The new Audi A6 is more Black Hawk helicopter than Munich Minicab … but is it good enough to take out mighty 5 Series BMW?

By Philip Hedderman

Talk about being knocked for 6?

Wow.

It’s even worse, or in my case better, when you’re not expecting it.

Take a good, hard, long look at the sizzling pictures above …. and drool.

Yes, speed freaks, this piece of automotive savagery is not a figment of your imagination or indeed fantasy.

Nope, what you see before you is the physical translation of the Audi company slogan, Vorsprung durch Technik.

As anyone who has ever been to a launch by the German marque will tell you, VDT is more than a catchphrase – “it’s a lifestyle” (or so they say).

Now, if that is the case then the ‘Advancement Through Technology’ mantra has waited patiently for the new A6 to be born to explain exactly just what that means.

And it hasn’t been in vain – this is an absolute thoroughbred.

In fact, there is so much techno wizardry that you can see, let alone can’t, it will leave your head spinning .

It could be argued that Audi have done to the mid-range executive saloon what Apple did to the mobile phone – only better.

A mobile phone isn’t going to save your life or anyone else’s for that matter, but more about that later.

I’m not exaggerating when I say this fabulous lump of engineering is more Black Hawk helicopter than Munich minicab but more importantly, the A6 has laid down a benchmark for BMW, Mercedes and Lexus to reluctantly follow.

State-of-the-art gadgets – more likely to be found in James Bond’s Aston than a family diesel – lurk behind every single button and plasma screen.

You read right – a pop-up plasma screen which displays among other things sat-nav with speed limit, stereo/CD, DVD player (we watched Barnyard while the missus was shopping on Saturday) on-board computer, laser-guided cruise control and wait for it … Night vision with pedestrian detection.

We’ve all seen the TV show, Police, Camera, Action. Cue the bit where India 99, the chopper, takes up the chase at night and the viewer can follow the glowing stolen car as it races through town and country.

It’s exactly the same only its hapless walkers not criminals who are in the frame.

Available as an optional extra, the thermal imaging camera identifies a person between 15 and 90 metres away with yellowing definition and as the car gets closer the silhouette changes to red while sounding an alarm if the driver doesn’t slow down.

The camera – cleverly stowed behind the last ring on the bonnet cluster – also highlights the hottest area of the car in front like the tyres and exhaust.

It is quite possible to drive this car in complete darkness through a pitch black city street without lights and out the other side without a scratch.

Impressed?

Yea me too, but did I mention the WiFi hotspot?

At the mere flick of a button between the air con and CD loader is a built-in internet connection – enabling passengers to use laptops, iPads and iPods while also allowing the driver to access Google Earth imaging for the latest up-to-date street maps.

Then there is the Head Up display which flashes current speed, navigation, cruise control, speed limits and any driver assist system in use onto the windscreen so the pilot never has to take their eyes off the road.

Now, if those amazing gizmos don’t blow you away then the styling will.

Its dashing good looks come straight from the A8 but the new chassis has been to the gym and has firmed up from its perkier rear end to a more aggressive snout.

The front is particularly alluring with the LED lights and indicators giving it that now distinctive Audi signature.

Inside, it’s pure luxury from the off with leather seats as standard and the build quality of the cabin is as you’d expect – top notch.

Turn the key, or in my case (3.0 Litre Quattro) push the start button and the real magic kicks in.

The V6 snorted into life, calmed to purr as the seven speed trip tronic box raced up the gears all the way to 250kph (or 300kph unregulated) .

The 245bhp all-wheel drive Quattro hits the 0-100kph in just over 6 seconds and is well worthy of sports status considering it’s quicker out of the blocks than most petrol GTis and their ilk.

That’s down to the sports differential distributing power to all four corners ensuring maximum torque and traction,which in turn, translates into unimaginable grip.

The handling and poise of the new beast is a world apart from what current owners have come to expect.

Thanks to the use of lighter and toughened aluminium in the chassis, bonnet, doors and boot lid – 20pc to be exact – the A6 is remarkably more agile and therefore less thirsty than its older brother.

The comfort and ride are not compromised and even in dynamic (sports) mode the experience is refined and balanced not choppy and unpredictable as you may expect when the suspension stiffens and dampers kick in.

No it’s all very civilised and grown up, which is a pity because sometimes it’s no fun being a grown up.

But it’s grown ups who shell out for a car like this and for the first time the A6 is a serious contender for the mid range executive saloon crown which has been hogged by BMW and the 5 Series for the past decade.

In these lean times the royal pecking order goes in reverse and that’s why the uber efficient 520D is up there, but her lofty reign could be almost over.

Take the entry-level 2.0-litre TDI – which matches the poke of the Bimmer at 177 bhp and CO2 emissions of 129g/km (annual road tax of €156) while returning 57mpg and you begin to look at the A6 in a whole new light.

Even the more muscular 245bhp, 3.0-litre TDi Quattro emits only 156g/km (tax Band D/€ 447 road tax) and will manage 47.9mpg at the pumps.

There’s no doubting that the A6 is a brilliantly engineered saloon which is addictive to drive and, when suited and booted with all the goodies, would absolutely spank the Mercedes E Class in a heartbeat.

The BMW on the other hand is a tougher cookie and although the A6 is more than capable of taking it’s Bavarian cousin out – it just lacks the killer punch.

For one, it’s coming in only €200 cheaper at €43,300 and is once again is being murdered by the extras list.

The now trademark Audi LED lights – which is as synonymous as the entwined bonnet rings and VDT – is a whopping €4,176 on the Quattro which is akin to charging a massive wad of cash for the Blue propeller on its rival.

Still, it’s a mega motor and, in time, expect to see more and more of them in executive car parks.

Pound for pound the 3.0 Litre Quattro is a better drive and funkier looking than the new 530D, but I’ll reserve my final judgement until I’ve driven the more modest 177bhp 2.0 Litre TDi – as that’s where the real dogfight will be.

I’d certainly swap My 08 5 Series for one but it’d have to be the ‘Suzy’ (Quattro) with all the whistles and bells!

Oh by the way, Suzy came with an eye-watering €46,500 of jewellery on her including ;

Adaptive Air suspension … €2,955

DVD/CD Changer … €986

Bang and Olufsen Stereo … €9,089

Night Vision System …. €3,030

Quattro with Sports Diff …€1,592

Cruise Control and Stop/Go… €2,210

MMI Navigation with MMI Touch … €3,666

20 inch 10 Spoke Alloys …. €3,636

Comfort Memory Seats …. €3,363

Bluetooth Car Phone online … €2,159

LED Headlights …. €4,167

Head Up Display ……€2,091

Metallic Paint …. €1,440

– PHILIP HEDDERMAN

  • srdjan

    when should we expect 520d test vs 2.0tdi? I’m lover of the rwd,bmw all the way in 2l fight,in 3litre i would consider,but for that much money (100 000e) you could have 520d (40 000e)and used nissan gtr (60 000e),or other sporty car.

    Love your reviews ,cheers.

  • You are very kind.
    Sorry for the delay in getting back to you as I have been in Spain testing the new A5 and S5.
    The RS5 is an absolute savage.
    It’s like going to the pub with a murderer … you don’t know if you’ll come back alive!
    Review will be posted by the end of the week.
    As for the head to head A6 Vs 520d – we are working on it.
    Keep tuned as thenextgear has big plans for the future.
    Cheers,
    Phil

  • Its Bang & Olufson

    • Simon Manley

      Thanks, typo sorted!