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The new Audi A6, in its seventh reincarnation, has succeeded in matching its arch rival the BMW 520d in the CO2 stakes, with both models emitting as little as 129g/km.
The 2.0-litre 175hp TDI iteration, which will make up three-quarters of the car's total sales, anticipated to be 6500 in 2012, will be the vehicle of choice for fleet managers as well as most buyers, thanks to those low emissions and a class-leading official fuel consumption figure of 57.6mpg.
The car, which costs £30,145, is one of three diesels, the others being 202hp and 243hp 3.0-litre versions. The range-topping petrol, a 298hp 3.0-litre TFSI Quattro, costs £39,270.
The A6 will be the second production hybrid for Audi, following on from the Q5 that's due mid-2012. Sure to be of interest to business drivers, it will combine a 2.0 TFSI petrol engine with an electric motor "capable of zero-emission urban driving and up to 45.6mpg".
While the 2.0-litre TDI is the most fuel-efficient, Audi claims that across the range the A6 has improved by up to 19% on the previous model as a result of a start/stop system, an energy recovery system and the thermal management concept.
Audi has kept the trim line-up simple with just SE and S-line. The former will be the most popular for fleet buyers and includes alloy wheels, leather upholstery, cruise control and front and rear parking controls, satnav, Bluetooth and light and rain sensors.
With 75% of A6 sales going to fleet, it's not surprising that the highest proportion of owners are company directors or managers, with 20% of buyers owning a firm, says Audi. Its target group has an average age of 54 and is status- and prestige-orientated; 94% will be men, 93% will be married, and average income will be £70,000pa.
The A6 doesn't disappoint on the road. The ride is smooth and suspension comfortable, unless you opt for dynamic drive mode, where you can certainly feel the bumps more. And Audi has excelled on the luxury interior, which is well-designed with easy-to-use functions.
So does it beat the 520d, Mercedes E-class or Volvo S80? For those interested in cost-per-mile figures, the BMW tops this class, at 61.6p per mile followed by the A6's 62.9ppm, no doubt aided by the 520d's better residual value of 41.2%. If you can bear the 1.3ppm difference, then these are both brilliant cars - the choice is yours.