Model/Engine size: 2.0 TDI SE
Fuel economy combined: 57.7 mpg
Green-Car-Guide rating: 9/10
The new Audi A6 is here, and in 2.0 TDI form it edges ahead of the BMW 520d by 0.1 mpg to claim the most economical car in class award – so should you buy one?
The Audi A6 2.0 TDI manages a combined 57.7 mpg (and 129 g/km CO2), whereas its arch-rival the BMW 520d achieves 57.6 and the same 129 g/km CO2. So there’s not much in it – how do you choose?
Both cars are relatively new and both look good. The A6 looks very similar overall to the previous model, especially from the side and the rear. In fact a slight problem is that the A6 doesn’t look a huge amount different from the A4 from the rear. Not a great amount has changed at the front apart from the lights, but making a small design adjustment, changing them from being rectangular to being very modern, angular and aggressive, has made a big difference. The A6 now looks much better from the front, with similar styling elements to some of Audi’s current concept cars. Our test car looked good on its 18-inch alloys, but these are an extra-cost option.
Inside, all the materials feel extremely high quality and aesthetically pleasing to touch, and this includes the steering wheel, which also features lots of useful controls for equipment such as stereo and phone. Every A6 now comes with satnav as standard, and the screen magically rises up and out of the dashboard. You also get a large space between the rev counter and speedo which features additional navigation instructions. The controller for the satnav is very much like the BMW iDrive system, positioned conveniently between the front seats, and it works well.
There’s an indicator to remind you to change into the most efficient gear; all the instruments are white on a black background, but the gearshift indicator is in green and it’s very clear.
The seats on our test car had electronic controls and combined with the large amount of steering wheel adjustment you could easily spend an entire journey playing with different driving positions. As you would expect in a car of this size, there is lots of space up front and in the rear, and the boot is also huge. Our test car even had separate full heating controls for rear seat passengers.
The new A6 is more efficient than the outgoing 2.0 TDIe model, with fuel economy improving from 53.3 to 57.7 mpg, and critically for company car drivers the CO2 emissions have magically dropped under the 130 g/km threshold to 129 g/km CO2.
Standard features to aid efficiency include brake energy recuperation, an intelligent alternator, a new air conditioning system which saves a useful 8 g/km of CO2, and an automatic engine start-stop which eliminates idling. We easily averaged 50 mpg with careful motorway driving. The car also has a usefully long range.
Although the economy is slightly better than the old 2.0 TDIe, it’s the performance that is much improved. The 175 bhp engine results in a 0-62 mph time of 8.7 seconds and a maximum speed of 141 mph.
The new model weighs 1575 kg – there is extensive use of aluminium, but according to our figures this is still 25 kg heavier than the previous 2.0 TDIe model. But the new A6 feels lighter. The biggest difference with the new model is the driving experience. The new A6 feels more agile and responsive. The steering feels sharper with more feedback. The previous model also suffered from occasional torque steer, which has virtually been banished in the new generation A6.
It’s on a motorway where the car is at its best; the A6 is comfortable, quiet and refined, with an excellent ride. It’s virtually impossible to tell that you’re driving a diesel in terms of noise levels, but you get the benefit of the extra torque and of course the improved levels of fuel efficiency. The six-speed manual gearbox is slick, and sixth gear provides low revs on motorway journeys.
When you get onto winding back roads, although there’s nothing wrong with the way the car drives, the one big difference between the A6 and the BMW 520d becomes evident – the BMW is rear-wheel drive, while the Audi is front-wheel drive. Some people may prefer front-wheel drive, but we definitely think that a car of this class should be rear-wheel drive. It gives a purer steering feel and provides the ability to push the car through corners, giving better handling.
Any other gripes? Very little. However, one minor thing is that you do have to press one button then turn another knob to control where the ventilation comes from, and what level of fan speed you want. This just seems a bit more complex than necessary – we’d prefer to control ventilation with one touch of a button, not two. And we’re still not fans of electronic parking brakes – it often seems difficult to know whether the brake is on or off. There’s also nowhere to slot the ignition key into, and there’s no clutch foot rest. Okay, gripes over.
In terms of cost, the A6 2.0 TDI costs £29,500, with on-the-road costs of £645, this takes the total to £30,145. However our test car had a leather interior, adding £750, and it was loaded with a range of options including electric front seats at £1310, Bi-Xenon headlights at £1240, 18-inch alloys at £780, 4-zone air conditioning at £680, and front sports seats at £665. In total, all options took the price of the car to £38,665.
The new Audi A6 is definitely a step forward from the previous model, especially in the way that it drives. It looks good and has one of the classiest interiors in the business. It is also, by 0.1 mpg, the most economical car in its class. Everything works perfectly and you will get no complaints about eating up motorway miles in this car. Because of all this it gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 9 out of 10.
The only thing that you need to consider is that this is a front-wheel drive car. This may present absolutely no problem for many people, and for the vast majority of driving, most people will not be aware about whether it is front or rear-wheel drive. However we do feel that cars in this class work better from a steering and a handling point of view if they are rear-wheel drive; if you agree, then this is the only real issue with the A6.
Is there any other car to recommend apart from the A6 saloon? Well, actually yes – the A6 Avant 2.0 TDI . This estate version has slightly higher emissions, at 132 g/km CO2, and the fuel economy drops marginally to 56.5 mpg. But we think this is a minor price worth paying for a car that is more practical and that has more of a special feel to it.
From the Audi stable comes the new A6 2.0 TDi. The car is everything you would expect from Audi; good looks, excellent build quality and the introduction of new technology. For a large executive model the CO2 emissions are impressive, and identical to the class-leading BMW 520D. Both are excellent cars and have a great combination of luxury, efficiency and driveability. The rear-wheel drive BMW may offer a better driving experience, but front-wheel drive is a more practical choice, particularly in the snow.
The new A6 is a handsome car particularly in S Line trim. With very low running costs, the A6 is a great choice with this engine, and is sure to be a popular buy in these times of painful fuel prices.
Consumer Transport Manager
Energy Saving Trust
Fuel economy extra urban: 64.2 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 47.1 mpg
CO2 emissions: 129 g/km
Green rating: VED band D – first year £0
Weight: 1575 Kg
Company car tax liability (2011/12): 18%
Price: £30,145 (From £30,145 to £40,620)
Insurance group: TBC
Power: 175 bhp
Max speed: 141 mph
0-62mph: 8.7 seconds
Keywords: Audi A6 2.0 TDI review, Audi A6 2.0 TDI road test