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Review: New Audi A6 - a beauty and a real beast

Audi has been on something of a crusade in refreshing its top-end luxury machines of late. Last year saw a new A8 and A7 grace the market, and now there's the new A6, the latest fresh face joining the German firm's line-up.

Much like its larger siblings, it's more an evolution than a revolution, but there's a lot to shout about. With the release of an updated BMW 5 Series and a two-year-old Mercedes E-Class, Audi could be playing catch-up here. Is the A6 up to that task?

What's new?

As to be expected, there's a lot of new stuff going on here, most noticeably in the looks department.

The A6 takes on the bolder design language introduced on the A8, bringing a sleeker appearance, a much wider grille and fresh headlights.

Under the bonnet, the A6 is the first in its class to offer mild-hybrid technology across all engine choices as standard. New suspension options have also been introduced.

As for technology, self-learning navigation aims to create an optimal route based on your driving history, and centre console-based physical controls for functions such as air conditioning and audio features have been replaced with a touchscreen utilising haptic feedback.

What's under the bonnet?

At its launch, the A6 will be available with a choice of engines - one petrol and three diesels, all of which utilise mild-hybrid technology.

Our test car was fitted with the sole petrol option on offer. It's a 3.0-litre V6 engine producing 335bhp and 500Nm of torque, here paired with a seven-speed automatic gearbox that sends power through all four wheels. It's capable of taking the A6 from 0-60mph in 4.9 seconds and can power the car on to an electronically limited top speed of 155mph.

Official figures for MPG and CO2 emissions have yet to be confirmed.

It's an extremely potent unit, delivering impressive and usable performance for a car weighing in at 1,825kg. Don't expect supercar-level speed, but it's more than enough for most needs, and the gearbox pairs perfectly for a smooth experience under heavy acceleration or at a gentle cruise.

What's it like to drive?

Audi's brought a lot of new technology to the A6 in an effort to create a better driving experience, but the results vary. At its most comfortable when cruising for long distances, its plentiful power combines well with the air suspension to create a relaxing ride when eating up the miles, aided by little in the way of wind noise.

As for more spirited driving, the A6 is capable of doing it with ease - just don't expect it to put a smile on your face. It handles well and doesn't kick up a fuss when pushed hard, but the overall experience feels pretty uninvolving.

It will also undertake town driving with little fuss for a car of this size thanks to the addition of four-wheel steering, which results in a more agile machine at lower speeds.

How does it look?

Audi are the experts, if not the pioneers, in Russian doll car design, each model taking after the last.

The A6 is no exception, with the updated design language making an impact. That means a wide grille upfront with bold headlights at either side. The sleeker look is seldom interrupted by creases in the bodywork.

It's a handsome thing to look at and has a presence of a car far bigger than it actually is. You're likely to turn heads in a big Audi anyway, but the striking design could do that without the four rings up front.

What's it like inside?

Premium materials feature throughout the cabin, without a scratchy plastic surface in sight. We also suspect it'll be pretty durable long-term.

It's not all good news inside, though. Although the leather seats up front feel comfortable, they offer little in the way of support, meaning those of a smaller stature might be likely to slide about under hard cornering.

The 8.6-inch touchscreen that replaces physical controls in the centre console works well and responsively at a standstill. However, it can be rather difficult to use when travelling at speed.

What's the spec like?

Full UK pricing has yet to be confirmed, so value for money is difficult to judge, but we can say it's going to be a seriously well-equipped package - if likely to be expensive once the options list is explored.

Standard luxuries on the saloon include full LED headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, all-wheel drive, mild-hybrid technology and Audi's MMI infotainment system displayed on an 10.1-inch touchscreen.

There's also pre-collision warning, parking sensors with a rear-view camera and cruise control.

Our S Line test machine came with upgraded Audi Matrix LED headlights and daytime running lights, 10mm lower suspension and an S Line styling package. Heated and ventilated seating was also included.

Verdict

The Audi A6 has all the hallmarks of a new class leader in the executive saloon segment. It offers a solid and potent range of engines, bags of technology and a comfortable experience wrapped in a handsome body.

We'd like to have a more engaging experience in hard driving, along with some more physical buttons inside the car, but these are minor annoyances in an otherwise exceptional machine.

Facts at a glance

Model as tested: Audi A6

Price: £60,000 (est)

Engine: 3.0-litre V6 with mild hybrid system Power (bhp): 335 Torque (Nm): 500 Max speed (mph): 155

0-60mph: 4.9 seconds

MPG (combined): TBA

Emissions (g/km): TBA

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