The white-van driver toots, then motions to wind the window down as we crawl along the chocker A316. Uh-oh… but it’s fine. “What engine is that?” he calls. “3.0-litre V6,” I reply. “Is that the new one? Very nice, mate.” Thumbs-up, a smile and we return to our vastly contrasting automotive cocoons. This striking Audi A6 evokes a response, just as is intended, and its regeneration is clearly something of an event to those tuned in to premium-class saloons.
Audi’s target across the new A6 range is to challenge both the driving dynamism of the BMW 5 Series and the all-round brilliance of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Quite a task, then. Our intention in the coming months is to discover whether it has pulled it off, which means sampling more than one of these executive liners. A stint in the Avant estate will follow before our time is up.
Audi has always been white hot on comfort and toasty on tech – but has it got what it takes to add flavour to the ingredient that has too often come up bland? Sport is in Audi’s genes after all those years of Le Mans domination, but somehow it hasn’t always translated to the road. In this class, it’s beyond time that it does. We start with this, the diesel S Line saloon, with all the bells and whistles that add an eye-watering £19,670 to the base price.
That 3.0-litre V6 is good for 286bhp and a whopping 620lb ft of torque, topping out at (apparently) 155mph. Economy is measured at 48.7mpg (we’ll certainly be testing that), with CO2 emissions rated at 150g/km. An 80-mile round-trip daily commute is a good place to start for a car intended to revel in long-distance cruising, and in our first week, more than 540 miles are logged – in a state of zen-like serenity.
That’s saying something, given the slog includes a sticky stretch of M25. Here, the automatic handbrake and engine cut are silently blessed every day. Idling in traffic has never been so placid, in Alcantara tranquillity. The firm but posture-friendly seats, the tactile finish of both hard and soft surfaces, the pleasing glow from the sharp dashboard, instrument cluster and large navigation screen, augmented with a personal soundtrack of BBC 6 Music on the sonorous Bang & Olufsen optional sound system… it’s like a personal daily spa in a five-star hotel. Homely? Absolutely not. But the clinical sense of cool detachment is a comforting novelty right now. Yet few want to live in a hotel forever, no matter the standard of pampering. Let’s see if glacial perfection wears thin.
The supple ride from the adaptive air suspension contributes to the calm, as the family attest on a weekend chauffeur trip to Brighton for a spot of 16th birthday shopping. The teenagers grin with usually hard-to-win approval at this slice of the finer life. The A6 is born for straight and true highways.