This week, I’m testing an all-electric Tesla Model S, which glides everywhere like a swan on a bed of cream, albeit an unnaturally fast swan, onlookers’ mouths left hanging open in speechlessness every time I arrive somewhere. Admittedly, far fewer people noticed the conservatively styled A6 Ultra in comparison, but I for one really rate its subtle elegance, sharp lines and desperately alluring ‘animated’ lights; and for a relatively modest £40,980 as tested, it still imbued a sense of smugness thanks to its equal brilliance when it comes to the art of wafting.
Some may perceive the cabin as a little dull, but the beautifully soft Lunar Silver Valcona leather upholstery really brought it to life, the motorised infotainment screen provided a talking point for technophiles, and ergonomics and tactility were superbly executed, resulting in a remarkable air of calmness.
These days, diesel engines are no longer smoky, rattley affairs, but all things are relative and some are still noisier than others. I was never that impressed by the E90 BMW 3 Series 320d, for instance, which didn’t match up to church mice and libraries. I was, however, bowled over by the quietness of the Audi A6 Ultra’s 2.0 TDI unit, which was barely audible for a mere few minutes after being fired up on cold mornings.
Cocooned inside Audi’s supremely comfortable middle management express, the outside world seemed to float past unobtrusively and with peak outputs of 190PS and 400Nm the A6 Ultra is by no means a slow coach, but its light steering, comfort-biased ride even in S Line guise as tested and the slightly detached overall driving experience mean it’s shaded by the BMW 5 Series in the driver engagement department. The Audi’s handling on country roads was still respectable, though, and it coped well with pot holes, speed bumps and poor surfaces. Neal, the sloth from the sofa adverts, would love this front-wheel drive car.
Audi’s new 7-speed, dual-clutch S tronic transmission actually makes the Ultra the most fuel efficient and least emitting A6, even when compared to a 2-litre, non-Ultra, manual variant. Gear changes could still be discerned at times and the S tronic ‘box occasionally felt and sounded like a CVT, but the overall effect was quite therapeutic, once again reinforcing the car’s relaxing character. Kick-down was forgettable, though, the engine emitting a not entirely pleasant noise, with only a modest increase in momentum.
Kylie, or indeed Neal, could quite happily invite four friends of average build for a ride in the A6 Ultra without any grumbles ensuing, and the spacious rear is backed up by an equally sizeable boot with a capacity of 530 litres with the seats up and 996 litres when folded.
There’s no denying that the Audi A6 Ultra is aimed at business, so getting the numbers right is crucial. Just like the creamily smooth interior and effortless ride quality, the A6 Ultra’s statistics instil calmness, too. Although after a week with one I averaged 56mpg, compared to 67.3mpg on paper, the Ultra has a large, 73-litre fuel tank, giving it a realistic and impressive range of around 800 miles. In my book, that’s pretty good. The all-important CO2 emissions figure is attractively low as well, at 110g/km if specified with 18” alloys like my test car. Tax band B equates to £20/year road tax from year two onwards and BIK is 18%, which will once again appeal to fleets.
When it was delivered, I fully expected I’d become bored to tears, but oddly, I actually developed an addiction for the A6 Ultra, as it was just so damn serene. In fact, I’m sure after a week living with one, my heartbeat and blood pressure had both reduced. If you cover a few hundred or more motorway miles per day and want to guarantee arriving feeling relaxed, I can’t think of better. Any anticipated Quiet Revulsion on my part was immediately dissipated by this Quiet Revelation of a car.