You've just got to love Audi for the way it does things so well, yet refuses to make a song and dance about it. Look at the name of this Audi A6 2.0 TDIe. Ok, it's an Audi, it's bigger than the A5 and smaller than the A8 and it has a two-litre turbocharged diesel engine. But what I want you to concentrate on is the very last letter – that tiny "e" curled up in the back.
That "e" means this is the most efficient engine you can get in an A6; fuel efficient and relatively clean. Lesser manufacturers would make a big song and dance about the efficiency line calling it EcoMotion or Blueflex or some such thing. Audi has e.
What this car is, is one of the most sensible executive vehicles you can buy. It's a sleek and elegant saloon, spacious and well-equipped, solidly built, carrying a badge with kudos and likely to hold on well to its market value. And yet what looks to the unenlightened like a company manager's gas-guzzler is officially capable of travelling an average of over 53 miles on a gallon of diesel. It also only turns out 139g/km of CO2 so a year's road tax will set you back a mere £120.
I've driven this car from mid-Cornwall up to London and back without touching the filler cap, and yet I still seem to have plenty left in the tank. Lots of things contribute to this – low rolling resistance tyres, reduced ride height, efficiency tuned engine, underfloor streamlining, energy recuperation in overdrive and braking, that sort of thing. What it doesn't suffer from is any apparent lack of performance.
The engine screws 134bhp and 236lb/ft of torque into the road through the front wheels. It's not a sprinter in that it takes over ten seconds to haul the 1.55-tonne car up to 62mph, but I tell you now, with all that torque on hand, it feels like there's plenty of go in the beast.
Stamp down on the go pedal from a standing start and there's enough torque to stiffen up the steering as the wheels fight the temptation to scrabble for grip. The engine has never been left wanting when negotiating the steep and deep lanes of Cornwall. Out on the A-roads the car surges out to overtake without going all asthmatic on me and on the dual-carriageways it cruises along in sixth gear however the road falls or climbs. You may have to drop a cog into fifth for tight overtaking in heavy streams of fast motorway traffic, but that's all. It's a saintly engine; smooth, quiet and steady.
Considering that I don't need to stop too often to fill up, it's a good thing that the car is comfortable and well stacked with entertainment options. So far as the comfort thing is concerned, after hundreds of miles of motoring, some of which has been done in four-hour, non-stop stints, I've never yet stepped out of the driver's seat anything other than as fresh as when I got in.
As for the entertainment, I should really hand you over to my teenage daughter Alice, who'd worked out the options in minutes. We had CDs with us for the autochanger, but you can plumb in your hard-drive music systems too, or save your albums onto the sound system's own internal memory. Hours and hours and hours of your own music, with a simple to use system for sorting, finding and selecting it.
Audi's satnav system is easy to find your way round too, using a combination of push-button option selectors grouped around a multi-function joystick that's also a rotary knob and select button.
The multi-function audio/navigation screen snaps into a full colour rear-view camera when you select reverse. Guidelines superimposed on the picture can be tailored to either parallel parking or backing into a slot. A bleeping cacophony of proximity sensors built into the bumpers tell you in no uncertain terms if you are likely to ding your immaculate body on some hidden obstacle. Driving in rural Cornwall makes me look forward with enthusiasm to the day parking sensors can determine the difference between an unyielding slab of granite and an unthreatening frond of bracken.
The A6 feels smaller than it is, not because it's anything other than perfectly roomy indoors for five adults, but because it's so easy to drive. The only time you realise how big it is, is when you're driving in narrow lanes or parking it in a slot you've parked other cars in.
In conclusion, the A6 TDIe is Audi's Captain Sensible. It has the presence to create an impression in anyone's company, it has all the space you should need for people and luggage, it's a car you can enjoy driving or riding in, and it's got an engine with levels of economy undreamed of only a few years ago. Miles of guilt-free motoring. Tremendous.
Look out for that little "e". It’s a badge to be proud of.
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