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Audi A6 2001 facelift Road Test

Fri, 22 Jun 2001

Like fellas, some cars have a mid-life crisis, some have a mid-life facelift, and some have both. The Audi A6 for 2001 has just had the lift and tuck.

It started life as a big softy. Squishy, absorbent suspension soaked up the potholes on the Northhamptonshire roads where I first drove it. But that wasn't altogether a bad thing and it could be hustled along quite quickly without coming over all dramatic. At least, the 2.4 litre Tiptronic I drove could.

But now, Audi suspension wizard Jos van As has been allowed to tinker with the underpinnings; stylists and plastic surgeons have been at work on the nose and tail; boffins have been at work in the engine room and we have a newish A6.

'Multitronic' is the big word among the oily bits. This is Audi's new CVT automatic transmission with six steering-wheel-button selectable ratios which first took to the road in the pre-facelift A6 and, of course, the new A4. This highly desirable £1,450 option, which knocks the old Tiptronic for six, will be available across the front wheel drive range, most effectively in the 2.5 litre V6 TDI diesel.

The big news about Multitronic for company car drivers is that it is the one type of autobox that does not increase fuel consumption or CO2 output. And that means much smaller Benefit in Kind tax bills from April 2002.

In virtually every bracket, the A6 comes out lower in CO2 than its competitors anyway.

For example, the A6 1.9TDI PD 130 manual emits 154g/km CO2 against 164g/km from the Mercedes E220 CDI; 169g/km from the new Volvo S80 DS; and 179g/km from the BMW 525D. This equates to actual BiK tax payable of £1,555 against £1,713 for the Merc, £1,797 for the Volvo and £2,103 for the BMW.

CO2 figures for the PD 130 Multitronic are likely to be identical to the manual, but for conventional automatics they are much higher, so TDI PD 130 Multitronic drivers gain an even greater advantage.

Company drivers of petrol engined A6 Multitronics don't lose out either. A 170bhp Audi A6 2.4 Multitronic will cost £2,957 in BiK tax against £3,484 for a BMW 525i automatic; £3,570 for a SAAB 9-5 SE 2.3T auto; £3,678 for an Alfa 166 V6 auto; £3,788 for a Mercedes E240 auto; and £3,845 for a Jaguar S-Type 3.0 V6 auto.

Out on the road in the updated 1.8T I can confirm that the suspension improvements are felt almost immediately. The steering is a bearer of messages rather than an suppressor of them. The car feels sharper at the front end. It is generally much more pleasant to drive, yet the ride remains supple and comfortable. The 1.8T tugs it along quite nicely too, and the 5-speed gearbox had the best change I have yet used on a 5-speed Audi.

In comparison, the 6-speed 180bhp V6 TDI Avant quattro Sport didn't feel right at all. The engine had such little low down grunt it was easy to stall, the gearchange quality was poor, the ride wasn't very good, the car tramlined under braking. It simply did not impress. And, since the £29,205 price of the V6 TDI Quattro Sport is only a few pounds shy of the more versatile £29,365 TDI allroad, it's hard to see the point of this one.

Unfortunately, these two cars, plus a 220bhp 3.0 V6 quattro manual, were the only new A6s available for testing on the day. But, having driven the Multitronic in the new A4, I expect the TDI 130 and 2.4 V6 in the A6 to be perfectly suited to it and the automatic choice for many executives.

More at www.audi.co.uk

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