Sunday 20 August 2017

Power. . . and panache

AUDIA6
3.0TDi
RATING 84/100
AUDIA6 3.0TDi RATING 84/100

This is the biggest shop window I have seen in a new car for a long, long time. The new Audi A6 costs from €42,500. That is a price pitched to compete with the other giants in this mid-size executive sector dominated by German manufacturers.

And for that sort of money you get a decent enough array of off-the-shelf equipment, not to mention a vastly improved-looking car compared with the old one.

You also get a 2-litre diesel engine that is practical and proven.

But someone, somewhere decided to really go for it with the car I had on test and they included anything they could lay their hands on. Why?

I think it is to show just what the car can do -- if you have the money (€103,400 or so) and really, really want to spend it on an Audi A6.

Hands up?

One of the benefits of this largesse is that I got to drive the 3-litre six-cylinder engine, which, simply put, is a powerhouse designed to accentuate what the chassis can do in terms of dynamics.

For all that, there is only so much you can do with a car on our roads. Sure, you can lap up your favourite music on a super-duper Bang and Olufsen stereo system that costs more than €9,000. And you can enjoy the clarity and safety of LED headlights at more than €4,000.

But, for me, the basic car is what matters most. Because that's where most people will start and possibly finish. Gone are the days when people flung on an additional €25,000 worth of bling.

Surprisingly, despite the window dressing, there is a fair bit to appreciate, even when you get behind the curtains in this.

Here is a cabin that shows just how far Audi has come over the past four or five years.

It now produces an interior combination of seating, dash, switchgear/instrumentation that is second to none.

Well, maybe I do like the Jaguar XF's cabin a tad more, but I prefer to think both are top of their genres. I think they are aimed at different buying targets.

This A6 looks a lot better than the old one with a bit of a real sharpness from the front grille/headlight/bonnet contours contrasting with that big, deep, strong body that remains, despite everything, intrinsically Audi.

On the more practical level, there is a large boot and the rear seats split or fold as you need them so passenger and luggage carrying capacity are well looked after.

So far so good. I had a big comfortable and powerful machine at my disposal and it just cruised along for me. The kilometres rolled by, especially on cruise control over the motorways.

Yet despite all that, I thought it lacked the sort of handling edge you get unerringly and inevitably from the BMW 5-series on tighter corners and bends.

You notice I used the word 'comfortable' and that, in essence, is what sums this up.

It is massively comfortable and solid with a lot of hidden and advanced technology playing a huge role in making it one of the easiest cars you will drive. Over some fairly bad old roads the suspension was excellent in soaking up the bumps.

Above all, the quattro four-wheel-drive gave me extraordinary grip, not that I ever pushed it so hard that I needed it that badly.

The seats were big, broad and strong -- the sort that fit in around you as much as anything else. And that 'snuggy' feeling is one of the reasons I liked the cabin so much. There was plenty of legroom at the back as well.

So what do you really get for your €42,500+ or €103,400?

A car of real stature that puts it up to -- and in some respects beats -- the closest rivals.

I am going to get into a 'standard' 2-litre one of these weeks because I think for once the one I had was too much of a good thing.

Window shopping is all right but even executives have to buy off the peg some times.

Audi are pushing hard with this -- easily one of the best combinations of power and panache. I don't think it is king of the road just yet, but it is a prince in waiting.

Go and give this a test drive. You'll enjoy it.

ecunningham@independent.ie

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