Somewhere in Australia, right now, are 72 people who will smile and nod to themselves appreciably each and every time they get behind the wheel of their 2020 Audi A6. They’ll smile because the A6 is at once understated yet luxurious, filled with modern technology that is easy to use, and has a drivetrain – certainly in this 55 TFSI spec – that's an absolute delight.
Large sedans are out of favour with Aussie buyers. And while that doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone, it’s also a bit of a shame. For those 72 people (traditionalists?) who have bought an A6 so far in 2020, the rewards are plentiful.
On test here we have the 2020 Audi A6 55 TFSI Quattro S Line (to bestow it its full title). It asks for $116,000 plus on-road costs. That’s at the upper end of the A6 range, which gets underway with the 40 TFSI at $85,500 and tops out with the altogether more manic S6 at $149,900.
Looking across the map to Stuttgart and Munich, and if we’re looking at similar specifications, the Mercedes-Benz E450 4Matic wants for a whopping $149,700, while the closest BMW 5 Series in terms of drivetrain and with similar outputs is the diesel 530d that asks for $123,300. It’s rear-wheel drive, of course, as is the 530i that is a closer match in price at $112,900, but nowhere near as powerful and rear-wheel drive.
A bit closer to home, the $133,600 Audi A7 Sportback 55 TFSI, with the same powertrain as its three-box sibling, commands a $17,600 premium over the A6. That liftback mechanism in the A7 must be expensive.
What’s clear is the Audi A6 in 55 TFSI Quattro spec is a bit of a loner in the large, premium sedan segment, certainly on price and specification. And that’s a good thing, because you get a lot of car for your $116,000 (plus on-road costs) outlay.
There’s no denying the A6 is a handsome car. Beautifully proportioned, Audi’s executive sedan has all the hallmarks of a premium saloon. Yes, it’s big – the A6 is longer and wider than both its main rivals, yet in terms of height sits between the two. That lends it an imposing presence on the road, only amplified by the optional 21-inch alloys (part of the Premium Plus Package 2).
While we’re on options, let’s take a look. In all, there are around 21 grand’s worth of boxes ticked to bring the as-tested price of our car to $137,850 plus on-road costs.
The big ticket item is the Premium Plus Package 2 at $11,100. It brings with it a host of kit, including those machined face 21-inch wheels already mentioned, plus a premium Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system, high-def Matrix LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof, privacy glass, an LED interior ambient light package with 30 different colours or six colour profiles, electric boot lid, and electric steering adjustment. Plus, the S Line interior package that brings S Line-embossed logos on the seats and a perforated leather steering wheel.
There’s also the dynamic steering package that adds four-wheel steering for $4200, while air suspension adds $2000 to the bottom line. The titanium gloss package is a further $1600, while interior inlays of fine-grain ash add $750. Finally, that luscious pearl-effect paint finished in Daytona Grey is $2200.
All those add-ons are lovely and fall in the nice-to-have-but-not-completely-necessary category because, simply, the A6 55 TFSI sans any options is already a well-appointed car with plenty of luxury credentials.
Standard highlights for your $116,000 spend include 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive dampers, a 10-speaker sound system, tri-zone climate control, the S Line exterior package, heated and electric front seats finished in Valcona leather, twin haptic touch infotainment screens running Audi’s MMI navigation plus, Virtual Cockpit driver display, Matrix LED headlights, a head-up display, and 360-degree camera.
And they’re just key highlights in a package that also includes a host of safety tech. Rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with stop&go function, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, autonomous emergency braking with cyclist and pedestrian detection (up to 85km/h) and vehicle detection (250km/h), exit warning (which alerts to another car or cyclist when opening the doors), and front and rear parking sensors with cameras are highlights in a comprehensive suite of active safety tech.
ANCAP? Five stars, awarded in 2018 after the A6 scored 93 per cent for adult occupant protection, 85 per cent for child occupant protection, and a commendable 81 per cent for pedestrian protection.
Inside, the A6 is the epitome of Audi’s new interior design language. Smart aesthetics combine with hi-tech gadgetry and premium materials to offer a cabin space that looks every bit the premium player. It’s reserved and refined, in stark contrast to the blingy nature of some German rivals.
Audi’s new twin-screen set-up is a masterclass in integration and user experience, with a simple menu structure and that lovely haptic feedback that just feels, well, expensive, while also retaining that increasingly illusive trait – intuitiveness.
The graphics on both screens (10.1-inch at the top for infotainment, sat-nav and the car’s systems, and 8.6-inch at the bottom for climate control) are exemplary, and Audi’s latest satellite 3D mapping software (courtesy of Google) is out of this world. There’s the now expected Apple and Android smartphone integration, as well as DAB+ radio; although, cheekily, a CD/DVD player is a $350 option. The camera resolution, too, is crisp and clear, like you’re watching HD television.
The steering wheel, flat-bottomed and perforated, feels nice in the hand, and remains largely uncluttered in terms of switches and buttons. Yes, there are some for things like volume and voice commands, as well as scrolling through Virtual Cockpit, but they remain unobtrusive.
Virtual Cockpit is beginning to show its age, certainly in the way it looks, but it remains the standard-bearer against which all other digital driver displays will continue to be measured. The configurability of the 12.3-inch display matched with its ease of use is a boon.
