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Improved PHEV exec saloon gets a bigger battery but what else does it have to offer?

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You’d expect a technologically innovative brand like Audi to have played a part in the earliest days of the plug-in electrification of the automobile, but looking at how the market for PHEV executive cars from rivals to the Audi A6 has developed over the past decade might give you other ideas.

The modern commercialisation of the breed has been taken on by other companies, so we now associate brands like Volvo, BMW and Volkswagen with PHEV powertrains much more readily.

The A6 is convincing effort, even if this most potent of engine variants will remain a rare sight on the road

Should we? Perhaps not. While its rivals may have lately committed with greater intent, Audi certainly dipped its toe with petrol- and diesel-electric powertrains several times over the past decade. It now has the wide range of PHEV offerings you’d expect, but it can also reference a few trailblazing examples you might not have heard of.

Its first petrol-electric model came as early as 1989 in the shape of a 100 Avant Quattro called the Duo. With a five-cylinder petrol engine in the front and a 12bhp electric motor at the rear, this was Audi’s first PHEV – although it was never put into proper series production. The A4 Avant Duo of 1997 did make full series production, but it was overlooked by Europe’s car-buying public.

Among Audi’s more recent ventures with PHEV technology was the Wankel-engined A1 E-tron concept of 2010; and then the Audi A3 Sportback E-tron of 2014 and the Audi Q7 E-tron of 2016, both of which did make the showroom, the Q7 E-tron in petrol- and diesel-electric forms.

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Then in 2019, when Audi launched its first series-production electric car, the E-tron moniker became the preserve of its all-electric models, while a coherent family of PHEVs, all labelled TFSIe, was introduced. That family now consists of electrified versions of the A3, Q3, Q5, A6, Q7, A7, Q8 and A8 – and it’s specifically the A6 we’re interested in this week.

Audi A6 line-up at a glance

The A6 model range remains reassuringly broad and extensive. All versions now get an automatic gearbox of some kind; only the base 40 petrol and diesel versions miss out on four-wheel drive as standard; and the trim-level walk-up starts with Sport, ranges up through S Line and Black Edition, and usually tops out with a fully loaded Vorsprung.

Audi A6 design & styling

Good strategic planning has helped to bring Audi’s electrification plans to bear. Between the start of 2017 and the end of 2018, the firm ushered in new-generation models of the A6, A7, A8, Q5 and Q8, all based on the VW Group’s updated MLB-Evo model platform and all therefore ready for the batteries, electric motors and complicated electronic architectures necessary to make a PHEV work.

First shown at the Geneva motor show in 2019, the A6 TFSIe Quattro pairs a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a 141bhp electric motor, both sitting upstream of a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox and clutch-based Quattro Ultra intelligent four-wheel drive system. Two versions are offered: a 55 TFSIe with 362bhp and 369lb ft, and a 50 TFSIe with 295bhp and 332lb ft. The 55 TFSIe is tuned for more sporting tastes, claims Audi, while the 50 TFSIe has the more comfort-oriented positioning that you might consider Audi’s heartland territory.

While many rival PHEVs have drive batteries mounted under the cabin floor, both A6 PHEVs draw power from a lithium ion drive battery carried under the boot floor. At the car’s introduction in 2019, this battery pack had a total capacity of 14.1kWh and delivered an electric range of 25 miles. But in March 2021, Audi announced an updated battery pack with a total installed capacity of 17.9kWh, boosting the WLTP-verified electric range for the A6 to between 39 and 45 miles (depending on fitted equipment). While 25 miles of range was only an average showing for the original car, the updated version now bests many of its PHEV opponents by granting access to a sub-10% benefit-in-kind tax bracket.

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Like most A6s, the TFSIe versions are suspended independently, via multi-link axles front and rear underneath steel coils and passive dampers. Plump for big-selling S Line trim and, among other equipment updates, you get lowered passive sport suspension, which cradles the car 10mm closer to the road surface. Typically, you have to scale the trim hierarchy all the way to a Vorsprung-spec car to get an A6 with adjustable air suspension and ‘dynamic’ active four-wheel steering. However, on the PHEV derivatives, neither of those systems is available.

