If you’re like me, you are probably wondering what a pint-size 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine is doing under the bonnet of the latest Audi A6 executive sedan.
It turns out this is Audi’s attempt at achieving the best possible balance between power and efficiency — and in this model’s case, there’s plenty of both to lure a discerning buyer.
Despite its place at the bottom of the updated A6 range, this four-cylinder, front-wheel drive iteration is still a beautifully handsome car that not only oozes class, but also ticks all the boxes for the prestige car buyer, at least in my opinion.
It also looks considerably more expensive than its $79,900 price tag (plus on-roads) might suggest.
Apart from the high-powered S6 and ballistic RS6 Avant, priced from $169,900 and $229,500 plus on-road costs respectively, the next rung up on the A6 hierarchy is the 3.0 V6 TD, which attracts a substantial $20,000 premium over this base model 1.8-litre tester.
The only other real threat, at least on paper, is Jaguar and its soon-to-be-updated and more powerful 177kW/340Nm XF 2.0T Premium, priced from $75,500 with an eight-speed auto.
Visual changes to the A6 amount to a subtle evolution only, meaning only those Audi aficionados with a keen eye for detail will be able to pick the styling tweaks. The bodywork remains largely unchanged bar the rejigged bumpers, lower profile grille and the new Matrix LED headlights (on our S-line tester) and sweeping LED indicators lights.
It’s a nip and tuck treatment at best, but enough to give the car a slightly more menacing stance while preserving that trademark Audi elegance that so clearly distinguishes the brand from its key competitors.
Step inside and, again, you’ll be hard pressed picking this as the entry-level offering in the A6 range. It’s not the latest and greatest Audi virtual cockpit, which you’ll find in the new TT, but it’s still very schmick.
There’s a genuine feeling of luxury throughout the cabin, boasting a superb blend of leather, metallic accents and soft-touch plastics wrapping a driver-centric cockpit.
I especially like the polished metal door openers, typical for Audi, but nonetheless, it’s beautifully formed and nice to the touch.
The front leather buckets are simply superb for their ability to coddle any size body frame, while providing sufficient side bolster and under thigh for those more eager driving moments. I can’t be too gushing on the level of comfort in this car – long journeys would be a pleasure.
Like most vehicles in the premium large segment, the A6 1.8 TFSI boasts a host luxury highlights including Xenon plus headlamps with LED running lights and high-beam assist, adjustable leather front seats, and an eight-inch screen controlled via Audi’s multimedia interface.
There’s also a supplementary screen (also high-res) within the instrument cluster, which displays the navigation directions, as well as an excellent head-up display.
Mandatory tech kit such as satellite navigation, reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry/start and dual-zone climate control is also part of the standard A6 inventory.
Blind spot monitoring and a rear collision detector are fitted to all models, while Lane-keep assist is available on the 1.8 TSFI as part of the optional Technik Package that also adds a 360-degree camera view, active cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and the Audi Connect internet connectivity system.
At a smidge under five metres in length, the A6 is a big car with plenty of living space inside. There’s plenty of rear seat legroom and enough width for three adults to sit comfortably abreast. The boot, too, is substantial, with a wide aperture for easy loading, as well as 60/40 split-fold seats for longer loads.
The luxury fit-out is complimented by a limo-level of refinement and noise insulation – a direct result of more advanced soundproofing with fortified glazing for the windscreen and front windows. It also doubles as the perfect sound studio for enjoying the sensational Bang & Olufsen audio (optional on this model).
Behind the wheel, though, the 1.8-litre A6 is a genuine surprise - not the performance sloth I was half expecting from its small displacement powertrain.
Tipping the scales at just 1570kg, it’s relatively lightweight, giving the Audi a slight advantage over rival models in off-the-line acceleration. The stats say it will hit 100km/h in 7.9 seconds, whereas the BMW and Benz need 8.0 sec and 8.2 seconds, respectively.
Bury the throttle from a standing start, and apart from some mild turbo lag, the A6 feels positively peppy. Power to the front wheels is delivered via a smooth shifting seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
It’s infinitely better than the continuously variable Multitronic transmission in the previous model - to the point where the car feels genuinely sporty. That’s complimented by a subtle growl that’s conveniently piped into the cabin – topping off what is a thoroughly enjoyable driving experience.
That’s said, there’s no doubt this engine does its best work in the mid-range, where it delivers maximum torque between 1400-4100rpm.
The result is a four-cylinder engine that pulls hard, yet never really feels too stressed.
And best of all, it won’t cost you a packet to run, at least when it comes to petrol. Audi’s official consumption figure for the 1.8-litre A6 is 5.7L/100km. While we didn’t quite emulate that figure, our fuel use over a week of mainly urban driving averaged out at 7.6L/100km – an entirely respectable number given the level of enjoyment this car provided. It’s also understandably ‘green’, with emissions of just 133g CO2 per kilometre.
When it comes to ride and handling there are very few cars in this class that offer such an impeccable balance between these two key characteristics as the A6, particularly with this model’s standard suspension set-up.
All manner of bumps and patchy surfaces are absorbed for a thoroughly cushioned ride – up front or in the back. Only occasionally, over broken road with sharp edges, is there any noticeable jolt felt through the chassis.
It’s also fairly handy in the twisty stuff, aided by responsive steering that has a nice easy weight to it. It’s very composed, and there’s a real sporty feel to this car that’s in perfect sync with the drivetrain.
If you don’t want to spend a small fortune, but still want a large prestige car that performs well with all the expected luxury trimmings, then the A6 1.8 TSFI needs to be at the top of your short list.