Audi A6: Premium vs executive

  • What separates premium cars from executive ones
  • Is in-car tech the new corporate status badge
  • Premium Audi A6 goes head-to-head with an executive VW Passat

Ok, on the face of it an Audi A6 at nearly twice the price of a VW Passat is going to be the better car.

This version of the Passat is aimed directly at the executive market with its raft of fuel saving measures and weighs in with a 1.6-litre diesel engine – nearly half the size of the Audi’s.

So with cost-cutting measures at the fore front of most people’s mind, can adjusting your ‘premiumness’ mean you still get a quality experience but at a reduced price?

Driving experience

While the A6 may not be the last word in sporty driving, it can still provide an engaging experience for those looking to tackle a sweeping A-road or twisty back road.

The S Line version has lowered suspension by 20mm compared to the standard A6 (and there’s the option to go for an even lower set-up) which sharpens the turn-in and enhances agility. You never feel you are steering a large saloon car, just pick your line and the car follows.

The VW Passat is never going to set your pulse racing if zapping along a convoluted piece of tarmac is your thing. This is a car tuned for motorways, not getaways, preferring to deliver a relaxed, comfortable drive,

Long distance comfort

Audi A6 interior

Audi A6 quality interior provides multi-adjustable seats for great comfort

VW Passat interior

VW Passat spartan interior remains a very comfortable place to be

Faced with a few hours in the saddle, both cars provide long distance comfort. The Passat’s seats are supportive and firm, and there’s enough adjustment for me to find a comfortable position.

The engine hums contentedly even at higher motorway speeds and the whole experience is a relaxed affair. Motorway journeys hold no fear for a Passat driver.

As you'd expect from a more expensive offering, the A6 takes this experience and adds a blend of sumptuous luxury and air of effortlessness that makes long journeys something to look forward to.

The leather seats are wide and enveloping and provide an even support to your body. The only niggle is that adjusting the seat fore and aft and tilting the back rest requires manual labour. Come the flipside of three hours in the seat it feels like a drive to the local shops.

Interior fit and finish

Volkswagen is a brand whose fit and finish feels solid and well put together. The central dash, buttons and dials don’t wobble or flex, but feel like they have been carved out of the same solid material. It’s all very re-assuring.

Slip behind the wheel of the Audi, though, and not only do you get the impression of a solid and well-built cabin, but one that feels and looks premium.

It’s the kind of difference you notice between a modern boutique hotel and an established luxury hotel. Both provide a solid level of comfort but one just provides a greater level of reassurance that you are surrounded by materials assembled by people who really know their craft.

In-car tech

Audi A6 sat nav

A6 sat-nav pops up from dash and provides easy to follow instructions

VW Passat sat nav

VW nav sits in central dash and feels more old-school and clunky to use

Given the price difference (£21,270 for the Passat, double that for the A6) you might expect a league of difference between the two with the A6 dripping in high-end kit vs the more parsimonious Passat.

However, both have push button start, keyless entry, multi-function steering wheel and touch screen controls. And this Bluemotion version of the Passat is based on the entry-level S trim.

You have to look harder to really see the differences. The Audi’s adaptive cruise control is more sophisticated; its audio system provides DAB radio, hard drive for music and full compatibility with iPod connection while there are some very neat touches such as the flip out screen that pops out when you hit the ignition.

VW Passat vs Audi A6

Verdict overall

The difference between a car that qualifies for an executive vehicle and one that has the quiet, confident air of true luxury can never be summed up by one or even two things. The bar is raised over a variety of factors. That, when taken collectively, marks out a major difference.

This has been a useful twin-test. It's highlighted just how Audi's price premium is justified over a car which looks similar but costs significantly less.

Mileage: 2,789 miles

MPG: 36.7 mpg (indicated)