Used Audi A6 ('04-'11) buying guide

* Used Audi A6 Saloon from less than 5000 * Quality interior, great refinement * Strong, economical engines...

Used Audi A6 ('04-'11) buying guide

If you like the idea of travelling in business class, but want to do it on an economy budget, the Audi A6 could be the car for you. Here we'll be looking at the saloon version.

On the road, the A6 blends great refinement with a sporty drive. The firm suspension allows for nimble handling, with plenty of grip, even if the car can feel unsettled on bumpy roads.

The light steering may feel unusual at first, but it does make low-speed manoeuvring easier. Wind- and road noise are kept at bay even at motorway speeds and you rarely hear the engine unless you're in a vocal V8 version.

Inside, there's generous head- and legroom for four adults, but the fifth seat is best reserved for children because of the raised floor. Fit and finish in the cabin is flawless, with high-quality materials used throughout.

At 546 litres the boot is huge and, on some models, the rear seats fold down to open up the space even further. That said, the saloon's opening isn't quite as practical as a hatchback, because it restricts access.

We'd go for one of the diesels: they are far more common than the petrols, and hold their value better. The entry-level 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI performs well in such a large car and returns a decent average economy of 46mpg in manual form.

Our choice would be the stronger 167bhp 2.0-litre diesel, though, which came along in 2008. Fuel economy is even better at 49mpg and it made the A6 more than a second quicker form 0-60mph.

If that isn't enough performance, the smooth 178bhp 2.7-litre V6 is the next best option, with the 233bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel the quickest, but also the most rare and expensive to run.

On the other hand, if you're after outright economy, the 134bhp 2.0 TDIe was introduced mid-way through 2008. It has range-best CO2 emissions of 139g/km and average economy of 53.3mpg.

There's no shortage of petrol options, too. The turbocharged 2.0-litre has 165bhp, and then there are three V6s and two V8s with between 177bhp and 345bhp. The 2.0 and smallest V6 are the best options. All are strong, but expect fuel economy in the mid-30s from the V6s and high-20s from the V8s.

Quattro four-wheel drive was an option with the mid-sized engines and standard on the largest. While it does improve handling and traction, it doesn't make an already accomplished car an awful lot better. The automatic gearboxes, though, are smooth and work well with all engines.

Opt for SE trim and you'll get a good kit list, including climate control, CD player, four electric windows and cruise control. S line brings firmer suspension, larger wheels and sportier detailing inside and out, but most will welcome the SE's more comfortable ride.

Although newer and more expensive, be on the look out for Le Mans special-edition models that were launched in 2009. These got 19-inch alloys, metallic paint, heated leather seats and parking sensors as standard.

There are things to look out for when buying a used A6. Firstly, the air-con is surprisingly susceptible to faults, with roughly 25% of cars needing attention. Check that it blows icy-cold air and that there are no damp or musty smells.

The diesel engines can get through oil between services, so it's vital to check them regularly. Inspect the oil level and see when the car was last serviced.

Warranty Direct says gremlins in the electrical systems strike in almost 40% of cars. The engine's ECU can also cause problems, so look out for warning lights on the dashboard or a sudden drop in performance.

Some owners have also complained about the rear wheels rubbing on wheelarches when the car is loaded, although this appears to effect S line cars only. Tyres can be expensive to replace.

We found these on the forecourt:

Audi A6 2.0 TDI 170 SE Multitronic
'09/09, 43,000 miles, 14,599
Fords of Winsford

Audi A6 4.2 Quattro SE Tiptronic
'04/04, 49,000 miles, 6,990
Providence Garage