Audi has a new solution for executive class drivers who have financial and environmental considerations increasingly at front of mind, but who don’t want driving enjoyment to take a back seat. The new Audi A6 50 TFSI e plug-in hybrid delivers on both fronts, supplying 299PS via quattro drive for compelling performance and agility, and suppressing fuel consumption and CO2 output through extensive electric-only driving range capability and the use of intelligent predictive drive management for perfectly harmonised interaction between the 2.0 TFSI petrol engine and powerful 105kW electric motor. Available to order in the UK now in Saloon form, with an Avant version to follow later, the A6 50 TFSI e doesn’t compromise its executive class credentials in the pursuit of this parsimony – its luxury and in-car technology are as optimal as its efficiency, thanks to the fully digital cabin employing the latest MMI Touch operating concept, and to four sophisticated specification options, including the particularly unstinting Vorsprung.
“Audi has a long and distinguished history in the executive class, but what is less well known is that we also developed our first petrol-electric hybrid car for this segment over thirty years ago,” says Director of Audi UK Andrew Doyle. “We’re bringing to bear the three decades of formative experience in hybrid production that began with that Audi duo model back in 1989 in this latest, state-of-the-art TFSI e model. In the UK, we have also combined the impressive efficiency which secures the TFSI e a very competitive taxation position of as little as 10% BIK for company car drivers and no VED in the first year with the kind of exceptional specification offer our customers have come to expect from us, particularly in the Vorsprung version.”
In the new A6 50 TFSI e responsibility for the most economical mileage coverage possible falls to a 2.0 TFSI engine with 252PS of output and 370 Nm (272 lb ft) of torque coupled with a 105kW electric motor delivering peak torque of 350 Nm (258.1 lb-ft). In unison, the pair provide 299PS of ‘system power’ and 450Nm of ‘system torque’.
Together with the separating clutch, the electric motor is integrated into a seven-speed S tronic transmission which can deliver output to either two wheels or four depending on the driving situation – the highly sophisticated quattro on demand system uses a multitude of data to determine if it should prioritise efficiency by decoupling the rear axle to reduce drag, or support maximum agility by engaging all-wheel-drive, as required. The latter takes around half a second, ensuring that quattro is always immediately at the driver’s disposal.
When the petrol engine and electric motor are both fully invested in the propulsion process the sprint to 62mph from rest in the A6 50 TFSI e can be dispatched in just 5.5 seconds, and when the motor is singled out WLTP testing has confirmed that, depending on specification, up to 34 miles can be covered purely electrically, and therefore near-silently and with zero local emissions. When the petrol engine is factored into the equation, the WLTP test registers combined emissions of as little as 35g/km, again depending on specification. In electric-only mode the plug-in hybrid can cruise at speeds of up to 84mph, making progress particularly unruffled even on the motorway, and if that motorway happens to be an autobahn intervention by the petrol engine can enable the driver to see speeds of up to 152mph.
Driving that produces zero local emissions is obviously the most desirable kind, and the A6 50 TFSI e has therefore been configured to enable customers to make most of their daily journeys electrically. They can choose between the three drive modes “EV” for all-electric driving, “Hybrid” for the efficient combination of both drive types and “Hold” to conserve the electrical energy available at any given time.
In “Hybrid” mode, the predictive operating strategy ensures maximum efficiency and the highest possible proportion of electric driving. It controls the drivetrain so that the last stage of the journey before reaching a destination can be covered in all-electric mode and the battery is primed for intervention beforehand via the combustion engine where necessary. The predictive efficiency assistant is responsible for anticipatory planning at each stage of the journey, and can refer to a large amount of information during the decision-making process, including navigation information, online traffic events, customer driving characteristics and data from vehicle sensors such as the camera and radar. It coordinates the interplay between the engine and motor and decides when the conditions are right to initiate freewheeling with the engine deactivated and coasting recuperation.
