Cars like the Audi A6 are saddening, because they pleasantly remind you of how brilliant an exceptional sedan can be, and that no-one is buying them.
Looking at those figures, it's easy to suggest that maybe the A6's days are numbered. What's happening in Australia does somewhat mirror the trend globally, which means the outlook isn't good for the humble, large sedan.
With the sobering message understood, let's focus on the now – and relish in what opportunity currently exists. We're in the 2021 Audi A6 45 TFSI S Line Quattro, which starts from $106,177 before on-roads and options.
It sits one above the entry level, front-wheel-drive A6 40 TFSI model that's priced from $84,900, and one below the more powerful A6 55 TFSI S Line Quattro that starts from $116,000. The regular A6 is now only offered as a sedan, with the Avant flag now flown solely by the diesel-only A6 Allroad.
|Key data||2021 Audi A6 45 TFSI S Line Quattro|
|Engine||2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power||180kW at 6500rpm|
|Torque||370Nm at 1600–4300rpm|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Power to weight ratio||96.8kW/t|
|Price before on-roads||From $106,177|
|Price as tested before on-roads||$121,177|
Our car was tickled by the options list to the tune of $15,000, or just under 10 per cent of its list price. Goodies added include the obligatory black exterior styling package ($1600), Glacier White metallic paint ($2200), and a Premium Plus 2 package.
I'll say the price out loud instead of bracketing, as this last pack costs a whopping $11,200 alone. You get a lot of gear for the money, though, like 21-inch Audi Sport wheels, advanced Matrix LED headlights, a panoramic glass sunroof, and S Line interior additions.
However, the biggest (and best, if I may say so) get is the Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system, which we'll come to later in this review when we discuss the cabin experience. The additions lift our vehicle's list price to $121,177, or around $130,000 on the road.
Powering an Audi A6 45 TFSI S Line regardless of its configuration is a 180kW/370Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine offering torque in full between 1600–4300rpm. It's also supported by a 12-volt mild hybrid system, with the star of the show being a combined alternator and starter motor able to gently and briefly assist the engine.
Those figures do sound fruity in isolation, but it's worth mentioning that the Audi A6 is a big car and does weigh close to 1800kg. Still, the resulting performance is brisk enough for most, or those not seeking thrills, and continues to feel hearty even when loaded up with plenty of adults and baggage.
Even packed to its gills, it didn't mind putting on speed – from 70 to 110km/h – in a respectable manner. To use the age-old yardstick, Audi claims it'll go from a standing start to 100km/h in 6.0 seconds flat, which is hot-hatch fast.
And remember, performance is not this car's strong point. The best part is the way it both rides and handles. Audi fits adaptive suspension as standard, which in comfort mode irons most crappy suburban and inner-city streets smooth.
It'll amazingly continue to do the same in the firmest setting, albeit now with an ever-slight jiggle from your wobblier parts. What's amazing is that what's barely noticeable at low speed becomes hugely so in opposite, high-speed environments.
In dynamic mode, its mass feels very well managed, and enough to inspire thoughts of nimbleness. Another huge benefit to the levels of grip and safety is the Quattro all-wheel-drive system. While I was the custodian, I had the pleasure of exploring its capabilities in low-grip, wet-weather scenarios.
There hadn't been rain for quite some time, so the roads were a touch more slippery than usual. Regardless, and despite the low traction levels being clear out of the front window, it felt like (dry) business as usual for the Audi A6.
Its performance felt relatively untarnished given the rain, and when compared to the dry. Also helping maximise the engine's offerings is a seven-speed S-Tronic automatic transmission.
As with Audis that feature a longitudinally mounted engine (with its crankshaft's output facing the back, like a rear-wheel-drive car), the associated dual-clutch transmissions are excellent.
They're smooth and fuss-free, with spot-on calibration that removes the bulk of foibles you hear all too often. The spread of ratios feels right, too, and gives the car good acceleration as well as the extra cog required when hypermiling on the freeway.
In terms of fuel usage, we saw 10.4L/100km over the duration of the loan, which is much higher than the official combined claim of 7.3L/100km. This is likely due to the balance of driving seeing the A6 bubble along in stop-start suburban areas as opposed to open-road freeway commuting.
The reason for the lack of freeway driving is that the vehicle was loaned to our Sydney office during the COVID-19 lockdown, so it was driven (sparingly) for essential purposes only.
Speaking of efficiency, it's easy to see and feel the mild hybrid tech functioning – regardless of whether it's having a huge effect or not. I say 'feel' because when the conditions permit, after factoring in things like its current operating temperature and even the gradient of the road, the A6's accelerator pedal will vibrate underneath your foot.
