Car of the Year 2011

Raymond Lai
31 Dec 2011

It is time to honour the best cars of the year once again. It’s been a bumper crop this year and we had a hard time shortlisting the cars for the awards and here are the best of 2011.

Car of the year - Audi A6 3.0 TFSI quattro

It might look remarkably similar to its A4 and A8 saloon stable mates but underneath that skin, the A6 is a highly accomplished car indeed.

During its launch back in August, Audi labeled the new C7 A6 as a game changer in the executive sedan class. Well, with looks that are remarkably similar to its A4 and A6 siblings, it’s hard to see that the A6 will be a game changer in a class dominated by the accomplished Mercedes E-Class and oneshift’s Car of the Year 2010, the BMW 5 Series.

The new C7 A6 isn’t ungainly or ugly in anyway. In fact, this is one car which will look better the more you look at it. The A6 looks athletic and is definitely sportier looking than the 5 Series. Its proportions are about right while the nose just looks modern and chic.

Underneath the skin, the A6’s interior is just unsurpassed among its competitors when it comes to design and execution. The basic design of the cabin itself is shared with the A7 Sportback which means it feels expensive, exquisite and special in here thanks to choice materials and surfaces that not only look good but also are tactile and soft to the touch. The wraparound dashboard features a generously sized and retractable screen for the infotainment system in the middle and all the minor controls including the touchpad for the MMI Touch sat nav system all crowded around the gear lever area. Like in the A7, dashboard and door card inlay options include brilliant looking textured wood that Audi says, is only possible to make thanks to modern technologies. The standard gloss wood inlays look convincing enough but they are just not as pretty and exquisite looking as the textured ones.

At the rear, occupants will have hardly any complaints about any lack of head and legroom, but those seated in the middle might rue the size of the somewhat intrusive transmission hump – legroom in the A6 is right up there with the very best in the executive class.

Like the E-Class and the 5 Series, the A6 is offered in a variety of variants but our choice just has to be the range topping 3.0 TFSI quattro variant as it not only offers effortless performance but also a big list of luxuries and kit as standard. In standard spec, the A6 3.0 TFSI is comprehensively equipped with 19-inch alloy wheels, park assist with rear view camera, electrically operated boot lid, soft closing function for the doors, Xenon headlamps, four-zone climate control, electrically operated rear sun blinds and sun roof, Head-up display, S line aero kit, Bose sound system and so on.

The A6 is not just pretty on the surface. According to Audi, depending on the version, the new A6 is as much as 80kg lighter than the previous model. 20 percent of the car’s body shell is made from aluminium and this hybrid aluminium construction has yielded a 15 percent weight saving over a conventional all-steel body as favoured in the industry. A lighter car has many obvious benefits – improved performance, better fuel efficiency and more agile handling among other benefits.  

The 3.0 TFSI’s 2995cc V6 is tuned for 300bhp in the A6, down from 333bhp in the S4/S5 models but is still plenty for a 1740kg executive saloon. The TFSI unit’s 440Nm of peak torque is available between 2900rpm and 4500rpm, which means it has a relatively flat torque curve and in turn, makes the engine feel more like a larger naturally aspirated unit rather than a force fed lump. The responsive direct injection V6 will pull strongly right from just above idling speed and the acceleration doesn’t wane even when it reaches its red line. In terms of outright pace, Audi quotes a 0-100km/h time of a rather impressive 5.5 seconds. In comparison, with a 0-100km/h time of 6.1 seconds, the 3-litre turbocharged straight-six BMW 535i isn’t as quick as the supercharged A6 on paper while its other main rival, the Mercedes-Benz E350 with a 0-100km/h time of 6.9 seconds, lags even further behind the A6. The bent-six not only offers spirited performance but also delivers a sporty V6 snarl as a soundtrack, making the A6 an even more engaging and sportier drive than its rivals.

Another major contribution to the range topping A6’s lively performance is its seven-speed S-Tronic dual clutch transmission. The shifts are really quick and the ratios well suited to the engine. The 3-litre supercharged motor and S-Tronic gearbox combination is hard to fault and is certainly a match made in heaven. The S-Tronic gearbox as well as the A6’s lightweight construction means that the new model offers significant improvements in fuel consumption numbers – the new car drinks 1.3 litres less for every 100km travelled on the average cycle than its predecessor. Another key fuel saving technology in the A6 3.0 TFSI quattro is the standard fit start-stop system.

Having extensively driven a variety of A6 variants in different road and driving conditions, we can certainly vouch for its chassis’ accomplished nature. The chassis certainly feels very sorted, with improved body control and a less busy ride than in the previous generation model. The steering is a major improvement over its predecessor’s lifeless helm – it weighs up nicely as the load increases in the bends and there’s a fair degree of accuracy in its responses. The new steering together with switchable Audi Drive Select has made the new A6 a significantly more enjoyable car to drive enthusiastically in than its predecessor’s slightly detached driving experience. With quattro all-wheel drive, the A6 feels stable and surefooted at any given situation.

In  the fight for the overall car of the year, the A6 faced an especially tough challenge from the Range Rover Evoque and the people’s car, the Volkswagen Jetta Sport  but with so much going for it, there’s really little to fault the A6 and the judges agreed that it is quite possibly the most well-rounded and most accomplished car of the year and thus, just one of the many reasons that the Audi A6 is oneshift’s Car of the Year 2011.

1st Runner-up: Range Rover Evoque

2nd runner-up: Volkswagen Jetta Sport

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