AUDI A6 Saloon performance
The 2.0 diesel is a tad slow off its marks, but only because the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox you get dawdles initially. That's why it's slower from 0-62mph than a BMW 520d or Mercedes E 220 d. Yet once you're rolling and free of that gearbox woe it's plenty brisk enough, and between 30-70mph outperforms its esteemed competition easily.
So, the 40 TDI is no slouch and will be more than fine for most people, but what if you're hungry for even more poke? Well, look no further than the 50 TDI 3.0-litre diesel. It's much gruntier across the entire rev range, providing effortless pace for you to hot-foot it along country lanes or motorways. The only issue is again, gearbox related; this time you get a regular auto 'box (with eight speeds), but it's so hamstrung by emission's saving that it's hugely reluctant to change down, which is hugely frustrating if you're going for a gap.
The 3.0 petrol, meanwhile, is more powerful still, offering the best performance in the current line-up, but won't match the diesel's low running costs.
AUDI A6 Saloon ride
There are four suspension options to choose from. Entry-level Sport trim gets standard steel springs and dampers, S line models get the same, but stiffened and lowered, while you can upgrade to switchable dampers for a extra charge, which you can soften or stiffen to suit your mood. Adaptive air suspension is an even pricier option, but it's not available on the lowest-power 40 TDI.
Of the standard set-ups, we've tried only the stiffer S line version. It's supple enough over large bumps, such as sleeping policemen, but feels firmer than an E-Class on its equivalent standard set-up and tends to thump over sharper-edged potholes. On rippled sections of motorway it suffers a minor case of the jitters, too. Yet the main issue is what it does after a bump, which is spring back up like a jack-in-a-box, pitching you forwards and backwards in your seat. It's grating rather than truly irksome, but as with a BMW 5 Series, we'd definitely recommend you opt for the adaptive dampers to smooth things out.
These can still feel firm around broken town roads, but deliver a more sophisticated balance between control and compliance the rest of the time. Where available, though, the air suspension is the best. It deals with broken stretches of tarmac most effectively, while also controlling body movements over dips and crests extremely well.
AUDI A6 Saloon handling
The A6 feels lighter and more agile than its size might suggest and, as a result, nimbler than most of its rivals: BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class included. But not the Jaguar XF, though, which is still the driver's pick of the class. What the A6 lacks compared to the XF's delicious real-wheel drive balance, though, is made up for by buckets of grip and a benign chassis that let you drive it hard with utter confidence in how it's going to react.
Take the steering, for example. It doesn't offer the same precision as the XF's, but it's predictable in weight and smooth of response; body roll, meanwhile, is controlled through corners or quick direction changes. You can also opt for all-wheel steering on all but the 40 TDI model. It tightens the turning circle in town and increases stability at speed but, while effective, it's too pricey to count as a 'must have' option.
And by the way, even if you have no intention of driving like a getaway driver, you'll find the A6 a easy and relaxing car to handle on a long drive over varied roads.
AUDI A6 Saloon refinement
All of the A6’s engines provide a generally calming driving experience – exactly what you’d hope from a car in this segment. In fact, for a four-cylinder diesel, the 40 TDI is one of the best in the business, proving quieter than a BMW 520d or Mercedes E 220 d, particularly around town or when getting up to motorway speed. The 3.0-litre V6 models are even better, still.
Road and wind noise are all kept well hushed inside, and while you notice a few engine vibrations through the pedals and steering wheel, these are slight. Suspension noise, at least in cars fitted with standard mechanical springs and dampers, is much worse than its immediate rivals.
The gearbox options are slightly disappointing, too. In the 2.0-litre diesel and 3.0-litre petrol you get a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic 'box as standard, which can be slightly jerky when parking or in stop and go traffic. Meanwhile, the 3.0-litre diesel has a regular eight-speed auto, which is better at slow speeds but less refined when you kick it down; it refuses to do anything to begin with, then suddenly flairs the revs and gives you a jolt in the process. In both cases, the automatic gearboxes in a 5 Series and E-Class deliver much slicker progress.