Presenting the ninth contender in our 2012 Car of the Year competition overview; the Audi A6 3.0 TDI Quattro S-Tronic. Could this be the one to take home the coveted title?
In Germany, there are three major car companies: BMW in Munich, Mercedes-Benz which hails from Stuttgart and Audi from Ingolstadt. In South Africa, these three brands have an effect on the buying public, which I refer to as “blinkers syndrome”. For some reason, despite that fact that “the big three” compete with brands from Jaguar and Suzuki to Hyundai and Volkswagen, monthly sales figures relentlessly reflect that cars from these brands sell more than most, if not all of their competitors.
People seem to go shopping with their blinkers on (hence the syndrome), and even though these cars are usually more expensive than their “lesser” rivals and you have to spec them up with expensive optional extras, they still sell in droves. So, is the Audi A6 in question better than the equivalent BMW 5 Series (which won COTY last year) or Mercedes-Benz E-Class? And more importantly, could it with this year’s Car of the Year competition?
On looks alone, I prefer this to the other two. Where the Merc has a classic feel to its design and the BMW is off-the-bat more sporty looking, the Audi sits somewhere in the middle. With the latest sharp-edged Audi design language out in full force with this car, it looks suave and stately, while being sporty-looking enough not to be considered an old man’s car. Fitted with the optional S-Line sports package as my test unit was, it looks even more meaty, and I spent literally hours just absorbing the beauty. I also had the pleasure of the gorgeous-looking all-LED headlights, which are Darth Vader to the core.
Inside, it’s perfection. Audi has long been revered as having the best interiors in the business, and all you need do to confirm this is to sit in one. The A6 has a crafted feel to everything, with top-quality finishes of leather, metals and wood in certain cases. It’s also completely fuss-free, with minimal switches and buttons on the dashboard and a cockpit-like centre console, with shiny metal knobs and glossy surfaces. It’s just such a nice place to sit, and you can’t help but sigh as you sink into the sumptuous leather seats.
Comfort and Features
Being the executive saloon the A6 is, comfort levels are excellent. From the driving position to the seats and the way the electric steering wheel moves out of your way when entering or exiting the car – you’d have to have a spinal injury to complain about a sore back after driving this car. Everything is laid out well, with the important stuff falling easily to hand and a steering wheel-operated multifunction interface allowing you to control almost anything. For the rest, a simple to use control knob allows you to customise the entire car via the MMI (multimedia interface) screen, which hides itself in the dashboard when you don’t want to see it, or when the car is off.
Holding hands tightly with the comfort levels is a features list as long as my arm. As you’d expect, the kit you find in this car is a mix of the latest technology and all the items you would expect of a car of this stature. An Achilles heel exists though, when you realise just how much isn’t fitted as standard – I had mild heart failure after “building” this car on the Audi website! Sure, the basics are there – like auto lights and cruise control and leather upholstery et al, so a “standard” A6 isn’t going to be horrible to live with. But some of the options are just so enticing that you can’t help but have them fitted. This of course pushes the price up, and by a lot!
Ride and Handling
With optional adjustable ride quality, you can easily cruise around town in excellent comfort, not really feeling undulations in the road and enjoying some classical music. Firm things up a bit, and the A6 becomes livelier (the engine and gearbox are also adjustable), with great sporting dynamics and a fiery drive. With Quattro all-wheel drive, you get the added confidence of throwing this car through corners and enjoying huge levels of grip. Having tested this car at the Gerotek Dynamic Handling Track, it eats up corners and straight-line speed is great. It does leave you a little uninspired though, because it does everything so damn well.
Performance and Economy
Featuring a twin-turbocharged 3.0 V6 diesel engine, this car is definitely no slouch. Power output is a delicious 180kW, and with 500Nm of torque on hand, you can break the speed limit in the blink of an eye – Audi claims you will do the 0-100km/h sprint in just 6.1 seconds and the top speed is limited to 250km/h. The 7-speed S-Tronic dual-clutch automatic gearbox (that’s DSG, for those familiar with VW products) is a wonderful invention, and mated to a big engine like this you don’t feel the shifts much at all. With a sport mode and manual override shift paddles, you can also enjoy the gearbox under your control, with lightning-quick shifts and fabulously racy dynamics. There are also four drive modes – Comfort, Normal, Dynamic and Individual (the latter of which is customisable), enabling you to change the car’s behaviour at the turn of a dial.
Powered by diesel, you’d expect the A6 to be quite good on fuel, and to be honest I was quite surprised at how long it took the gauge to drop. Audi claims you’ll return 6.0-litres per 100km on the combined cycle and carbon emissions are impressively low at just 158g/km.
I have no real doubts you’ll be able to achieve their claims if you try hard enough, and my overall figure of 9.3-litres per 100km wasn’t at all disappointing, especially considering I enjoyed a fair lick of Dynamic mode and manual gear shifting. For a big car like this (which doesn’t feel as such), it’s good economy. You also get start-stop technology, which does a great deal in saving fuel as well.
There’s no point in elaborating much here, because this car has just about every safety system known to man fitted to it. From ABS (anti-lock brakes) with EBD (electronic brake force distribution), to ESP (stability programme with traction control) and a resulting 5-star EuroNCAP safety rating, you’d probably have to be driving like a lunatic to get things seriously wrong in this car. You also get six airbags, ISOFIX child seat anchors, automatic and remote central locking and the usual anti-theft systems.
Take a deep breath, because this is not going to be pretty. Optional extras which were fitted to my test car amounted to almost R140 000, and even then not even the most fancy extras had been fitted. These included the likes of MMI Navigation (R22 200), the LED headlights (R33 280), adaptive air suspension (R25 120), 19-inch alloy wheels (R16 110), the S Line exterior package (R21 370), front sports seats (R6 200) and a sports differential for the Quattro system (R13 520). Consider then that another R340 000-odd worth of options are still available for this car, and you can easily spend over R1.1-million – on an A6! This doesn’t stop buyers from loading up their cars though (perhaps not to such an exorbitant level) and it’s not much different over at BMW or Mercedes-Benz.
I pondered on how to judge this car from a value perspective. Saying it is value for money would be laughable, because at this price level there isn’t really such a concept – as standard the A6 3.0 TDI Quattro S