The roots of the Audi A6 can be traced back to 1968 and the original Audi 100, which was launched as a flagship rather than a mid-range model. However, the name endured through four distinct generations for 26 years.
It was replaced in 1994 by the first A6, this was simply to bring the car into line with Audi’s newly adopted naming policy; the car itself was no more than a facelifted Audi 100. The car you see here is from the fourth generation of A6.
It has a lot to prove, too. We’ve been driving cars bearing this badge for many years and, low-volume esoteric spin-offs aside, they haven’t got anywhere near rival offerings from Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
Audi says this one is different, and points to its impressive on-paper statistics, steel and aluminium hybrid construction and imposing new looks to support its case. But some things never change: unlike its best rivals, the base of A6 remains chiefly a front-wheel drive, a configuration that has yet to provide a car from any manufacturer with the blend of ride and handling that the best of rear-wheel drives offer.
2016 saw the A6 get a much-needed facelift which allowed an increase in equipment and technology to be fitted to the large saloon, while the front received redesigned air intakes and the rear a tweaked bumper and diffuser.
Will this be the A6 to change the course for all future Audi A6s? Or is it just another in a long line of mid-size Audis that talks a good game but ultimately fails to deliver on the road?
Whether you opt for the saloon, All-road or Avant estate, the most important A6 is the entry-level 2.0 TDI SE Executive Ultra which will most likely account for more sales than all other variants combined. Three other diesels are available, two 3.0-litre V6s, one with 215bhp and front-wheel drive, the other with 268bhp and quattro four-wheel drive. The third diesel offering is a potent 3.0-litre BiTDi, which musters 315bhp and drive all four wheels. There’s only one petrol engine available – a turbocharged 4.0-litre V8, which is available in three guises powering the 444bhp S6, the 552bhp RS6and the outrageous 596bhp RS6 Performance.
The fourth-generation Audi A6 is set to be replaced in 2018, which will be the earliest opportunity to see the overtly sportier saloon and estate. Not much is known about the new A6 at this point, other than first glimpses of Audi’s new design language which will be revealed by autumn 2017, and the A6 will contrast stylistically from the conservative BMW 5 Series and the ‘Russian doll’ concept of the Mercedes-Benz range.
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