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Driven Audi A6 – on sale now

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Review

New A6 moves the executive goalposts

BMW dealers may not be eating their hearts out, but many will be chewing their fingernails. Audi’s all-new, snub-nosed A6 is good – good enough to present a very real choice to buyers who have a 5-series at the top of their shopping list.

On order since June 12, not a washer has been carried over from the previous generation: it’s longer, wider, better equipped, 34% more rigid and 13% more slippery – and the new chassis design, updated transmissions and new V6 and V8 Euro IV engines have hoisted Audi’s executive saloon into the higher reaches of its sector, where it knocks on the luxury segment door.

On-the-road prices range from £24,425 to £43,025 before delving into the options bag – about 1% more than the outgoing A6, which hangs on to Avant estate variants until September.

At UK launch there are 4.2 V8, 3.2 V6 FSI and 2.4 petrol engines and a 3.0 TDI diesel – all claiming most powerful in class status. Two more diesels are due in 2005 – 2.7 and 2.0-litre units – as well as adaptive air suspension.

The German manufacturer sold 70,824 units in the UK last year, but it is already more than 8% ahead of that performance in 2005. Audi expects to sell 2,500 current A6 Avants and 4,500 new A6 by the year end and predicts 8,000 in 2005. AM has now driven the two top petrol units and the 3.0-litre TDI. The former are superb – quick, quiet and thoroughly involving. But it is the diesels that will ensure Audi makes its target.

At £31,930 OTR the VTG turbocharged 3.0 TDI is keenly priced against equivalent 5s and E-class, but it has the edge on performance, handling and economy. Tough choice for the executive buyer for whom prestige used to mean one of two German marques.

Strengths: Outstanding engines, chassis
Weaknesses: None spotted
Opportunity: BMW and Mercedes buyers
Threat: New nose devalues older A6 models
The USP: Large executive sports tourer
Prices : £24,175 2.4 SE; £30,225 3.2 FSI SE; £33,225 3.2 FSI quattro tip SE; £42,775 4.2 quattro SE tip; £31,680 3.0 TDI quattro tip SE
Engines : 2.4 V6, 3.2 V6 FSI, 4.2 V8; 3.0 TDI diesel quattro
Transmissions : 6sp man, 7sp CVT
Performance : 0-62mph 8.9-6.1sec; top speeds 143-155mph
Efficiency : 23.9-33.2mpg comb; 229-283g/km CO2
Servicing : 19,000 miles/two years
CAP RV (3yr/30k) : 40-46%
Rivals : BMW 5-series, Mercedes E-class, Jaguar S-type

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