At the journey’s end, the A6 50 TFSI e can be plugged into a domestic AC 7kW wallbox using the Type 2 cable supplied, and around two and a half hours later the lithium iron battery mounted under the rear floor of the car will have been replenished (charging via an AC 2.3kW 3-pin socket takes approximately seven hours). By downloading the myAudi app, which is freely available on iOS and Android platforms, the driver can preset the most cost-effective home charging schedule for the car that takes advantage of cheaper off-peak electricity supply periods, and can also remotely activate and adjust the climate control via a smartphone or tablet to ensure that their car is not only fully charged but also perfectly heated or chilled when they return to it.
Charging is of course also possible at public charging points with an output of up to 7.4 kW, in which case the recharge process can be completed in upwards of 2.5 hours. The myAudi app can also help here by locating charging points across the country, and also by giving remote access to a sophisticated route planner. This can factor criteria such as the battery’s specific state of charge and the density of traffic in real time into its route guidance and use this to pinpoint exactly where and when charging should ideally take place on any given journey. The myAudi app can also facilitate usage of charging points as part of the e-tron charging service, which is also available to owners of TFSI e models. In many cases it can be used to activate charging as an alternative to the payment card held by subscribers to the service, which grants access to numerous charging points operated by a total of 18 suppliers across the UK, and amalgamates all costs incurred in one simple monthly invoice to eliminate complexity.
The A6 50 TFSI e may pass by virtually unheard under electric power, but it doesn’t have to go unnoticed. Alloy wheels of up to 20 inches in diameter in the Black Edition and Vorsprung versions are combined with black styling elements, privacy glass and either Matrix LED or HD Matrix LED headlamps to ensure the car doesn’t stand out on the strength of its efficiency stats alone. Those who want to keep a slightly lower profile can of course choose the Sport model with its 18-inch alloy wheels and LED headlamps or the S line with its 19-inch wheel upgrade, lowered sports suspension, S line body styling and Matrix LED lamps with signature LED rear lamps.
Common ground inside all four versions includes the sophisticated all-digital MMI Touch Response system featuring two touchscreens providing haptic and acoustic response to inputs and also supporting natural language voice control. All 50 TFSI e models show the system in its very best light by pairing it with the MMI Navigation Plus package as standard, bringing a corresponding increase in the size of the upper display screen to 10.1 inches from the standard 8.8, replacing the standard analogue dials in the binnacle with the crisply rendered Audi Virtual Cockpit and granting access to the internet at LTE Advanced speeds via the Audi Connect module. With the help of Audi Connect the advanced, self-learning navigation system is able to take full advantage of the incredible realism of Google Earth mapping, and to deliver even more accurate route guidance by communicating with the online traffic information servers run by service provider HERE.
Highlights shared by all of the A6 plug-in hybrids also include the Audi smartphone and music interfaces, Audi phone box wireless charging and integration of Amazon’s cloud-based Alexa voice control, bringing access to over 80,000 alexa functions, including the ability to place orders from the car, stream favourite playlists and audiobooks and control smart devices at home from the driver’s seat.
Among the key points of differentiation between the Sport model and the S line and Black Edition versions which sit directly above it are an upgrade from standard seats with Twin Leather upholstery to electrically adjustable S embossed sport seats trimmed in leather and Alcantara, and detail enhancements such as a black cloth headlining, upgraded matt brushed aluminium inlays and stainless steel pedals.
There is considerably more clear air between the Vorsprung version and the models sitting below it. The UK-specific Vorsprung specification has been designed to combine all of the most attractive luxury features and practical driver aids as a one-stop-shop option, and in the A6 50 TFSI e Vorsprung this means power door closure, electric steering column adjustment, a Bang & Olufsen premium sound system and a panoramic roof are a given. It also means that occupants are surrounded by extensive leather trim courtesy of a full leather pack, and that those upfront benefit from contoured super sports seat upholstered in diamond-stitched Valcona hide. The driver also has sight of a head-up display projecting information onto the windscreen, and can call upon numerous driver assistance features offered by the normally optional Tour and City assistance packs available via fingertip or voice control to de-stress every journey.