Tested: 2011 Audi A6 3.0 TFSi quattro

The middle choice

So the year’s almost over and you’ve been playing with the idea of a new luxury German car. The C-Class, A4 and 3-Series are just too obvious and plentiful. The A8, Seven and S-Class are too big, which just leaves you with the 5-Series, E-Class or the new Audi A6.

These three fellows really are the proverbial middle children. They silently admire and envy their respective big sisters and easily outshine those young and popular little brothers. People respect and want their seniors but only buy their juniors, almost ignoring the middle choice.

It gets worse. Where the conservative E-Class stole a handful of customers eyeing a 5-Series, the bold BMW clawed some back when it was recently refurbished. The Audi A6, it seems, sits in the middle of the middle children. Talk about a predicament.

But it faced yet another hurdle – dangling a fresh carrot in front of three-pointed star and blue ‘n white propeller lovers. Mind you, not too fresh, as this class is generally identified by conformity and understated class; dress code formal.

Audi managed to easily pull it off as their sometimes bland styling fits right in. The new A6 looks like a solid piece of metal with some strategically placed creases. Snazzy light clusters (Optional full LED at the front) and amazing toys make sure there’s some sparkle under that suit.

The range offers two petrol and two diesel engines, our test mule being an A6 3.0 TFSi quattro S-tronic. Hence it has a 3-litre supercharged petrol V6 (220kW/299hp/440Nm), four-wheel drive, seven automatic gears, achieves 100km/h in 5.5 seconds and a limited top speed of 250km/h.

Claimed average fuel consumption is 8.2L/100km and CO2/km output 190g. Its base price is N$655,000 and optional temptations come in the shape of entertainment goodies like DVD, TV, pricey speakers to trim items, wheels, adaptive gadgets as well as safety and decorative stuff.

Standard kit includes plenty of electric and auto gizmos, 18” wheels, Bluetooth, cruise control, parking sensors, reversing camera, leather, climate control, a pop-up central colour display, climate control, REAL metal dash inlays, tyre pressure monitor and heaps of airbags.

Should you yearn for more (we recommend the full-fat MMI infotainment system), option prices range from zero to tens of thousands. There are convenient packages available too but the fact is this: budget for at least N$750,000 and half a day to build the car of your dreams.

So the A6 can be pimped to A8 levels (e.g. the head-up display in ours) or customised to infinity and beyond. The top-notch materials and exquisite build quality compile a sober and elegant cabin with tasteful highlights, crisp colour displays and beautiful instruments.

It’s a cocoon of sophistication and reserved style, there’s lots of room in both rows and the seats are utterly comfortable and supportive. I was going to criticise some gadgets, especially the MMI system, but after only a day I fell for its charms. It’s very intuitive and clever.

The touchpad may be a gimmick reserved for left-handed drivers and you’ll mess with your passenger’s temperature a few times before you find the volume button, but there are equally intuitive buttons on the sporty steering wheel to help you out.

An A6 3.0 TFSi quattro is easy or exhilarating to drive and offers a five-way drive mode with custom settings to find your preferred engine, gearbox and chassis response combo. The air suspension can raise or lower the car and its modes manage a decent split between comfort and handling.

The DSG gearbox can be jerky at slow speeds but if Mr. or Mrs. Business Person enjoys spirited driving, the A6 will provide über-quick shifts (also manually, via paddle shifts) and fantastic performance when their shiny lacquer shoe hits the carpet. At speed it often felt like a Golf GTi with a massive boot and more grip.

Cornering and braking are remarkable with fat tyres, four-wheel-drive, a clever diff and dozens of computers working their magic together. The A6 has negligible body roll, very precise steering and a grip limit so high that I dared not cross it.

Having had the pleasure of testing both Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5-Series, I would hate to choose between the three. The beautiful Beemer’s gone a bit numb in my opinion and the Benz went back to its conservative roots, which leaves the Audi in the BMW’s former spot – the enthusiast’s choice.

In any case, if you’re shopping for a snazzy car from Fritzland, here’s what I want you to do. Ignore the big barges, walk past the cannon fodder entry level models and take a seat in the new Audi A6. This middle child will reward your choice with extreme gratitude and competence.


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