Overview: Audi A6, 2011

Audi’s débutante represents a substantial step forward from the outgoing model, if not quite a motoring revolution. There is a fair amount of aluminium in the bodyshell — 20 per cent. by surface area — but the A6 is not built with an aluminium spaceframe. Buyers in this market segment would not be able to afford it, nor the alloy-and-glue techniques espoused by Jaguar. So most of the shell is constructed from various steels, with the lightest derivative weighing in at 1575kg. By way of comparison, the fractionally smaller Mercedes E 220 CDI weighs 1720kg at the kerb.

Refinement has been a target for attention, with hydraulic damping used in the axle and drivetrain bearings.

Four engines will be available at launch in the U.K.

  • 2.0-litre TDI 177PS
  • 3.0-litre TDI 204PS
  • 3.0-litre TDI 245PS
  • 3.0-litre TFSI 300PS

All, including the petrol engine, are directly fuelled, and all feature a start-stop system, kinetic energy recovery and thermal management of the power-unit.

The most convincing variant is the entry-level four-cylinder TDI, which reaches 100km/h in 8.7s and returns an overall 57.7mpg (129g/km CO2) in the NEDC rolling-road test régime. If that translates to the high-40s in real life, this is a good car indeed.

Three transmissions are available. Front-wheel drive models will be available with a six-speed manual box or Audi’s Multitronic CVT; Quattro derivatives will come with a new seven-speed S-tronic twin-clutch transmission. All transmissions are wide-ratio units.

The latest incarnation of Audi’s Quattro permanent all-wheel drive system features a crown gear centre differential and a torque-vectoring function to direct drive torque to the wheels with the greatest traction. The two most powerful engines will be available with the Quattro sport differential.

Running-gear features a substantial amount of aluminium, cutting unsprung and (obviously) total mass. The standard-fit Audi drive select adaptive dynamics system will allow drivers to adjust the car’s responses by way of the car’s MMI (multi-media interface) screen; front-wheel drive models use an Electronic Stability Program that works in conjunction with an electronic limited-slip differential. Electro­mechanical power steering is standard.

Adaptive air suspension with controlled damping is available as an optional extra.

Apart from a fractional increase in width, the new A6 saloon is the same size as its predecessor: 4.92m long, 1.87m wide (previously 1.855m) and 1.46m high. The new car’s drag coefficient is an excellent Cd 0.26, putting the Audi on level pegging with the Mercedes-Benz E-class.

Inside, the MMI screen provides access to the audio system, the Bluetooth phone interface and the SD card-based navigation system. A 20cm monitor and fingertip sensitive touch pad are available together known as MMI Touch, an optional extra. This system’s touch-pad enables characters to be ‘drawn’ by the driver using an index finger for navigation or telephone data entry. As well as 3D navigation mapping, the new MMI Touch system can store audio tracks and telephone data on its hard disk.

On-line services, including news and weather information supplied by Google, will be accessible if the Mobile Telephone Preparation High option is specified. This option will enable drivers to plot detailed routes on a home computer and download them to the navigation system when they start a trip. Google Earth images will also be beamed via the car’s internal UMTS module to the MMI monitor for navigation purposes. Through its wireless local area network, passengers will also be able to connect to the internet using their own computers.

MMI Navigation Plus can work with the optional assistance and safety systems in the new A6. It can forward route data to the control units for the headlights, the automatic transmission and the adaptive cruise control. The Audi Pre-sense Basic system, first seen in the new A8, will provide further safety back-up by analysing the information from the ESP sensors and intervening to activate the hazard warning lights, close the side windows and sunroof, and tension the seatbelts when maximum braking is applied or when skidding is detected. The pre-sense system is expandable in various stages: the full version brakes the car automatically to minimise the consequences of a nose-to-tail collision.

The list of optional driver aids will also include a night vision assistant, employing a thermal imaging camera to highlight what Audi describes as ‘warm-blooded road users’ — people — in front of the car. Also available are a head-up display, which projects key information onto the windscreen as a virtual image about 2.5m ahead, and a park assist system which automatically takes care of the steering function when manoeuvring into parallel or perpendicular parking spaces. More familiar options such as the Audi side assist blind spot warning system and the Audi lane assist lane departure detection system will also be available.

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