Both A6 PHEVs do get a heat pump as standard, though, which should usefully boost their operating efficiency in cold weather, and both run with a haptic accelerator pedal that, it’s promised, makes the interaction of the petrol and electric halves of the powertrain more intuitive to manage.


13 Audi A6 TFSIe 2022 road test review cabin

There may be little to be found wanting within the cabin of a current Audi A3, A4, Q3 or Q5 and yet getting into an A6 still feels like taking a step up, as you drink in the material substance, the precise presentation and the tangible luxury aura of a ‘proper’ full-sized Audi saloon.

Up front, there is a superbly sculptural look to the dashboard architecture. The main spar of the fascia, out of which the primary controls seem to sprout and with which the transmission tunnel and centre stack seem to interlock, is presented as if it were a piece of solid billet metalwork. You could almost be looking at the metal skeleton of the car itself, carved and chamfered just so for aesthetic appeal, into which its various touchscreens and control consoles seem so perfectly recessed. It’s a designer’s trick, but it’s a very effective one because it lends the cabin a striking sense of integrity, which its high-quality fixtures and fittings then set about delivering on very consistently indeed.

S Line’s leather and Alcantara sport seats are supportive and comfortable in most respects but lack just a little lumbar support.

The driving position is a traditional saloon-style one. The sports seats of our S Line car weren’t set particularly low, being easy to slide in and out of and granting good visibility by saloon standards. The steering wheel is generous in its diameter, so you can see the entirety of the Virtual Cockpit digital instrument screen easily within the orbit of its rim. Plenty of storage is provided in the door console to your right. To your left, there are a pair of roomy cupholders, but the armrest cubby is only shallow (it’s where you’ll find the wireless smartphone charger, if you option it) and there’s no split-level centre console cubby to hide bags or wallets underneath.

Instead, you get a split-level touchscreen infotainment system whose usability can frustrate a little at times. If you don’t like modern touchscreen in-car technology, this probably isn’t the executive saloon for you. Having said that, the digital instrumentation is definitely one of its strong points: it has several display modes and is one of few PHEVs that you can set to show a rev counter or a hybrid mode power meter, or a combination of the two.

Taller drivers will find there’s plenty of room up front, and that leaves proper adult-sized quarters at the rear, fit for long four-up journeys. Although it doesn’t have a raised floor, the boot is quite shallow and offers only 360 litres of space. It might be too slim to accommodate the bulkiest cases and cargo, but for people concerned about such things, Audi does offer an equivalent estate.

Audi A6 infotainment and sat-nav

The A6’s basic offering on in-car infotainment technology is pretty generous. Even the entry-level 50 TFSIe Sport gives you a twin-screen, double-deck MMI Touch system with a main 10.1in high-definition display, a lower 8.6in one (which works mostly for control functions) and Virtual Cockpit digital instruments. Mirroring for Apple- and Android-based phones is included.

The factory navigation includes 3D city models, Google Earth satellite mapping and a three-year data connection for Audi Connect online traffic and destination services. It’s very good, displaying nav mapping very crisply, with directional instructions repeated close to your eyeline in the instrument cluster. It’s easy and reliable to programme by voice command, too.

Audi’s attempt at tactile feedback with the lower touchscreen is problematic, though. It takes firm and precise contact with your finger to select a function or ‘button’, and often two or three attempts to do so successfully.


23 Audi A6 TFSIe 2022 road test review engine

It’s a little frustrating that the A6’s control layout makes you reach all the way to the far side of the centre stack to tweak the driving modes and also that you need to penetrate the lower touchscreen via a couple of fingertip inputs to switch between powertrain modes (EV, Auto, Hold and Charge). From this, we can deduce that Audi doesn’t expect A6 drivers to be as interested in exploring the characteristics of their vehicle as an Autocar road tester might be.

As a car to simply slide into and drive, though, the A6 works very well. Like most PHEVs, it moves away from rest on electric power. Unlike a rival with a separate electrically powered axle, it doesn’t quite have EV-level throttle response from standing, but low-speed performance feels very linear under your right foot.

Predictable, obedient and sure-footed responses make it a reassuring and easy car to steer on a flowing A-road but it won’t do much for a keen driver craving engagement.

