What is it?
It's the seventh-generation of the Audi A6 executive saloon (née Audi 100) and it's full of lovely techy stuff. Under the skin it's very similar to the recently-launched A7 hatchback, while at launch the UK gets a 2.0 TDI, two power levels of 3.0 TDI (one with a Multitronic CVT transmission, the other with more oomph and quattro drive) and a 3.0 TFSI V6 with a supercharger – effectively the S4 engine. A 2.0 TFSI petrol arrives later, but for this type of car the UK has become almost entirely a diesel market.
How long have you got? Audi says the A6 is the lightest car in its class, with the lightest scaling 1575kg. Aluminium doors, bonnet, boot, front wings and cast front suspension towers are mainly why, and most of the suspension is aluminium too.
Plundering the options list brings the juiciest fruits, though. All A6s have a version of Drive Select to tailor various dynamic parameters, but with Sports packs, air suspension and so on you can alter the driving feel so much you wonder what the A6's core personality really is. The steering uses electric assistance so it can nudge you back into your lane if sensors sense your inattention. An electronically-locking rear diff is optional in quattro models.
And there's optional on-board wi-fi to complete a multimedia extravaganza which also features Google Earth sat-nav imaging. While playing tunes from an iPod we were able to get on the web, go to the iTunes store and download a new track. All while driving. Amazing.
What's it like to drive?
Much better than the previous Audi A6. All versions are truly beautifully finished (and leather-trimmed), they are very refined and they feel wieldy. Such feel as the EPAS offers is entirely synthetic, but believable enough if you avoid the too-resistant Dynamic setting. Most evocentric should be the supercharged 3.0 TFSI quattro with 295bhp and a seven-speed DSG gearbox, whose step-off can be a touch violent after the stop-start system (standard in all A6s) has started. The ride in the 'sportiest' S-line version is pretty firm even in Comfort mode, but never actually harsh. Dynamic is for smooth roads only. This A6 feels thoroughly planted on the road, understeers little and will even edge its tail out under power on a slippery road. Ultimately, though, it feels a bit computer-game and less fun than it should be.
The surprise is that the lowliest A6 is actually a lot more entertaining. In fact it's the pick of the range for a good time, because it feels the most natural. The 2.0 TDI engine makes a lively 175bhp, and matched to the standard six-speed manual it involves you in the driving process in a way the DSG-only 3.0 TFSI doesn't. This front-drive TDI feels light on its feet, with just a little floatiness in fast bends to detach you from the man-machine interface. It's a good effort.
How does it compare?
Next to a BMW 5-series, quite well. Without its multifarious chassis options the current 5-series feels very ordinary, which means that at the bottom of the range an A6 is more satisfying while at the upper reaches the BMW wins through. We'd sooner take a Jaguar XF 3.0 D, though.
Anything else I need to know?
The 2.0 TDI starts at £30,145, the 3.0 TFSI tops out at £41,620 in Sportline trim. Deliveries start in April.