With an almost invisible change here and there, the Audi A6 joins the Golf and 3-series as the latest barely perceptible facelifts of best-selling German cars. Okay, I know, the Golf shares only roof and glass with its forebear but it hardly moves the game on. For the A6, Audi has merely tweaked the headlamp and front bumper treatments, added a stainless highlight along the side rubbing strips and, on saloons, fitted new LED tail lamps and a new bootlid. It’s the oily bits that have been occupying Ingolstadt minds. A bit.
Did the Audi A6 really need a facelift, then?
Maybe not, but you don’t stay ahead of the pack by slowing down. The A6 is firmly cemented as Europe’s best-seller in the business car category, ahead of the BMW 5-series and the Merc E-class. It’s four years old, still soberly stylish and competent, and Audi believes a spec tweak and an A4-style cosmetic refresh are enough. For now.
This 3.0 TFSI. What’s new there, then?
Well, you’ll have noticed it’s a new capacity for Audi’s petrol V6. Gone is the old 3.2 and in comes this new supercharged 3.0-litre - that’s right, it’s no longer ‘T’ for ‘turbo’. In fact the new engine has an even tougher job than it would elsewhere, because Audi is discontinuing the 4.2 V8 in the UK. The new 3.0 matches it for torque, and improves on the old 3.2 by being 13.3 percent more powerful and 16.2 percent more economical.
Want some more stats? Happy to oblige…
Remarkably, 95 percent of A6s sold in the UK are diesel-powered, so Audi has rationalised petrol versions down to the base 168bhp 2.0 TFSI, the 217bhp 2.8 FSI V6 (up 10bhp) and the new 3.0. Above them sit the V10-powered S6, and the newly launched twin-turbo RS6 saloon. The old 2.4 V6 has gone.
The 2.7 and 3.0 TDIs continue, with power up by 10bhp and 7bhp respectively. The old 2.0 PD unit is no more, and in comes Audi’s new common-rail four-cylinder, with 168bhp - or 136bhp in the new eco-optimised TDIe.
Click 'Next' below to read more of our Audi A6 first drive
Enough, enough! What’s it like to drive?
Much as before, actually, though the 3.0 is noticeably quicker than the old 3.2-litre. With standard Tiptronic transmission in S-line trim, it’s both brisk and soothing to drive, accelerating with verve, great refinement and a pleasingly subdued growl from under the bonnet, while the wheel-mounted shift paddles act quickly and feel good to the touch. It’s exactly what you’d want of an Audi in the performance stakes.
That very Audiness also means it’s thoroughly undramatic in the process, newly rear-optimised Quattro four-wheel drive or not. It still feels incredibly secure, but also front-heavy - the weight distribution means there’s no getting away from that, thanks to its forward-mounted engine. The steering is over-light and under-endowed with feedback, so you feel utterly detached from the finer sensations of driving. And the ride can be rather jarring over bumpy surfaces, though at least it’s tautly damped over longwave stuff.
What’s it like inside?
None of that dynamic numbness will matter if you buy an Audi as a business tool rather than a driving experience. While you’re battling the M4 to catch that morning flight from Heathrow, you’ll be soothed by the warm, cocooning atmosphere of the cabin, and entertained by the (optional) new 3D sat-nav, 20Gb music capacity and voice recognition system. The MMI controls have been titivated, and there’s new satin chrome edging for the optional wood trim finishes. Leather is standard on all but base-spec four-cylinder models and it now stretches over the door armrests.
Architecturally, all is as before and that means a great driving position, a calmly stylish environment and a finish slicker than a photo-shopped Pierce Brosnan. All perfectly Audi.
Click 'Next' below for our verdict on the Audi A6 3.0 TFSI
It’s no surprise that Audi is leading the sales charge with the A6 because it’s just so mollifying to drive – and that surely counts for more than driving excitement to the company execs who buy them. So while you or I might have more fun piloting a 530i down a twisting B-road, those who prefer the Audi’s combination of subtle attractions will be more than happy with what’s on offer here.
Would you take a BMW 5-series or Mercedes E-class over an Audi A6? Click 'Add your comment' below and have your say