would in an E, but there is plenty of leg room with even a taller person ahead. Headroom is great too, but the best bit for me was the seats themselves. The backrest felt perfectly contoured and the seat bench offered good support; it’s definitely a place you could spend long hours in. In terms of features, rear seat occupants get a two-zone climate control, making the A6's HVAC system a four- zone temperature unit, and the controls are all touch-enabled. You also get two USB ports and a power socket.
Behind the wheel there’s plenty on offer too, and as is pretty much the norm for every new VW Group luxury vehicle, the A6 gets the dual touchscreen panel. The top screen is for infotainment, while the lower one is for climate control and other functions. It works well and has haptic feedback too, but I would still say the physical buttons are better here, as with the touchscreen, you will have to take your eyes off the road to see what you're pressing.
The system has quite a few interesting bits like a customisable screen that uses drag and drop motions, akin to a smartphone, and more interactive voice commands, for instance, if you say you're feeling hot, the car will ask you to what temperature would you like to set the AC.
What’s it like to drive?
There are a few powertrain options available, and, notably, all engines will be mild-hybrids. There could also be a plug-in hybrid on offer later; a sign of the times! There is no word on what’s headed to India, but the 40 TDI diesel is a pretty safe bet. We drove this version, as well as the 55 TFSI 3.0-litre V6 petrol which may not come to our market.
The petrol unit puts out 340hp and 500Nm of torque, while the diesel makes a lower 204hp and 400Nm of torque. Both engines are mated to a seven-speed automatic gearbox. Coming to the diesel, the engine is powerful enough for everyday needs, but it isn’t for spirited driving, lacking some serious punch that you know the chassis can handle. Also, on the whole, the engine does feel a bit coarse and pushing it only further highlights this. With the petrol, refinement is something you would expect, and the 3.0 V6 does deliver. It’s very refined, the performance is also very sprightly, and there is a sense of urgency to it – a burst of power is never too far away.
As far as hybrid tech goes, the system here is a mild hybrid, meaning it only assists the engine in certain driving conditions; the electrics cannot propel the car solely. What it can do, however, is shut down the engine when the car is coasting down, and start it up automatically when needed.
As far as suspension setup goes, the petrol has air springs, while the diesel gets steel springs with adjustable dampers. In both cases, the ride was just right, with a good balance of handling and comfort. Given the standout feature of the current A6 in our market is the air suspension that’s standard on all cars, expect the same with the new A6 too. We'll have to wait to see just how comfortable this setup is on our roads.
The ride is soft but not to the point of being uncomfortable – the twisty mountain roads we were driving on didn’t induce a queasy feeling, even though I was seated at the back. The use of Dynamic mode, however, did tighten things up. Higher-spec versions of the A6 do get four-wheel steering which makes the car feel very agile for its size. However, India-spec versions may give this feature a miss. In standard form though, it is still quite agile enough. While we have not been fans of Audi’s steering feel, but the A6, like the new A8, has a great setup; it's nicely weighted and firm, and offers a decent level of feedback.
Should I buy one?
First of all, you aren’t going to be able to buy one anytime soon, as Audi will only bring the A6 to India next year, after the launch of the new A8. When the A6 does make it to our shores however, expect it to be a loaded car with bits like standard air springs, a four-zone climate control system, and, of course, like it or not, the dual touchscreen display.
On the engine front, the diesel engine isn’t the last word in refinement but it delivers the goods and should be fine for everyday motoring and with the mild- hybrid system, it should eke out just a wee bit more from every litre of your fuel. However, if the 3.0 V6 petrol does make it to India, it's certainly the one to go for if you like driving.
For the chauffeur-driven, there’s ample space at the back and the seats are very comfortable.
Thus, as it stands, the A6 is clearly not focused on one type of customer and it's a more rounded package. And if you split your time between the front seat and the rear, the A6 is a very credible option.