It's a prompt, and also accompanied by a small green icon on the dashboard depicting a foot lifting off a pedal. This eco-coach reminds you that if you decide to coast, the car will first freewheel (decoupling the transmission from its engine to save fuel) and then turn off, if the situation remains conducive. The culmination of every moment of shutdown will do its part to reduce the vehicle's carbon footprint over its life, as a side benefit to the owner.
I imagine the main benefit that comes with long-term A6 ownership is, in fact, how wonderful it is to live with, because the levels of comfort found here are top of its class. It's also not just the technological and expensive parts contributing to that notion too.
It becomes clear when you first jump in, no matter the door chosen. Personally, I think jumping in the back highlights more than the front. The Audi A6 is set up with an excellent, high hip point that prevents you from falling in.
The segment isn't known for its ingress and egress traits, unlike, say, an SUV. Those who are older, or just blessed with dodgy joints, will appreciate the ease and quality of its ergonomics.
Back up front, and once seated, you're able to soak up the wide array of screens. In front of the driver lies a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and dash-mounted screen that projects as a head-up display on the windscreen. Both are excellent and very configurable, but polarised sunglasses do make the head-up display hard to read.
To the left sits a pair of displays: one 10.1-inch item up top for navigation and infotainment, and a smaller 8.6-inch one below that's mainly used for controlling the air-conditioning and heated seats.
The whole shebang features Audi's clever acoustic and haptic feedback technology, which seemingly turns the flat and hard surface of a screen into something that feels like a button.
The sensation takes some getting used to, but essentially it combines a high-effort touchscreen with both vibrational (feel) and sound (audible) acknowledgment. The efforts of Audi's engineers are to improve the tactility of the screen, which in turn helps build familiarity and memory by making it feel more natural than a regular touchscreen.
If you feel disconcerted by the system, you can switch operation back to a regular touchscreen via the settings; however, I personally found it good to use while driving. The larger screen up top features wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and digital radio.
As mentioned earlier, our car features the Premium Plus 2 package, which introduces a 705-watt 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system. It's an unbelievably good stereo that features excellent staging and separation.
My usual approach sees me flicking the settings to resemble a classic stereo set-up by removing all forms of 3D sound synthesis and palaver. However, I must say that the spatial audio quality to this sound system is enough to tempt even the most classic of ears into introducing some processing.
Everything sounds big, clear, and non-fatiguing. Bear in mind that Audi also offers a better 19-speaker B&O stereo, too, but it costs $12,000 alone. I'll have to reserve some of my judgment for a later date, but my gut tells me nearly all will be overly satisfied with the mid-tier option as per our test car.
The rest is an Audi masterclass in interior design and quality. You'll find a generous serving of cold-to-touch aluminium on most flat surfaces, supple Valcona leather trim, and light touches of ritzy-feeling Alcantara. It's well built, incredibly good at insulating you from what's outside, and most important of all, comfortable.
Over in the second row, you'll find more of the same ethos. Sitting behind my own driving position (I'm 183cm tall), I found there to be heaps of room. My knees were a fair way from the seat backs in front, and my feet were presented with plenty of room to bury themselves under.
Head room and general shoulder room are also excellent, so four adults would be seated in absolute bliss, and three younger teenage kids about the same.
I fitted both a large, convertible child seat (usable from birth to approximately four years) and a taller booster seat in the back and discovered stacks of room in all configurations. Even mounting the child seat facing rearward didn't impede on the front passenger's space.
Other nice additions here include two USB-C ports, rear temperature controls, a pair of air vents, and decent enough storage in its doors and fold-down armrest.
Lastly, the boot, which measures up at a decent and SUV-comparable 530L. You'll find the space large enough to make light work of a full-size stroller and a couple of weeks' worth of groceries.
Do bear in mind that the boot is deeper than it is tall or wide, so you have to bend over to access its deepest corners. Under the boot floor lies a space-saving spare wheel.
While most view the concept of a sedan as outdated, it's not, and won't be enough of a reason to end them. I believe brands like the top three Germans, Japan's biggest, and now Korea's most prolific automotive group, will likely and thankfully continue to make sedans well into the future.
However, I wouldn't be surprised at some rationalisation within internal model ranges. Some will stay, more will go, and others will be replaced by new electrified ones. Whatever happens, class-leading sedans like the Audi A6 keep the thought alive that bigger and higher ones are not always better.
It offers an excellently sized and functional cabin area, stacks of technology, good performance with Quattro all-wheel drive, and kerbside drapery that'll draw envy from pretty much all.
It's just a shame the market doesn't seem to agree.