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The 2015 Audi A6 update brings incremental improvements to the engines, transmissions, active safety credentials and cabin technology, giving the four-ringed brand more ammunition to use against its rival German and British manufacturers.
Like most mid-life updates from the Ingolstadt-based manufacturer, changes to the A6’s exterior remain minimal, in this case bringing about a sharper front and rear-end design in line with Audi’s evolving company look. That said, these exterior changes result in the A6’s length increasing by 17mm.
Will the changes be enough to see the A6 return to the sales podium in the shrinking large luxury car segment?
With 477 year-to-date, A6 sales are up 28 per cent, but it still trails the BMW 5 Series (676), Jaguar XF (646) and Mercedes-Benz E-Class (1192). Audi Australia hopes to change this with the launch of the model year 2015 A6.
We flew across the globe to Dresden, Germany, to drive the updated A6 ahead of its local launch in March-April next year.
First impressions of the car are its striking appearance, particularly the new alloy wheels. Audi cars of late have largely been handsome to look at, and the updated A6 is no different, following a set design cues that has led to an unmistakable family look from the A8 down.
In some ways one can mistake the A6 for an A8 or A4 from a distance, a matter that Audi designers will soon address, but for current A6 buyers at least, the resemblance to the elegant flagship A8 is a bonus.
Jump inside and the story is very much the same. The A6’s interior is still one of the best in the business and outdoes the revised and sales-leading Mercedes-Benz E-Class in terms of overall cabin ambience.
The front seats, which can be optioned with ventilation and massage functions, as well as the rear seats available with heating, are supportive and more than suitable for long journeys. The A6 can take five adults without too much concern but is best suited to four. Tall adults will have no head or knee room issues in either end.
The overall layout and driver-focused positioning of the switchgear is also a highlight. Even if the switchgear is starting to show its age when compared to Audi’s very latest models.
The addition of a driver information screen (5 or 7-inches depending on variant) between the speedometer and tachometer is borrowed from the recently launched Audi TT (though it’s not entirely digital like the TT), and helps tremendously with navigation, audio browsing and more.
Audi says its new infotainment system - which is driven via the same eight-inch retractable LCD but now powered by a 1.0Ghz Tegra 30 processor from chip manufacturer nVidia - is the best-in-class and while we would agree in terms of its speed (quickest Bluetooth pairing we’ve had to date in any car) and image processing ability, it lacks the usability and simplicity of BMW’s latest version of iDrive. Australian delivered models will also miss out on the online media update and Audi connect applications.
It does bring about the best implementation of a modern in-car satellite navigation system thanks to its Google maps integration, which will be further aided by the availability of an LTE data connection in Australia, allowing for significantly faster data downloads for maps and other applications compared to the 3G setup used previously.
Gone are all multitronic CVT models, starting with the 2.0TFSI (131kW), which will be replaced with a 1.8TFSI (140kW) now equipped with a 7-speed S Tronic transmission.
The revised Audi A6 range will consist of one petrol (1.8 TFSI) and three diesel models, with the entry diesel 2.0 TDI launching soon after the 3.0L single turbo 160kW Quattro replaces the 180kW version (both equipped with 7-Speed S Tronic transmissions), and the biturbo 3.0L TDI bringing power up to 235kW (previously 230kW) with the same eight-speed transmission.
We started our test in a 2.0L TDI front-wheel drive A6 sedan, equipped with the new seven-speed S Tronic gearbox and optioned with air suspension as well as the S Line package.
Although air suspension is available as an option in Australia, the majority of local A6 buyers do not tick the box, opting instead to go for the regular steel setup, which Audi Germany did not have for us to test.
Nonetheless, the optional suspension proved the adaptability of the A6 on changing road conditions, providing a plush ride in comfort mode, followed by a noticeably sharper engagement in dynamic mode. The steering can at times feel a little weightless and in comfort mode at least, there’s a bit of play on centre, further adding to the regular A6’s focus on comfort.
Despite being front-wheel drive, it’s hard to tell the A6 apart from an E-Class in terms of its regular driving characteristics, it’s only when push comes to shove that it shows its true nature, and even then, it’s a solid performer around the twisty stuff and regular bends, if not just a little keen to lean into things (much like the E-Class).
We did try an A6 with springs made of glass fiber-reinforced polymer (GFRP) that is meant to best resemble the steel setup (but save 4kg in weight) and found the ride far firmer but at the same time more willing to provide feedback through the chassis. Although we don’t get the option for GFRP in Australia, it will be interesting to test the revised steel suspension setup on local roads next year.
The best feature of the new A6 range is by-and-large the S Tronic transmission. Gearshifts are rapid in succession and essentially seamless. There’s no hint of hesitation up or down and although the gearbox can only take up to 600Nm of torque (hence leaving the high-spec 650Nm biturbo diesel with a regular eight-speed).
Speaking of Quattro, Audi’s intent to further capitalise on its unique selling point with all-wheel drive models shines through in the A6 range, with quattro-equipped models providing the best grip and optimal driving performance that is basically unrivalled in wet or loose surface conditions.
We did find ourselves pushing our A6 test cars to their limit at one moment then sitting in traffic the next, and though most buyers would be doing the later the majority of the time, it’s important to note the large Audi sedan is a very competent driving machine regardless of setup or drivetrain.
Around the near-perfect roads of Dresden and its surrounding towns, our numerous A6 test cars proved faultless in terms of passenger comfort. Audi says road noise is further reduced in the new model thanks to acoustic glazing for the front and side passenger compartments and true to its word, the silence inside is deafening at times.
We also experienced the new active safety features, such as active lane and side assist as well as vision assist. It will be good to see Audi include some of those systems as standard across the range, considering the benchmark set by the E-Class in terms of active safety. All systems worked as expected, even if Audi is playing catching up in this instance.
Overall, the 2015 Audi A6 range will bring about a reasonable number of improvements highlighted by the new S Tronic transmission and more powerful yet more economical engines. The 160kW 3.0-litre TDI Quattro will become the new sweet spot, offering a cheaper entry for diesel Quattro models that will further help entice buyers to switch allegiances.
Pricing and specifications are yet to be confirmed for the local lineup, however we suspect Audi Australia will keep the current pricing structure with the addition of more standard features.
2015 Audi A6 Variants:
- Audi A6 1.8 TFSI S tronic front-wheel drive (140 kW - 320Nm)
- Audi A6 3.0 TDI clean diesel quattro S tronic (160 kW - 500Nm)
- Audi A6 2.0 TDI S tronic front-wheel drive (140 kW - 400Nm)
- Audi A6 3.0 TDI clean diesel biturbo quattro tiptronic (235 kW - 650Nm)