It’s a fairly potent electric runner, so it’s easy to keep the piston engine shut down at and below 40mph. The slightly meek resistance of the haptic throttle pedal makes achieving the same thing around the national speed limit more uncertain, though. It would be simpler if you had access to all of the accelerator travel for electric running, saving the pedal’s kickdown switch for when you need to rouse the combustion engine, but instead you have to feel for the resistance in the pedal that marks the engine handover point, and too often push through it by mistake.

Find your way to Dynamic mode and the A6 50 TFSIe feels quite brisk, although possibly not as quick as the 5.7sec 0-60mph clocking we recorded might suggest. The piston engine starts very smoothly and runs really quietly when it’s called to and at times it’s genuinely difficult to tell whether it’s actually idling.

So in full stride, this is a responsive and willing car, with plenty of overtaking muscle and the ability to pull higher gears easily. It’s not a car that rewards a keener driving style, but it’s certainly assured, very refined (more detail on that shortly), relaxing and easy to drive. In light of the model’s stated positioning, this makes it a pretty successful effort, although admittedly not everybody’s cup of tea.


24 Audi A6 TFSIe 2022 road test review cornering front

Underneath all of the driveline technology, the A6 50 TFSIe is a simple sort of executive car built for covering big distances in comfort. It’s a traditional kind of Audi with an old soul. It does almost nothing for effect, it isn’t interested in party tricks and it’ll deal effortlessly with bad weather and heavy traffic and keep the hustle and grind of the daily drudge at least an arm-and-a-half’s length while it’s doing so.

It steers through a big-diameter rim and a progressively paced rack that isn’t slow geared between locks, at just 2.25 turns, but is eerily consistent in its filtered, medium-light weighting. You can work that tiller as gently as it seems geared to allow, and relax in the car’s laid-back demeanour. Alternatively, you can work it a bit harder and cover ground more quickly, but the car’s character seldom changes much.

It isn’t that the ride on this car is bad – it’s perfectly acceptable – but I can’t help wondering how much comfier it would be on air springs. That would be the final piece of the puzzle for me. Such a shame you can’t have them.

The harder you point the chassis, the harder the car turns, up to a point, but it’s always a big, slightly reserved, hefty-feeling car that never swivels or feels agile or keen. It almost always finds traction, it never becomes excitable or nervous, and it sticks to a chosen cornering line with unerring consistency and security but little natural poise or flourish.

This car is at its best on wide, smooth roads and at continent-crossing pace. Seek out tighter corners and testing surfaces and you’ll find that body control is respectable but not deft or clever, the car staying level, steady and stable when cornering, and resisting pitch and heave fairly well at pace. Its damping reveals itself to be a bit ordinary when given complex problems to solve: it can feel a little firm and wooden over sharper inputs, turning tetchy and recalcitrant as it encounters bigger lumps and bumps that it would seem to prefer to reprofile rather than flow over.

The A6 50 TFSIe always feels its size, then, because it means to, but only when the surface is bad, and your pace hurried, does it really seem problematically heavy.

Audi A6 ride comfort and isolation

As our noise meter confirmed, the A6 50 TFSIe is an impressively quiet operator. On a damp, blustery day of slightly unfavourable test conditions, it generated just 61dBA of cabin noise at a 50mph cruise – two decibels less than the BMW 545e we tested two months ago managed and only one more than the Bentley Flying Spur recorded in 2020.

However it’s being powered, it has one of those hushed powertrains that seems to displace noise to other sources and places around the car, so it’s actually wind noise and road noise that you’ll notice, although neither intrusively. There is just the faintest whine from the electric motor when it’s responding to bigger pedal inputs in EV mode, but it’s a genuine, reassuring sound rather than a bothersome one. The combustion engine remains smooth, isolated and well mannered even when it’s working hard.

The test car’s S Line sport seats provided plenty of lateral support and good thigh support. They lacked a little for lumbar support, but were comfortable over distance.

The car’s secondary ride is generally good, if a little bit reverberant over coarse surfaces. The primary ride can get slightly wooden, choppy and excitable over country roads, although it isn’t upset too easily. With a slightly better ride tuning in both respects, this A6 might have been on course for a five- star score in this section. As it is, it doesn’t miss one by much.

