Prices start at £31,955 OTR for the TDI ultra saloon, rising to £58,000 for the S6 Avant

Prices start at £31,955 OTR for the TDI ultra saloon, rising to £58,000 for the S6 Avant

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The facelifted A6 range is now on sale in Britain. As well as the styling changes, emissions are claimed to be up to 22% lower, Matrix headlights are a new option, the CVT is replaced by a dual-clutch S tronic gearbox and EU6-compliant engines feature.

We all know how successful Audi has become in Britain but it’s only when you see the numbers that it really sinks in. The SMMT’s data show the brand had seven percent of the market in January, its registrations reaching 11,354 units. The A6 obviously is nowhere near being the top selling model, but its 979 sales exceeded the rather sad tally of 800 Jaguars. As for calendar 2014, A6 registrations were 15,055 and you’d expect that to rise in 2015 thanks to the recent mid-life restyle.

So what’s changed in the new car? The news centres on a subtle new look for the front and rear ends, as well as a new 109g/km 2.0 TDI ultra variant which delivers an official 67mpg. Those sorts of numbers would have looked amazing even two years ago but we do now seem to expect them.

Audi has made xenon headlamps standard for SE versions, while specifying LED units as for S line cars, Matrix LED lights optional for A6 and S6 and standard for the RS 6 Avant. The S6, S6 Avant and RS 6 won’t be in dealerships until March but all versions of the A6 saloon and estate became available in December.

One of the main reasons for the A6’s success is of course the business user market. That TDI ultra in SE spec with S tronic transmission now benefits from a BIK rate change from 18% to 17%. That equates to a liability for a 40% tax payer of GBP2,273 in the first year. Manual transmission cars with their reduced 113g/km output and 65.7mpg economy are only just above at 18%. The revisions also move both ultra versions from VED band C to band B. Which means no road tax in the first year of ownership.

The review car came not with the 2.0-litre engine but the Volkswagen Group’s 3.0-litre TDI. This V6 has been updated for forthcoming Euro 6 emission norms. Like the 2.0 TDI ultra, this one had a re-engineered seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch transmission. Something new is a coasting mode, activated when Efficiency is selected. This allows the engine to freewheel in neutral once the accelerator is released, thus helping to get the CO2 number down.

The 3.0-litre six-cylinder TDI ‘clean diesel’ units come in single-turbo and biturbo forms. There is a new 218PS which replaces the 204PS version, and this is available with two-wheel-drive or quattro all-wheel-drive. Stepping up to the next level of power, you find a 272PS variant. This succeeds the old 245PS Euro 5 unit and all cars with this single turbo V6 have quattro drive.

The biturbo 3.0 produces 320PS, which is a rise of 7PS over the older equivalent. This one has a standard eight-speed tiptronic, which is a Audi-speak for a torque converter automatic. The seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch transmission is for all other V6 diesels.

Order an S line car, and you’ll find that Sports suspension is part of the package. It sits 20mm lower and there’s an option to drop it by a further 10mm. The car I sampled had optional (GBP2,000) pneumatic suspension as well as quite a few other upgrades. Things such as special leather ‘supersports’ seats (GBP1,500), Bose surround sound (GBP1,000), aluminium inlays on the dashboard (GBP1,550), ambient lighting (GBP550) and a fair few other niceties which raised the GBP43,090 price to a spectacular GBP63,165.

In addition to the new grille, air inlets, bumpers, side sills, rear lights and tailpipes, Audi has indulged its fetish for novelty lighting. The ‘sweeping’ rear indicators from the R8 are now available on the A6 (S line and above). Matrix LED headlights are another new option for the A6 and S6 and they’re to be standard on the RS 6. These incorporate clusters of LED bulbs, each one of which can be individually dimmed. This occurs when sensors detect oncoming or following traffic. They also include dynamic front indicators.

Changes for the interior are fairly minor, and include an upgrade from dual-zone to four-zone climate control, new gear lever designs and additional chrome-effect detailing. 

The MMI navigation plus and Audi connect systems have been revised too. MMI navigation plus means an eight-inch retractable colour monitor; a more powerful Tegra 30 graphics processor from Nvidia; and MMI touch, which enables the driver to scroll and zoom in lists and maps via a touchpad. Audi connect now includes faster Internet-based services and media streaming apps brought to the car via LTE high-speed data transmission. The test car had MMI nav plus, Audi connect and Audi phone box as part of a bundled GBP1,625 Technology Pack. Phone box is exactly that: place your phone in a compartment within the centre armrest and it connects to the car‘s antenna for improved reception.

One criticism I would level at the interior concerns the HVAC controls. What was wrong with the old arrangement? The new ones are distracting until you memorise their strange way of working. There is one dial for the driver and one for the passenger, and you can sync them, which is fine. But rather than the fan speed button controlling just fan speed, when you press it it then changes functions. The same applies to direction of air button: this has the usual pictograms of feet, body and windscreen but you have to fiddle with the dial button to select them: in short, on a cold morning there is a lot of faffing to do AND having noted above that this particular A6 costs sixty three grand, it had neither heated seats nor steering wheel.

The wheel itself is one of the nicest things about what is a very easy to like interior (HVAC controls aside). It’s small in diameter, has dimpled leather which matches the gear selector and and there is an S line logo at its base. This car also came with black wood trim. This had thin silver lines across it and the effect looked very cool.

Those in the back have lots of legroom but this isn’t a car for carrying a middle passenger any great distance, problem being, the transmission tunnel is wide so that person would have to splay their legs.

How is it to drive? It does feel genuinely sporty though you can still feel the front-wheel drive bias of its MLB platform, even though the engine is mounted quite a way back for better weight distribution. If you’re a big fan of the BMW 5 Series, the A6 probably won’t steal your heart but with the quattro drivetrain, it’s more fun than an equivalent Mercedes-Benz E-Class 4MATIC. The steering can be an acquired taste - it’s not too light, just a little artificial feeling at times.

For a car that was first seen in 2011, the A6 still feels contemporary, and it's also got good looks on its side - the restyle has worked a treat. Despite this being a big car, it's also not too heavy, thanks to aluminium being used for the doors, bonnet/hood, bootlid and wings. The 3.0 TDI quattro S tronic weighs in at 1,770kg, which for a car that’s just under five metres long and with drive to all wheels, is really very good. Top speed is limited to 155mph, zero to 62mph takes just 5.5 seconds and the official Combined average fuel consumption is 55.4mpg. 

This generation of the A6 range (AU571: sedan; AU572: Avant; AU573: L (China only); and AU576: allroad) should remain in production until 2018. Apart from the addition of a plug-in e-tron derivative for China and possibly certain other markets in 2016, expect only minor model year tweaks between now and then. As for the next generation car, production plants should also remain as per where the current cars are built or assembled: Changchun (China), Neckarsulm (Germany), Kaluga (Russia), Shendra (India) and Jakarta (Indonesia).