The Audi A6 is the mid-sized executive offering from Audi set to compete with the BMW 5 Series and the Mercedes E Class. In 2005 the A5 was named the World Car of the Year that did much to increase its reputation in this saturated market sector.
Executive saloons are currently some of the most popular cars to be bought annually; this is mainly due to the fact that executives are the some of the few with enough financial stability to buy new prestige cars. So how does the A6 compare to the other cars in its range? Will it be able to match them in terms of performance, comfort and style?
As with much of the Audi range the styling is dominated by the characteristic single panel grill that give Audi cars their distinctive look. Although conservatively styled. It looks good enough to be considered aesthetically pleasing. Other cars in the range can be considered slightly bolder however; the BMW 5 Series is styled in a contemporary way although some commentators are still not convinced by its dynamic curves. For classic beauty, the Mercedes E Class offers timeless elegance that only comes with the Mercedes badge.
Inside the Audi A6 is comfortable and generally a nice place to be, materials feel expensive, and so they should as this is a prestige executive car. The controls are laid out in a logical manner making the A6 an ideal car for long journeys. If you are a techno-junkie however the BMW 5 Series should be the car for you, with a complex 'iDrive' system that puts complete control of the driving settings into the hands of the driver.
For British buyers the Audi A6 may no be their first choice, the Jaguar S Type brings retro-styling and the distinctive big cat badge. The Jag also brings the driver a sense of 'Britishness' that nationalistic drivers may want to experience. The British manufacturer is somewhat flagging in comparison to its German rivals in terms of quality and reliability though. While the A6 has a feel of quality throughout, the cheap feeling materials used in the S Type's construction somewhat limit its potential as an executive vehicle.
The Audi A6 also comes in an estate version that larger families may want to consider. This however puts the A6 in direct competition with the Swedish manufacturer Volvo, who have years of experience in the estate car market. The Volvo S80 is a sublime estate that benefits from many years of heritage; its safety features are probably the best in the class, the crash protection system is widely believed to be the most advanced to be ever produced in a road car. This may be the perfect solution for families with safety concerns.
For those who want a bit more sport from their Audi A6 then it may well be worth buying an S6, this does however put the Audi in direct comparison with the king of the sports saloons, the BMW M5. The sportier brother of the A6, the Audi S6 benefits from the 'Quattro' system that has made Audi famous for years.
The M5 however is the superior model in this class, with around sixty break horse power less than the BMW, what the Audi lacks in power it makes up with torque, that is; its ability to put its power down on the ground. In terms of performance both the BMW M5 and the Mercedes E63 AMG outstrip the Audi, this however can be balanced in wet weather thank to the exquisite all wheel drive system.
In terms of price the Audi A6 is a startling alternative to the BMW and Mercedes with competitive pricing for entry level models. If price is a real issue however there are cheaper cars on the market that may suffer with quality but make up for it in terms of cost; one such model is the Honda Legend.
Although the Honda is a good car it has somewhat struggled in this competitive market sector where the badge makes all the difference. While the driving position in the Honda is excellent, the rather drab and uninspiring brown interior fails to deliver all that an executive car should.
Overall the A6 is a brilliant car in a sector of the market full of brilliant cars. The fact it was voted the best car in the world a number of years ago is a creditable accolade. There is one problem that the car will have to face in order to compete effectively, that is the badge snobbery that fills the marketplace. Most executives would far prefer to have a BMW or Mercedes to pull up into their parking spot, if Audi can convince the executives to try something different the car will be a complete success.
Motoring expert Thomas Pretty looks at the Audi A6 in comparison to other cars in its class.