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Audi A6 engines, drive and performance

2018 onwards (change model)
Performance rating: 3.8 out of 53.8

Written by Keith Adams Published: 3 December 2019 Updated: 13 April 2023

  • Appealing selection of engines
  • Performance S6 version is a corker
  • PHEV is merely okay

Petrol engines

Petrol engines kick off with the 40 TFSI. It’s a 2.0-litre four cylinder unit making 201hp and it’s fine for leisurely driving, but for the true exec experience we recommend taking the next step up.

The 45 TFSI uses the same engine, but it produces 245hp. This comes with all-wheel drive and takes 6.0-seconds to complete the 0-62mph acceleration benchmark, whereas the 40 TFSI’s time is more than seven seconds.

Both of these models come with a seven-speed automatic gearbox which can be used manually via paddles behind the wheel.

Diesel engine

There’s only one diesel on offer. It’s branded as the 40 TDI and it uses a 204hp 2.0-litre engine, which is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and is only available with Quattro all-wheel drive. This is our choice of the line-up with more than enough power for most drivers. 

It’s quiet and refined on the move and the mild-hybrid system allows the A6 to coast between 34 and 99mph (when the accelerator isn’t being pressed) for that extra bit of fuel-saving.

Plug-in hybrid engine

If you want to be even more environmentally friendly then there’s the 55 TFSI e, a plug-in hybrid with power and economy at its core.

This marries a 2.0-litre petrol to an electric motor, which takes power from a battery located under the boot. Total output is 300hp and it’ll cover the 0-62mph sprint in just a smidge over 6.2 seconds. This can run on pure electric power, petrol or both and you can tell the car’s brain which one you want to use. Alternatively, you can order it to figure it out itself. Broadly it performs amicably and is a worthwhile alternative to petrol or diesel if you do a lot of short-ish (sub 30-mile) journeys.

Performance engine

At the top of the range sits the diesel-powered S6. It’s an unusual but not unprecedented choice of fuel, given the fact Audi has used diesel engines in its performance SUVs before.

Audi S6
Audi S6

The headline here is the use of a 7kW electric supercharger. This clever tech boosts engine responsiveness and provides power at the low end of the rev range for a sensation of bottomless power.

It feels very fast indeed thanks to 349hp and 700Nm of torque that seem instantly available no matter what gear you’re in. As a result the S6 has a unique character among its rivals, with effortless, drama-free power for those who don’t want to shout about it.

There’s also the standalone RS 6 Avant model. It uses a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol engine delivering around 600hp. Rest assured this is really only for dyed in the wool petrolheads.

What’s it like to drive?

  • Neat and tidy handling for a big car
  • Errs on the side of comfort rather than sportiness
  • A bit firm at times

How an A6 drives largely depends on which trim level you’re in. Sport models have the standard (softest) suspension setup, S Line and Black Edition cars get the sport (hardest) setup and Vorsprung models have electronically controlled adaptive damping.

The standard suspension rides softly and does a good job of protecting you from bumps and imperfections in the road. The S Line feels notably harder, but has much less roll. You’ll find yourself moving around in your seat a lot less in a set of tight corners in an S Line model.

Vorsprung, complete with air spring set-up, is the most expensive and complex. The suspension reacts depending on which drive mode you’re in. The gulf between Comfort and Dynamic felt the widest of all configurations, in Comfort there was a slightly unsettled ride common to many similar air set-ups. Small imperfections create a shimmy through the car that never seems to stop, and we reckon after 100 miles or so it could become very tiring. While in Dynamic it feels overly taught, crashing into divots.

The low-speed ride is impressive, however, so if you’re buying an A6 for predominantly lower-speed driving then it could still be a decent box to tick. But for general use, we feel the S Line models strike the best balance.

Audi A6 moving
Audi A6 moving

No matter which version you choose, an A6 is no BMW 5 Series when it comes to roadholding or going around a corner. This is because the Audi feels heavier and more lolloping, compared to the svelte BMW.

S6 usefully more dynamic

While this car is undoubtedly a performance version of the A6 it’s really more about the engine, so don’t expect a nuts and bolts rebuild when it comes to the chassis and handling. Still, a useful 10mm drop and the availability of a Quattro sport differential keep things entertaining, in the typical Audi style of monstrous grip in bends.

Also available as an option are carbon ceramic brakes, which help haul the A6’s bulk up quickly and reliably time after time, but are really only necessary if you plan on conducting repeated hard stops in your A6 Saloon with any sort of regularity.