What is the Audi A6?
Five generations of cars have worn the Audi A6 badge since it replaced the 100 range in 1994, but the premise remains the same. Each is an upmarket range of large models that compete directly against the likes of the BMW 5 Series, Jaguar’s XF, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Volvo’s S90 and V90 twins.
Introduced in 2018, the current Mk5 incarnation of A6 shares much of its mechanical componentry and underpinnings with the more expensive Audi A7 and A8 line-ups, rather than the smaller A4 and A5 ranges.
- Top speed: 149-155mph
- 0-62mph: 5.5-8.3 seconds
- Fuel economy: 47.9-62.8mpg
- Emissions: 117-155g/km of CO2
- Boot space: 565-1,680 litres
Audi has a tendency to flesh-out its model ranges gradually over each one’s lifecycle, meaning that as the current generation of A6 – known by brand aficionados by its C8 development code – is still relatively new; most of the derivatives are yet to appear.
Presently available are the four-door Audi A6 Saloon and its estate counterpart, the Audi A6 Avant. A replacement for the jacked-up Audi A6 Allroad – an Avant with an SUV-style makeover – is expected to join the range during 2019.
Similarly, the current engine range is limited to a pair of diesels with mild-hybrid electrical assistance to elevate fuel efficiency. Under Audi’s revised powerplant designation strategy, the four-cylinder 2.0-litre is known as the 40 TDI, while the V6 3.0-litre is the 50 TDI. The former is front-wheel drive, while the latter is equipped as standard with four-wheel drive and marketed under Audi’s long-standing Quattro badge.
As is usual in this segment of the market now, only automatic gearboxes are available, although the A6 is fitted with a pair of options: lower-powered ones have a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission called S Tronic, while the punchier models come with a conventional eight-speed automatic dubbed Tiptronic.
At this early juncture for the Audi A6, only two trim levels are on sale – Sport and S Line. Over time we expect SE entry-level versions, as well as stealthier Vorsprung models.
These developments are likely to tie-in with the introduction of petrol engines, as well as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version of the Audi A6, expected to use the E-Tron moniker.
There’s a sense of inevitability that the A6 range will also be expanded with a suite of high performance derivatives: our estimates are that the Audi S6 will appear during 2019, with the brutally quick Audi RS 6 likely to debut in 2020, possibly only with the Avant bodystyle.
Despite the carefully evolved appearance of the bodywork, the current generation of Audi A6 is underpinned by a new platform, which allows for the inclusion of mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid electrification without compromising cabin or bootspace.
Although the exterior styling is not surprising, it is punctuated by interesting details, such as the LED lighting graphics front and rear, but it’s the interior that’s more of a technology showcase.
Three screens dominate the dashboard, with the two on the centre console providing touch-sensitive control over most of the A6’s functions. It looks slick, but arguably it requires a greater degree of concentration to operate while driving than its predecessor’s Multimedia Interface (MMI) rotary controller.
Nevertheless, the passenger compartment is spacious, solidly built and beautifully finished.
If you’re a keener driver, then a BMW 5 Series or Jaguar XF is still likely to sate enthusiastic types in a way that the Audi A6 doesn’t. The difference between them is far from the chasm it once was, but similar to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the focus here is comfort, in spite of the sporty trim packages.
From launch, this generation of A6 was available with four different suspension types, but we don’t expect all permutations to be available for the entirety of this model’s lifecycle.
There’s a standard conventional set-up, along with a lowered, stiffer version on S Line models, together with two adaptive choices to vary the firmness. Despite Audi’s of yore riding with an unnecessary degree of firmness, these ones are much more compliant.
Of the two adaptive versions – one uses variable-rate shock absorbers, the other is a full air-cushioned suspension system – we’d urge caution specifying the latter. It’s supremely comfortable at urban speeds, yet feels disappointingly unsettled when plying along smooth motorways.
Additionally, there’s a boost for the A6 in terms of how manoeuvrable it is courtesy of four-wheel steering, both increasing high-speed stability and making the large Audi more nimble around town.
