Everyone has a different concept of luxury.
Some like expensive brands with time-honored logos, some like the use of exquisite materials, some like exceptional craftsmanship wherever it may come from, some like flashy designs with fancy details, while some like a combination of some of, or all of, or even more than the above. The auto industry is no different, especially in the German executive car class.
In this category, you'll find the BMW 5 Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. That's a very distinguished pair, and each one has a special trait. The BMW banks on delivering a uniquely engaging drive, but the gold standard in the country is really the Mercedes E-Class, so much so that we have a nickname for its ancestor of decades past: Chedeng.
There is another option in the class: the Audi A6. And during the course of our drive, we'll find out that it (still) doesn't follow exactly the same playbook as its fellow Germans. And that's a good thing.
The A6 we're looking at is the 2.0 TFSI model, and it's the new generation model that first debuted in Europe in 2018, followed by the Philippine launch just a few months ago.
The shape is familiarly Audi; conventional yet classy. They like crisp, well-defined lines as you can tell with the fenders and quarter panels. They like big grills, as evident with this chrome bordered “Singleframe” hexagonal grille. They like a lot of LEDs, so they use these devices on the headlights and the taillights.
The one thing that Audi's saloons can't really be faulted for is their unassuming nature. Audi has never really been about being flashy or overly styled for the sake of style. Actually even their sports models like the TT and the R8 aren't what we would call flashy; yeah they look great, but they don't have the same in-your-face looks like you would get in a Ferrari or a Lamborghini.
In terms of dimensions, there really isn't much that differentiates the new A6 compared to the previous model. The body is longer by just 6mm at 4939mm, wider by 12mm at 1886mm, and taller by 2mm at 1457mm; those are insignificant really. The wheelbase is slightly longer by 12mm or about half an inch; it should improve stability and ride, but we don't expect much.
While we like the dignified looks, we're still looking for a revolution. That's what we like to see as one generation of automobile moves to the next. With Audi, it's more like a Darwinist evolution from one model to the next rather than a revolution. But with the interior, that's about to change.
Whatever Audi held back with the design of the A6, they let loose with the interior because, quite frankly, it will feel like you stepped in a concept car. There are only a few buttons around the driver; on the steering wheel, and the center console, on the panel below the left A/C vent and the power window switch panel. It's like an exercise in zen minimalism in here unlike its predecessor or the primary competitors, and the reason is that Audi fully embraced the idea of a glass cockpit.
When you press the ignition, that's when it becomes clear what Audi did. Instead of gauges, you have a screen; AKA the Audi virtual cockpit. The multimedia unit is also a screen that has no physical buttons, and below it is another screen that controls a variety of functions like the climate control system, the lane keep assist, the auto start-stop, and even the motorized rear sunshade. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it makes sense once you do get familiarized.
While many other models want to be sporty and be outwardly engaging to drive, the A6 didn't go that route. The front seats are nice, wide, and definitely lean towards comfort as the bolsters and side supports are not really meant for aggressive cornering. The back seat, of course, is going to be more important given the positioning of the model against the E-Class. You've got good legroom, a comfortable seating position, and nice amenities like sunshades on the side windows, a center armrest, and your own climate control on the floor console box. Oh, and it's a four-zone climate system, meaning driver, front passenger, and two rear passengers can set their own temps. Clearly they wanted to put the driver and the passengers at ease.
What I did notice was that Audi may have taken quite a bit of inspiration from aviation, particularly from airliners. We've already mentioned the concept of the glass cockpit, but there are also a few other subtle touches. The steering wheel isn't trying to be sporty; if anything, it kind of reminds me of an airliner's flight yoke because of the metallic accent Audi designed it with. Same goes with the gear selector; it's reminiscent of the throttle lever that came with my old Thrustmaster flight sim joystick. It doesn't come with tray tables, but it does have autopilot in the form of cruise control, albeit not the adaptive kind.
If there's one phrase I can easily use with this A6 in the city, it's a smooth operator. Despite being German, this car is perfectly suited for our roads, with exceptionally good manners over our rough corrugated concrete roads and tarmac that has been deformed over the years by heavy trucks. That, I suspect, was attributable in large part to the 18-inch wheels with tires meant for comfort rather than sport. I wasn't expecting Lexus-levels of silence, but it was smooth over low city speeds albeit with a touch of lurching as expected from a DCT in traffic. VW has done well to improve on the DSG, though they call it S-Tronic for the Audi.
