Sedans are a bit on the nose at the moment. Everyone wants an SUV, or even a coupe SUV, but the traditional three-box sedan has fallen rapidly out of favour
With a sharp, touring-car-lite exterior and a cutting-edge interior, the A6 45 TFSI S line makes a stronger statement than its predecessors. Although it isn’t a performance flagship like the S6 or RS6, the regular A6 is far from pared-back.
It’s mostly a very convincing take on the modern premium sedan formula, but there are a few options to be avoided.
Pricing for the Audi A6 45 TFSI S line kicks off at $105,200 before on-road costs, but our tester came in at $120,100 before on-road costs because of some choice options.
Metallic paint adds $2200 to the sticker price, the gloss black exterior package is worth $1600, and the Premium Plus Package 2 is an additional $11,100.
It sits in the dead centre of the Audi A6 range. Below it is the 40 TFSI ($84,889 before on-roads) with a lower-output 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, and above it sits the A6 55 TFSI ($115,636) with its 3.0-litre turbocharged petrol V6.
The more powerful S6 and RS6 Avant exist in their own space.
Standard equipment is generous, even through there are some options boxes to tick.
Inside, the A6 45 TFSI has the same triple-screen infotainment system gradually rolling out across the Audi range with twin displays on the dashboard and the excellent Virtual Cockpit digital instrument binnacle, complete with a head-up display.
The front seats are heated and powered, and all four seats are trimmed in supple Valcona leather. There’s aluminium trim on the transmission tunnel, tri-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, wireless phone charging, and a 10-speaker sound system.
Rolling on 21s
The wheels fitted to our tester look sharp, but the pay-off in ride quality isn't worth it
There’s a full suite of safety features, including autonomous emergency braking (front and rear), lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, active cruise control with stop/go, a surround-view camera with front/rear parking sensors, and collision avoidance assist.
A set of 20-inch alloy wheels is also standard, although our tester rode on 21-inch units as part of the Premium Plus Package 2 ($11,100) fitted to our tester.
Along with the bigger wheels the package brings a Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system, HD LED matrix headlights, rear privacy glass, a panoramic glass sunroof, adjustable interior ambient lighting, a powered boot, a powered steering column, and the S line interior package.
The Audi A6 has a five-star ANCAP safety rating, based on scores of 93 per cent for adult occupant protection, 85 per cent for child occupant protection, 81 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 78 per cent for safety assist.
A full suite of active safety features is standard, led by autonomous emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. There’s also blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, collision avoidance assist, and a system that prevents you from opening the door if traffic or a bike is coming.
As a cyclist who lives in perpetual fear of copping the corner of an inattentive driver’s door in the sternum at 35km/h, that last feature is very, very welcome.
There’s even something called loose wheel detection, the name of which should be all the explanation you need.
Audi’s impressive track record when it comes to interior design is no secret. For the most part, the cabin of the A6 is every bit as nice as you’d expect.
By now the triple-screen infotainment system in the latest Audi cars is becoming a favourite. The top, 10.1-inch display handles the radio, media, phone, navigation, and settings for the system, has easy-to-spot icons and excellent haptic feedback.
Although it has wireless Apple CarPlay, the native system is snappy enough to make it mostly redundant. Audi has recently taken the lead on software development at the Volkswagen Group, and the A6 makes it easy to see why.
Sitting below the main touchscreen is an 8.6-inch display for your climate controls. With big icons and good, click-clack feedback it’s definitely the best touch-based climate control system on the market, although it’s still not as tactile or simple as a set of proper dials.
Audi has made some strange choices, like not putting the full spread of air-conditioning options in the empty slots at the top of the screen. Instead, it’s buried some functions in sub-menus.
If you want to sync the driver and passenger temperatures – and if you’re a bit obsessive like me, you will – you need to open a menu which pops up on the top display, which just adds unnecessary complication to what should be a simple process.
Update: The temperature can be synced by pinching the display, or a shortcut can be added.
Audi’s digital instruments, dubbed Virtual Cockpit, are a revelation. They’re the best in the game, with more polished graphics than related systems used elsewhere within the Volkswagen Group and a simpler, more user-friendly layout than the flashy MBUX display in new Mercedes-Benz models.
