CAR OF THE WEEK
BY BRIAN BYRNE
THE Audi A6 is one of those subtly-handsome cars. Call it executive, or premium, whichever is your taste ... just don’t say luxury, which is one of those terms that scrapes at my nerves.
As a model it has been around for five generations, since 1994. Last year it was Audi’s best-seller here, and so far in 2020 is dancing around the same leader board top place with its smaller new A4 sibling.
Even though they have several really good SUVs in their lists, two saloons topping the salesrooms is testament to the fact that at a certain level, executive punters like traditional cars.
The current A6 is only two years on the market, and my review version here is even fresher. All current A6s come with mild hybrid powertrains, but this is the model’s first plug-in hybrid contender.
We’re now used to Audis having strong front styling, and my 50 TFSIe had that in spades, a big chrome grille, hawk-eye lights, and sculpted bumper lines. The relatively smooth exterior of the rest of the car eased the whole thing back to that subtle presence I mentioned. The highly styled alloys which I had to be so careful about added foundation and class. The Mythos Black colour was a moody Aristotelian reflection.
The interior was also black, which was a Stygian pity because a lighter mood inside the car would have been good. There’s nice ivory white leather available that would make a serious difference on a long journey. Still, it came with nearly all the comfort and tech that a car in this class should have.
And, there’s something about Audi that has long attracted me in the rarified space of its key competitor Mercedes-Benz and BMW products. Not that the Audi is necessarily better, maybe that I appreciate how it has come from more humble beginnings to where today it stands equal to those.
From a driver’s perspective I like the way the A6 screens are integrated into the whole dashboard area. That I think there are too many is a matter of personal opinion — I’d happily go without the console one that manages mostly the car’s climate. The two optional views of the main instruments are useful, because if you want the sat-nav maps in front of you, the second view gives you more space for it.
The overall space in the car is excellent front and the back. The review car, however, came with a third less boot space than a standard A6’s commendable 530L, because of the battery pack under its floor. Still decent enough, though.
The battery’s extra weight doesn’t interfere with the car’s performance, as the combined 367hp output is more than enough to sprint to 100km/h in under five seconds. So the driving experience could be anything I wanted, from gentle fluid to strong poke in the back. Most of the time I liked in between, and the S-tronic seven-speed dual clutch auto proved a perfect transmission for all needs.
A charged battery gave me a consistent 46km range in EV-only mode, which I tried to keep for urban driving where the ICE motor is at its least efficient. The modes allowed me to hold that charge until I needed it.
There was also a full hybrid that appears to have a lot of ‘intelligence’ in managing how it operates. Including, if you have a destination in the sat-nav, it tries to leave you with EV available for the last stages.
I’d have liked a way, like with the Mitsubishi Outlander, for using my motorway journeys to recharge the battery on the run. It doesn’t seem to have that. And, given that I was trying to take such care of those alloys against the kerb, I really would have appreciated a rear view camera. The backup light at night didn’t give me enough visibility in the offside mirror.
Small cribs, on the surface. But not so, I think, given the price of the car. At some €11,000 more than the same grade S-Line version without the plug-in battery, it should have stuff that you’d get as standard in a Nissan Leaf.
But it is a seriously good motoring machine. Close to awesome in many respects.
What I like: The close to awesome bit.
Price: A6 Petrol SE from €58,600; Review car €74,608.