There was a bit of a surprise with the Audi A6: this is actually a hybrid... sort of. Not that the casual onlooker or even the casual Audi enthusiast would notice (without reading about it); there are no outwardly signs or indicators that this is a hybrid like special badging or blue halos. Instead, all we get is the TFSI badge, signifying that it has a 1984cc turbocharged engine with 245 PS and 370 Nm of torque. The engine drives the front wheels which is unusual because it's longitudinally-mounted; that orientation is so it can be compatible with the optional quattro four-wheel-drive system.
Despite that, this A6 is, in fact, a hybrid, albeit mild. What Audi used is a belted alternator starter (BAS hybrid) system which, like any hybrid, has the ability to store energy in an onboard lithium-ion battery and use it to run the BAS to drive the car at low speeds. What differs from traditional hybrids (i.e. Prius) is that instead of using a much more complex and expensive hybrid system (integrated motor drive with battery) that is mounted to drive the axles directly, the BAS is more like a piggy-back device and is installed like an alternator.
BAS allows Audi to achieve a simpler form of electrification of the A6's drive without being too expensive to engineer and manufacture. The main trick is really the ability to recover energy, store it in the 12-volt lithium battery system, and use it to run primary electronics (i.e. steering) as well as secondary features (i.e. A/C, windows, etc.) and cut off the engine with the automatic start/stop system. The system can shut-off the engine if you wish to coast at highway cruising speeds (i.e. 100 km/h), using the momentum and battery charge to run everything else you need. When the speed gets low, the BAS will start up the engine again.The system cannot really drive the vehicle as it really is a more complex alternator, but functions as a means to cut the engine while the vehicle is in motion.
Mild as the “hybrid” system may be, the benefits are actually much more significant than I thought, as in city driving during Christmas season traffic, the A6 2.0 TFSI “MHEV” was doing 9.2 km/l (21 km/h average). And mind you, that was with Comfort engaged on the drive select. On the highway, I was quite surprised at the 14.9 km/l fuel economy (87 km/h average) without really making much of an effort to coast as much and maximize the system.
When roads open up, you can have a bit of fun with the A6. The power unit does have 245 PS available, and there is a considerable level of thrust that you can feel when your right foot gets a bit feisty. With Sport engaged, the dual-clutch gearbox holds the gears a bit longer, allowing you to maximize the rev range up to 6500 rpm. It actually feels stable at high speed; quiet too. Audi really did the work to reduce the noise for this executive car.
Even if it's not really a sporty model, the A6 can hold its own if the roads get twisty. Sport mode adds weight to the steering and sharpens up the throttle map, allowing for more fun blasting up and down the straights. The suspension's settings are unaltered, but it's fairly good in stock form. The Michelin Primacy tires have a good balance between comfort in the city and handling at speed. The brakes do inspire confidence, but it's still worthy to note that this is still a heavy vehicle at 1.6 tonnes, so late and heavy braking maneuvers shouldn't be regularly on the menu. It's best to remember that this isn't an S or RS model from Audi, nor is it a BMW.
There are a few things we think should be noted for future improvement. The MHEV start/stop system, while fairly smooth, can still feel intrusive. I found myself shutting it off for the most part in traffic. The wheels also look a bit too low-key for this car. They're cast alloys as indicated in the press information, not forged. We found it strange that they would mention that bit of info, but it's there.
Also, cars like these are also meant to be ridden in at the back with a family driver or a chauffeur, not so much be driven by their owners. So perhaps more attention to rear space and rear amenities would have been nice like a better center armrest, maybe even a 240-volt socket for a laptop. I would also have argued for an extension of the MMI multimedia system for the rear passengers, but since it has Bluetooth, Android Auto, and Apple Carplay, controlling what's playing from the back shouldn't be hard.
As an overall package though, we can't fault the A6. Actually, we found ourselves thoroughly impressed with this base A6 as a whole from our experience behind the wheel. We like the upscale look, the clean build, the many safety features (6 airbags, clear rear camera, sensors, stability control, etc.) and the minimalist interior with the massive screens. We also like the price: as it stands, this 2020 Audi A6 2.0L TFSI costs PhP 4,690,000.
The pricing isn't as high as we thought it would be for a vehicle that is truly German made. We can venture a guess that a declaration that it's a hybrid may have given them the 50% discount with the excise tax as our law doesn't really distinguish between full and mild hybrids. It's also worthy to note that the actual price can vary; luxury auto distributors like to have what's called POA or priced on application because the SRP is affected by the exchange rate.
We, however, don't expect the A6 to sell in great numbers. That's not saying it's lackluster, but because in the grand scheme of things, 4-door saloon cars are losing out to similarly-priced crossovers and SUVs. We find that to be a shame, especially when cars like the A6 have so much to offer and such an eagerness to impress.