Audi A6 saloon performance
The 2.0 diesel is a tad slow off the mark, 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, outperforming its esteemed competition easily from 30-70mph.
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 emissions saving that it's hugely reluctant to change down, and that's 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 it 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 for a extra charge you can upgrade to adaptive suspension that comes with switchable dampers that can be softened or stiffened to suit your mood. Adaptive air suspension is an even pricier option, but it's not available on the lowest-powered 40 TDI.
In terms of the non-adaptive set-ups, both deliver a supple enough ride over large bumps, such as sleeping policemen, but even the softer ‘standard’ springs tend to thump over sharper-edged potholes. This in itself is not particularly irksome, but it’s what the suspension does after a bump – which is spring back up like a jack-in-a-box – that quickly becomes tiring, because you get pitched forwards and backwards in your seat.
Therefore, we'd definitely recommend you opt for the adaptive dampers. They’re reasonably priced, are available even on the lowest-powered 40 TDI and, despite still being on the firm side, deliver a far more sophisticated balance between control and compliance. They also deal with broken stretches of asphalt more effectively, while also controlling body movements over dips and crests extremely well.
But what if you’ve got your heart set on a V6 50 TDI; should you go the full hog and purchase the range-topping air suspension? Well, in most circumstances the air set-up is indeed softer and more compliant than the standard adaptive suspension. However, strike a large, sharp-edged obstacle with any pace and the suspension will produce a forceful thump that feels entirely inappropriate in a car of this ilk. Factor in an expensive price tag for the air suspension and we’d recommend sticking with the standard adaptive dampers.
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, which is still the driver's pick of the class. What the A6 lacks in comparison with the XF's delicious real-wheel drive balance, though, is made up for by buckets of grip and a benign chassis that lets 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 four-wheel steering on all but the 40 TDI. It tightens the turning circle in town and increases stability at higher speeds, but, while effective, it's too pricey to count as a must-have option.
Even if you have no intention of driving like a getaway driver, you'll find the A6 an 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 for in 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 the BMW 520d and Mercedes E 220 d, particularly around town or when getting up to motorway speeds. 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 springs and dampers, is much worse than in its immediate rivals, though.
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; this can be slightly jerky when parking or in stop-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 flares the revs and gives you a jolt in the process. In both cases, the automatic gearboxes in the 5 Series and E-Class deliver much slicker progress.