The driving position is accomodating for leggy passengers, and the flat-bottom steering wheel is a quality item. It’s a shame Audi insists on using so much gloss black trim, though. The aluminium in our tester looks great and is cold to the touch, so more of that would be preferable.
With ambient lighting and neat touches like illuminated hoops around the seatbelt anchors, it’s a thoroughly modern and attractive place to spend time.
Rear seat passengers are treated to excellent headroom, acceptable legroom, and their own climate control pod with air vents, but the Q7 or A6 Allroad wagon are better ways to lug around a family if that’s your main goal.
Boot space is a handy 530L, with a low loading lip and broad opening making it a practical space for those in the business of hauling things around.
Although the touch points and trim in our tester were lovely, there was a pronounced creak from the sunroof over uneven driveways. Given Audi’s reputation for build quality, that’s disappointing.
Power in the A6 45 TFSI doesn’t come from a 4.5-litre engine, or an engine with 45kW. We know, it’s a silly name.
Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine with 180kW of power and 370Nm of torque. It’s put to all four wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and quattro all-wheel drive system.
Audi has fitted its latest 12V mild-hybrid system to the A6 as well, chipping in when the turbo isn’t spooled up to provide an electric boost.
The 100km/h sprint is dispatched in 6.0 seconds, and Audi claims you’ll use 7.3L/100km of premium unleaded on the combined cycle.
We saw between eights and 10s in the city, which is more than respectable for such a large, luxurious sedan.
They look good, but the wheels on our 45 TFSI tester undermine the sense of luxury on offer in what’s otherwise a quick, quiet, refined luxury sedan. But more on that in a moment. Let’s start with the good.
The Volkswagen Group has small-displacement petrol engines absolutely nailed. Despite displacing just 2.0 litres, the engine in the A6 feels muscular from low speeds, offers a satisfying mid-range shove in the back, and is happy to be run out to redline.
A 100km/h sprint time of 6.0 seconds feels more than achievable when you put your foot down.
You wouldn’t know the transmission is a dual-clutch most of the time, either. It’s smooth off the line, and rarely feels hesitant through the tricky first-to-second shift on part throttle. Gear changes are predictably snappy once you’re up and running.
For the most part, the A6 is a perfectly comfortable, inoffensive sedan. The steering is light around town, and the punchy engine makes lunging for gaps in traffic something to look forward to.
With all-wheel drive traction and a surprisingly dialled-in front end it’s also fun to throw around in the corners if you’re keen to make the kids feel sick. There’s just a whiff of sportiness about the way the A6 drives, which is always welcome.
Unfortunately the passive suspension setup on regular A6 models just can’t handle the 21-inch alloy wheels included in the Premium Plus Pack 2.
Sharper bumps that float beneath the wheels of the more expensive Audi S6 and its adaptive suspension thwack into the cabin of the 45 TFSI, a clear sign this particular A6 is over-wheeled. Yes, they’re sexy, but the wheels on our tester just aren’t worth it.
It’s a shame, because for the most part the cabin is quiet and comfortable. The engine whispers along at highway speeds and there’s hardly any wind rustle from around the mirrors.
Away from the city and its nasty potholes, expansion joints, and speed bumps the ride is more settled.
Unfortunately, Audi hasn’t followed Mercedes-Benz or Volvo in moving to a five-year warranty, instead running with a three-year, unlimited-kilometre coverage period.
Audi maintains its owners aren’t worried about the three-year warranty – as does BMW, which also hasn’t shifted – but we’d be very, very surprised if anyone turned down two more years of peace of mind and the associated lift in resale value.
Audi also offers a five-year service plan for $2810. Maintenance is required every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first.
The Audi A6 is a genuinely lovely thing. Handsome on the outside and techy on the inside, it shows how the humble three-box sedan can be massaged into something altogether more appealing in 2020.
Steer clear of the big wheels in the Premium Plus Pack 2, though. They look good, but the trade-off in ride quality is too great a cost – and that’s before you consider the fact they’re an $11,100 option.