WORLD PREMIERE: 2018 Audi A6 — Business Class Refined

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We were supposed to have to wait until the 2018 Geneva Motor Show but it seems as if, due to some leaks occurring this morning, Audi has decided to officially release it early. So here it is — the brand-new Audi A6.

This is a big moment for Audi. With the competition in the mid-size luxury sedan segment being as excellent as it is, the folks in Ingolstadt need to bring their A-Game. The new BMW 5 Series is probably the best all-around car in the segment, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a stunning luxury car with probably the best cabin in the industry and the Jaguar XF, while getting old now, is still the most exciting car in the segment. So this brand-new Audi A6 needs to be a hit.

On the Outside

From the outside, enthusiasts and fans of the brand might be a bit underwhelmed. To be honest, most of the auto-journalism industry is a bit underwhelmed. That’s because the A6 looks exactly as we had expected. It wears the brand’s new design language, similar to that of the Audi A8 and A7. And while that’s not technically bad, as it’s a very handsome car, its design a bit familiar already and it’s just been revealed today.

The new A6 wears the brand’s typical corporate face, with a massive Singleframe grille and angular headlights. Its new optional laser headlights also do the same fancy light dance as the A7’s and it looks very slick. The only disappointing aspect of the exterior, at least for me, is the headlight design, which is almost identical to that of the old car’s. It does look good it’s just all too familiar.

Though, there are some nice exterior touches that keep the new A6 fresh. For instance, the rear fenders get squared-off flares that not only remind us of the old-school Audi Quattro but make it seem muscular, aggressive and even a bit rear-wheel drive-based (even though it obviously isn’t). Its front air intakes look sporty and its rear taillights look nice. Other than that, though, it’s pretty standard Audi fare.

Having said that, what lies under the skin should impress and excite.

Beauty is More Than Skin Deep

The new Audi A6 is built on the same new lightweight architecture that underpins the Audi A8, A7, A4 and even Q7. While that may sound too familiar, it’s still a good thing, as Audi’s new MLB-Evo II platform is one of the best in the business. It’s lightweight, flexible among body styles and surprisingly dynamic. Every car we’ve driven on the this new chassis has impressed, even if the Q5 was just a tad on the boring side.

Being based on the same chassis as the A8 and A7, it gets all of the same tech, just at a lower price. So it gets all of the same Level 3 Autonomy technology as the A8 and the same interior tech, as well. All A6 models are also MHEVs (Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicles), which means their engines each sport a Battery Alternator Starter (BAS), which is sort of an electric motor that’s mated to the engine’s crankshaft. This can not only act as the starter motor but it can actually power the entire engine on its own while coasting at speed, allowing the engine to shut down and be powered solely by the electric BAS.

Only Two Engines at Launch — At Least They’re Good Ones

At launch, two engines will be available for the A6 in Europe and both will be mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox; a 3.0 liter TFSI V6 and a 3.0 liter TDI diesel V6. The former, which is likely going to be the only engine offered in North America, is the same basic unit you’ll find in the Audi S4. in Audi A6-guise, that means 340 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, which is only a few ponies shy of the S4 and likely done to keep the S4’s prestige. Though, the A6 is still quick with this motor, getting from 0-60 mph in 5.1 seconds.

The 3.0 liter TDI V6 is probably the one to have if you live in Europe, as it makes 286 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque. Not only does this engine pack more torque, but it’s almost as fast as the petrol engine, nailing 60 mph in 5.5 seconds, and it’s more fuel efficient.

What’s interesting is that the A6 will get proper Quattro all-wheel drive as-standard, with none of that fancy but weak Quattro Ultra business. That means it will have a proper center locking differential, rather than a multi-plate clutch like in Quattro Ultra cars that are mostly front-wheel drive. There’s also an optional sport rear limited-slip differential, which will increase its dynamic handling by maximizing the torque split between the rear wheels.

It Should Handle Well, Too

Our biggest complaint with the current, outgoing Audi A6 is its handling. It’s a good looking car, has a nice cabin (even if it’s looking very dated now) and it’s a luxurious car. But it just feels so…blah. Its steering is feather light with feel and feedback, or lack thereof, that makes a Playstation Logitech wheel seem like it came from an air-cooled Porsche 911. This new Audi A6 should be much better.

For starters, it’s on a better chassis that has shown us better steering on every car that we’ve sampled from it. The new A4 is has better steering than the last-gen A4, the new A8’s is better than the last one’s and the new Q7’s is better as well. So Audi has shown that it’s been making progress in its steering department.

But its chassis dynamics should also be vastly improved. Not only is this new chassis more capable and more dynamic than the one it replaces but it sports new suspension and handling technology. On top of the aforementioned differentials, the A6 will have optional rear-wheel steering, revised progressive power steering and all of its suspension components being made from lightweight aluminum.

It Will Still Be a Luxury Car First

While the handling and performance of the new Audi A6 are very welcome additions to the car, it’s still designed as a business-class luxury car first and foremost. So it will be every bit as luxurious as we’d expect from a business machine wearing Four Rings.

Inside the A6, you’ll be met with largely the same interior as on the Audi A8 and A7 sedans. That may sound like an insult to some but it isn’t. It’s a lovely cabin that features an elegant design, rich materials and impressive technology. To be honest, it’s more A7 than A8 on the inside, so some things are a bit less expensive; such as the lack of motorized front air vents and wood trim throughout them. However, it’s still lovely and feels as expensive as it looks (if the A7 is anything to go by, at least).

So you get the same new steering wheel digital gauge cluster and dual-touchscreen MMI infotainment system as the A7. The wheel looks good and feels nice in hand (judging from the A7), the new version of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit infotainment system is as brilliant as ever and the new MMI system looks uber high-tech. While there may be some complaints about the new touchscreen-based MMI system, rather than the old-school, yet more intuitive, rotary wheel, it looks great and is very slick.

Essentially, there are two different screens that control two different functions. The lower touchscreen controls all of the car’s HVAC controls, while the top one handles all infotainment bits. Though, there’s also a new natural-language voice control system, that allows you to simply talk to the system, rather than repeat perfectly specific commands. So while it will take some getting used to, we’re expecting owners to like it in the long run.

 Business Class at its Best

Sure, this new Audi A6 may not be the splashiest new car on the market, nor the sexiest. But it’s a very important car, not only for Audi but for the segment. The Audi A6 has always been one of the brand’s best sellers and a very popular car in its market. So Audi needed to push the bar forward without upsetting its already loyal clientele base.

While it’s not necessarily sexy, it looks promising, has a lot going on underneath its subtle looks and is typical Audi business class.