With the least expensive model in the initial wave of the Audi A6 launch phase costing a tad under £40,000, a reminder is served that premium-badged cars don’t tend to be cheap purchases.
As with the car market generally, most customers will go a PCP or PCH route in order to reduce outgoings significantly.
To this end, the A6 is typically only marginally pricier than the BMW 5 Series for an equivalent model, while the Mercedes E-Class is slightly pricier still.
Thanks to healthy deposit contributions, the Volvo S90 is by far the bargain of the moment.
How reliable this generation of Audi A6 is remains to be seen once a significant number have aged and clocked-up higher mileages. Learn how this model’s rated by its drivers with our owners’ reviews.
Audi A6 Model History
Following the template laid down by its predecessors, the C7-generation of A6s comprised of a very comprehensive range.
All models were mildly facelifted in 2015, with crisper LED lighting details and minor trim changes, but they fundamentally looked very similar.
Mainstream models featured a variety of four- and V6-cylinder TSI petrol and TDI diesel engines, with Quattro four-wheel drive available across the majority of the range to complement the front-driven versions.
Third-generation Audi A6 (2004-11)
Although the styling of the Mk3 Audi A6 wasn’t as daring as the generation it replaced, it did herald the introduction of the German brand’s full-height grille that had been teased previously on a number of concept cars.
Audi was already enjoying a reputation for building cars with high quality interiors, a trait continued here, with additional technology introduced to the A6 in the form of the Multimedia Interface (MMI) – a rotary control system that rivalled BMW’s iDrive.
Diesel-engined A6s dominated sales with a broad offering of four- and V6-cylinder TDIs, complementing the less popular petrols that were offered in similar configurations, along with a 4.2-litre V8.
There was a subtle refresh in 2008, with the most obvious visual changes limited to the introduction of LED day-running lights on high-end models, and broader tail lamps that were bisected by the bootlid on A6 Saloons.
Second-generation Audi A6 (1997-05)
For some, the unadorned, minimalist lines of the Mk2 Audi A6 reflect a self-confidence simplicity in the brand’s design language that’s since fallen by the wayside, for others it looks like a well-used bar of soap.
Whichever side of the fence you stand on, there’s no doubting that the svelte second-generation C5 model is striking, most notably with the curved rump of the A6 Saloon that went on sale over a year before the similarly-bottomed TT Coupe.
The more capacious estate version, the Audi A6 Avant followed in 1998, while there was an interesting departure in 2000 with the introduction of the high-rise, plastic-clad Audi Allroad aimed squarely at Volvo’s V70 XC. Although clearly derived from the Avant body, it didn’t have an A6 badge the first time around.
A blink-and-you-missed-it refresh arrived in 2002, limited to revised lighting graphics and a greater degree of body-coloured exterior trim to replace the earlier grey plastic.
There was a diverse range of petrol and diesel powerplants on offer, ranging from a 1.8-litre four-cylinder up to a 4.2-litre V8.
Developments of that largest motor ensured both the sportier Audi S6 and RS 6 models, the latter sold in Britain only in Avant form, were indecently quick.
First-generation Audi A6 (1994-98)
When is a new car not a new car? When it’s the Mk1 Audi A6, known by fans of the firm as the C4 generation.
How so? Well, this version originally went on sale as the Audi 100 in 1991 and received a mild facelift and rename in 1994. Despite being revealed after the first-generation Audi A8, the A6 was the first of the A-prefixed Audis to make it to Britain.
Two bodystyles were sold – the traditional Audi A6 Saloon and the load-lugging Audi A6 Estate. For reasons known only to Audi itself, a decision was made in the early-1990s not to use the Avant name for its wagons during this time in the UK.
Four-, five- and six-cylinder petrol and diesels were sold in Britain, ranging from 1.8- to 2.8-litres in capacity, although some markets were also offered a 4.2-litre V8.
Topping the range in the performance stakes was the Audi S6 – which confusingly replaced the 100-based Audi S4 during the 1994 realignment – although by contemporary standards it sounds rather tame, thanks to a 230hp 2.2-litre five-cylinder petrol motor.