Audi A6 review: plug-in hybrid tested Reviews 2023 | Top Gear
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First Drive

Audi A6 review: plug-in hybrid tested

Published: 02 Nov 2020


  • Battery


  • BHP


  • 0-62


  • Max Speed


Another plug-in hybrid?

Yup, this time from Audi. The current-gen A6 has been with us since mid-2018, but only now has Audi thought to stick a tax-friendly plug-in hybrid on sale in the UK. Such versions of the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5 Series have been around for a bit already, so the A6 ‘50 TFSIe’ is very much Audi playing catchup with its arch-rivals.

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Give us the tech breakdown.

With pleasure. The A6 plug-in marries a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor integrated into the seven-speed twin-clutch transmission. Said e-motor draws power from a 14.1kWh lithium-ion battery hidden under the floor and gives enough juice for a claimed 34 miles of electric-only running at speeds of up to 84mph. We saw 25 miles on a quick-ish cross-country drive, so 30 seems possible if you take it easy. 

A full charge takes seven hours on a three-pin plug or two and a half on a 7kW wallbox.

Combined output is 295bhp and 332lb ft, enough for 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds and a reassuringly Germanic 155mph top-end. Meanwhile 36g/km of CO2 for the S Line we tested means your BIK liability is just 10 per cent, versus 37 per cent for the equivalent purely petrol-powered car. Which is why PHEVs are so damn popular with company car drivers.

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Tell us about the MODES.

Some PHEVs are massively complicated, with a special mode for every conceivable situation and a few to spare. I thought the A6 TFSIe would be one of them. But, happily, it isn’t.

Sure, there are all the normal Audi drive modes like Dynamic, Comfort and Auto, but the hybrid system is separate and has just three. If you’ve got some juice in the battery it starts in EV Mode, which favours battery-power. Then you’ve got Hybrid Auto, which trades petrol/electric power for max efficiency, and lastly Hybrid Hold, which is for when you want to save some charge for later.

Hybrid Auto is especially clever. Set the built-in sat-nav (sorry, CarPlay users) and the car looks at the route, traffic info and your driving style to figure out when best to call upon the combustion engine (if necessary) for peak efficiency. You’ll always arrive at your destination on e-power.

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What’s it like to drive?

In EV Mode it’s not as smooth or silent as a proper EV – PHEVs rarely are – but still rather silent and quite smooth. The e-motor has to run through the seven-speed twin-clutch ‘box (you can even manually change gears in EV Mode. Why?), so there’s the odd hesitation while it sorts itself out.

There’s a bit of whine from the motor and at low-speed, usually when you’re setting off or coming to a halt, you can sometimes hear a quiet click-clack noise from underneath as the clutches (presumably) engage/disengage. Weird.

Performance is adequate for zipping about town, with Audi claiming a 0-30mph time of 5.5 seconds in EV Mode. Clog the accelerator and the engine springs into life quite quickly and exceptionally smoothly. You certainly won’t feel it, but you may hear it, especially from low speed when there’s no wind- or tyre-roar to mask the noise. Bit louder than it ought to be under load.

Braking is interesting. Lift off the throttle in most PHEVs, and all EVs, and the energy recuperation system (that reclaims energy normally lost under braking/slowing to top-up the batteries) tends to slow you down much more so than lifting off in a combustion-engined car. It’s like brushing the brakes, not simply taking your foot off the accelerator and coasting.

The A6 does have energy recuperation. Feels like the ‘Efficiency Assist’ system is trying to do something clever by looking at my surroundings (whether cars ahead of me are slowing down, whether I’m coming up to a village with a 30mph speed limit and so-on) and help me out by varying the amount of regen I get, and therefore the rate at which I slow down when I lift my foot off the gas or whether I just coast. But I’d much rather it do the same thing every time. It feels a bit unpredictable – you don’t quite know what it’s going to do when you lift off and that’s a bit unnerving.

So I asked Audi. Turns out that is what's happening. But there is some logic to the system. With the gearbox in D, and the car in Auto or Comfort mode, it'll coast unless you tap the brakes. At which point it starts to regen. Tap the accelerator and it'll start freewheeling again. With the gearbox in S, or the car in Dynamic, you get regen when you lift off. Sounds fine in theory, but in practice it's odd. 

The brake pedal is a bit wooden, not uncommon for a PHEV, but the brakes themselves effective enough.


Yes and no. The A6 has a superb, high-quality interior (though obviously we’d prefer physical climate controls instead of a second touchscreen) and excellent seats, but the ride in our S Line test car was far too firm and thumpy. We haven’t tried the base-spec Sport model (pictured), but the promise of a softer setup appeals, even at the expense of the S Line’s added style and kit.

You can get adaptive dampers on a normal high-spec A6, or even air suspension on 6cyl cars, but neither option is available for the TFSIe. Shame – a pillowy ride would be a much better fit for this wafty eco-minded powertrain than a hard-edged schporty one. Because it’s not a sporty car. The TFSIe is tidy enough to drive, bar the firm ride, but the PHEV’s extra 300kg-plus takes the edge off the A6’s handling (not that it was ever as much fun as a 5 Series or Jaguar XF).

So what’s the verdict?

Efficient, clever and, like all A6s, a lovely item. A PHEV that doesn’t bamboozle you with loads of different modes. But it’s not as comfortable as a big German luxury saloon ought to be, the drivetrain has some odd traits and the brakes take some getting used to. Not cheap, either, with prices starting at £52,625. The BMW 530e and Mercedes E300e are both less expensive. As for which one of the three we’d buy – watch this space for the inevitable group test.

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