Conveniences abound with two USB points up front (one Type A and one the more contemporary Type C) joined by wireless phone charging, the usual array of cupholders, and plenty of storage nooks for those loose odds ’n’ ends.
Slide into the second row and you’re greeted by separate climate controls, two more USB (Type A) plugs and a decent amount of space, although knee room is tight, even for my 173cm frame behind my driving position. It’s a comfortable second row, though, the seats supportive and not an afterthought like some we’ve experienced. A fold-down armrest hides a pair of cupholders, while the door pockets are capable of taking bottles.
As a holistic package, the A6’s interior oozes class and refinement, with lashings of leather, swathes of Alcantara, aluminium trim and fine ash garnishes. The LED interior lighting package adds some ambience.
Boot space is decent, too, with 530L available, as well as nice touches like a cargo net with tie-down points to keep your stuff secure. The boot opens and closes electronically, while a space-saver spare lives under the floor. Audi doesn’t quote a capacity for when the rear seats are stowed away in 40/20/40 split-fold fashion.
And yet, while the interior design and execution are excellent, it’s the Audi’s prowess on the road that really sets it apart.
Powered by Audi’s EA839 3.0-litre (2995cc) turbo V6 petrol, with 250kW from 5000–6400rpm and 500Nm between 1370–4500rpm, the large family sedan is certainly not underdone in terms of performance.
Audi also spruiks its 48V mild-hybrid system in the A6, which the company says uses braking to capture energy that is then stored in a 10Ah lithium-ion battery hidden under the boot floor. That captured energy is used for the A6’s stop/start system as well as, according to Audi, for ICE-free coasting for up to 40 seconds at speeds between 55–160km/h. We did not experience this coasting function once over our week with the car in a variety of conditions. Maybe in a wind tunnel.
Motivation is sent to all four wheels via Audi’s seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch auto, and the result is at once refined yet plenty fast. Audi claims the 1950kg (Tare) A6 can complete the sprint to triple figures in 5.1 seconds, and it certainly feels that quick by the seat of the pants.
But, it’s not just how quick the A6 gets up and moves. It’s how it does it. And that’s part of the appeal of this luxo-barge, which accelerates away quicker than most hot hatches, yet does so with quietude and composure that defy expectations.
On the move, the A6 is an effortless highway cruiser – quiet, serene, composed. Peak torque comes on song low in the rev band at 1370rpm (and stays on tap until 4500rpm), and that means there’s plenty of shove from the 4951mm-long A6 when you need it.
And it manages this with the type of refinement expected from a German large sedan. Quiet? You betcha, the cabin remaining a serene environment where road and wind noise is barely noticeable. Even selecting Sport mode via the gear shifter does little to ruffle the ambience. Instead, the dual-clutch auto willingly holds on to gears a little longer, allowing the A6 to rev out a little more.
With the optional air suspension on board, the A6 proved a compliant and comfortable around-town cruiser, even over scrappy surfaces such as those that litter Sydney’s road network. The multi-link suspension on all four corners, augmented by electronically controlled adaptive dampers, does a terrific job of keeping the A6 composed.
Even in the A6’s most extreme Dynamic setting – which lowers the ride height by 10mm – the ride was never compromised, the A6 simply continuing to gobble up lumps and bumps with ease. Commendable.
Underpinning everything is Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system, which thanks to a self-locking centre differential can apportion drive to wherever it’s needed. The default setting is 40:60 front to rear; however, up to 70 per cent can be sent to the front wheels and up to 85 per cent rearwards.
Additionally, the A6 also applies torque vectoring, using the brakes to limit slip on whichever wheel needs it most, and is particularly useful under hard cornering.
Now, while it might not immediately present as a corner-carver, the A6 55 TFSI is surprisingly adept on the twisties. Sure, it’s no hot hatch or sports car, but thanks to its Quattro underpinnings, mated to Audi’s excellent seven-speed twin-clutch and that very usable torque band, the A6 can be hustled with more than mild intent. It’s certainly enough fun, even if the overall experience remains muted thanks to Audi’s excellent sound-deadening.
Audi claims the A6 55 TFSI requires 7.2L/100km of 95RON unleaded on the combined cycle. A week of usual commuting, highway running, and a fun and adventurous blat on some rural twisties returned an indicated 8.6L/100km. Not too shabby against Audi’s claim, and rather excellent for a near two-tonne luxury sedan.
Audi covers the A6 with its standard three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty – too skinny in an era where five years is increasingly the norm and seven years the benchmark. Servicing intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, and can be pre-purchased for a very reasonable $1700 for three years or $2810 for five years’ maintenance.
The Audi A6 55 TFSI Quattro is quite possibly the most complete car in Audi’s stable. Its elegant and exquisite proportions are matched only by a sublime and understated, yet altogether performance-worthy, drive experience. Inside, the A6 is spacious, comfortable, thoughtful and well screwed together – the epitome of the best of Audi’s premium playbook.
We know large sedans are on the nose with the buying public. That is a pity, because the 72 people who have bought an Audi A6 in 2020 have snared themselves one of the most accomplished cars we’ve driven in quite a while.