Assisted driving notes

The A6 50 TFSIe comes with Audi’s Pre-Sense crash mitigation system as standard, as well as a basic lane departure warning system, a cruise control with a manual speed limiter and a reversing camera with parking sensors. Our S Line test car added Audi’s City Assist Pack (£1375), which extends the functionality of the Pre-Sense system to monitor your blindspots and to detect traffic approaching from behind and from the side at junctions.

But it didn’t have the Tour Pack (£1950), which would have added adaptive cruise control with proper lane keeping assistance, and camera-based traffic sign recognition. On a near-£60k luxury saloon in 2022, it’s reasonable enough to expect at least some of these systems as standard.

The sensitivity of the car’s automatic emergency braking (AEB) system can be turned up and down via a dedicated button on the centre stack. In ‘maximum’ mode, it’s quite intrusive; it’ll intervene with a sudden brake input to prevent you from merging into tighter gaps on busy traffic islands, for example, although it doesn’t seem quite so over-sensitive in other respects.


1 Audi A6 TFSIe 2022 road test review lead

Relatively high pricing and poor residual values may conspire to make the A6 50 TSFIe disappointingly expensive for some, whether you’re buying on personal finance or leasing through the company. Audi will be hoping to mitigate the impact of that through the car’s 7% benefit-in-kind qualification, of course, which might be worth more than £100 a month in the tax outlay of a typical fleet driver compared with some PHEV rivals.

As these words were written, there wasn’t another mid-sized executive option on the market quite as tax-efficient (although the Volvo S90 T8 will be soon).

The A6 sheds more than both the BMW 530e and Volvo S90 T8 in an uncharacteristically poor forecast. Age of model is the likely reason.

Drive the car in Efficiency mode and, even over longer trips embarked on with a full battery, it’s easy to average better than 60mpg, as the hybrid system takes data from your navigation route to decide for itself where it’s best to run in zero- emissions mode. If you commute and drive generally shorter trips and can charge at home, a three-figure fuel economy return should be realistic.

The car’s 40-odd-mile claimed electric range translated into an average test range of 34 miles over a mix of motorway, urban and intra-urban testing – pretty commendable in a car this size. Stick to urban electric running and you can expect closer to 40. There’s no rapid-charge compatibility, though, so when you’re out and about, AC charging at 7.2kW (by which a full battery charge takes two and a half hours) is the fastest you’ll get. 


25 Audi A6 TFSIe 2022 road test review static

The mid-sized executive saloon is one of Audi’s more practised art forms. Many it now makes are a far cry from the restrained, refined, relaxing prospects that the company became so celebrated for 30 years ago, but this whispering, immutably solid-feeling, understated petrol-electric A6 comes straight from its classic playbook.

The car is hushed, smooth, comfortable and easy to drive. It has an attractive, roomy, expensive-feeling cabin that looks good and is a pleasure to while away the hours within. It has ample performance to go with its excellent cruising manners but isn’t over-endowed for pace. It handles with total assuredness and security, but little frippery. And the electric half of its drivetrain delivers useful range, slick drivability and the potential for worthwhile economy savings – but, just like the performance and handling, it isn’t allowed for a moment to divert or corrupt the straightforward Germanic focus of the car one iota.

Spec advice? A Sport-trim car might go the farthest on a charge, but S Line opens up a lot of options – so have it. Add the Tour Pack (£1950), the Comfort and Sound Pack (£2295) and the Storage Pack (£100).

This new-age Audi A6 PHEV has your everyday motoring needs covered as consummately as any ever has. Entertainment is beyond its remit, really – but as a serious executive operator, few are better.

Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017, arriving from Evo magazine, and is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests, performance benchmarking and supercar lap-times, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found on Autocar's YouTube channel

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year, and focuses mainly on the more driver-orientated products, as is tradition at Autocar. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat. 

Away from work, but remaining on the subject of cars, Richard owns an eight-valve Integrale, loves watching sportscar racing, and holds a post-grad in transport engineering. 

Audi A6 First drives