As SME’s begin to move their fleets away from diesel, but with a still limited choice of full-electric cars out there, many manufacturers have launched plug-in-hybrid versions of their fleet-friendly models, which are a halfway-house between petrol & electric. In the main, these are aimed fairly & squarely at business users, coming as they do with attractive Benefit in Kind rates & a decent pure-electric range.
In the executive saloon sector, Germany leads the way, with plug-in versions offered in the form of the BMW 530e, the Mercedes E-Class e EQ & de EQ & the Audi A6 50 TFSI e, which recently made it’s way to Company Car & Van.
With an overall design borrowed from the larger A8, the latest A6 is certainly good-looking, featuring it’s sleek exterior lines, slim front & rear light clusters & low-profile. Inside it’s tasteful, with a beautifully finished black & chrome finished dashboard, featuring oodles of soft touch plastic, shiny chrome & leather finishes.
The dashboard itself, is dominated by two central touchscreen’s. One for the climate control, the other for the infotainment, with a set of full-width air vents stretching across it’s edge. The centre console houses the gear selector, two cup holders & the electric handbrake, behind which sits a covered arm-rest, which on our test car contained a wireless phone charger. A large, digital driver’s display sits in front of the steering wheel.
Even the cheapest plug-in A6, the Sport, would set you back over £50,000, so expect your A6 to be well specced. Entry level Sport features 18″ alloys, all around LED lights, leather upholstery, Audi’s MMI infotainment running across three screens, Audi’s Parking System Plus, quad-zone climate control & wireless phone charging,
S line trim is next, which comes with larger 19″ alloy wheels, matrix LED adaptive headlights, Alcantara upholstery, sports suspension, tinted rear windows, & an electrically adjustable driver’s seat. Next up is the Black Edition, which offers 20″ wheels, black trim pieces both inside & outside, plus a flat-bottomed leather steering wheel. The range topper is called the Vorsprung, & this takes everything up a notch, coming as it does with a Bang & Olufsen sound system, a panoramic sunroof & super upgraded leather sports seats.
Climb aboard & you’ll immediately notice the space. Front seat passengers sit cocooned between the doors & central console, whilst those in the rear will delight in the amount of stretch-out room on offer. Four adults will be supremely comfortable that’s for sure.
The A6 includes a folding rear bench as standard, with a 40:20:40 split, that allows the two outer rear seats to remain in use if needed. Due to to the A6’s battery & electric motor having to be accommodated, partially under the boot floor, the luggage space on offer is reduced over the standard diesel or petrol A6, with the usable space reduced from 530 litres to 360 litres.
The current A6 is available with a range of mild-hybrid petrol & diesel engines, plus 4WD. The 50 TFSI e uses a 2.0-litre petrol engine in conjunction with an electric motor powered by a 14.1 kWh battery. If you drive in pure electric mode, Audi claims a 34 mile electric range. Total power output is a pretty decent 295bhp.
In common with all A6’s, the TFSI e is a comfortable car to drive. Handling is slightly compromised, thank’s to the extra weight of the battery & the suspension, which is firmer, has been adjusted accordingly. There’s not quite as much give in tight corners, as you’d find in a petrol A6, but in straight line or on the motorway, there’s no better place to be. Indeed, we journeyed to the North East & back, returning a child to university, spending 5 hours behind the wheel, with only a 5 minute turnaround & the A6 did not skip a beat. Soothingly, comfortable, heated seats, saw me return without back ache & at constant motorway speeds, we averaged 44mpg.
Despite the smaller proportioned boot & theres no where to hide your charging cable, just a top-notch storage bag, we got plenty in it & the infotainment system allowed us to connect our iPhone wirelessly & listen to some catch up tunes on BBC Sounds. I even liked the Audi SatNav system, which is both easier & better to use than those on offer from BMW & Mercedes. The 50 TFSI e uses a dual-clutch automatic gearbox, which I used all of the time, although manual control is available using steering-wheel-mounted paddles or the centrally mounted gear selector.
The 50 TFSI e is fitted with the Audi Active Accelerator Pedal, which attempts to assist with throttle modulation when driving in pure-electric mode by offering variable pressure points & feedback. On some local journeys, taken in pure electric mode, this kicks in & it does feel slightly strange for the car to decide how much accelerator pressure you should use, rather than just doing this yourself. Overall, it’s not that intrusive & over time, you stop noticing it’s intervention.
If we weren’t driving in pure Electric mode, we only ever drove in Efficiency mode & didn’t try out Sport mode, so that we could get as much juice out of our A6 as possible. But a bit of extra shove is there if you want it.
We were testing the e Quattro S Tronic, which is no slouch, reaching a top speed of 155 mph, with a 0-62mph time of just 6.2 seconds. This plug-in benefits from a low 10% BIK, thanks to emissions of just 36g/km & a claimed fuel economy of 176.6 mpg.
Plainly, achieving such a fuel economy figure, is not as straightforward as it seems. Experience has taught us, that you need to consider most PHEV’s as two different cars; electric & petrol & the A6 is no different. Drive short distances in pure electric mode & +100 mpg is a given & 25-26 miles is a realistic electric range.
As long as you utilise the battery range & plug your A6 in regularly & take advantage of the battery saving function, which is accessible through the touchscreen then you can really make a plug-in work for you & will see a triple figure return. A word of warning here. Like most PHEV manufacturers, Audi have not made it as straightforward as you’d think, to access the electric saving menu as you’d think. From the home screen you select Car; Charging & then Efficiency which is the sub menu that allows you to hold or charge the battery. If you get into the habit of charging the battery & holding its range, this reduces the number of times you need to plug-in & therefore saves you money.
If you drive longer distances, including at motorway speeds, the petrol engine is thirsty, for the A6 is a heavy car & that extra battery weight. Driving in petrol mode alone, you’ll be looking at around 40 mpg. What this means, as we found out, is that a more likely day to day combined fuel economy will be closer to 60-70 mpg, we averaged a combined 58.2 mpg, driving 450 miles, which is still pretty impressive.
So there you have it. The A6 50 TFSI e, is a luxury cruiser from Audi, offering plug-in hybrid benefits that are hard to fault. If saving on personal taxation is your number one goal, then this is the A6 to choose, with an annual 20% rate of just £1,128. However, there’s still some logic to at least considering the A6 45 TFSI Quattro S Line S Tronic, which is both £9,000 cheaper to buy & cheaper to lease, despite the extra £2400 a year you’d pay in BIK over the A6 TFSI e.
Audi has a very attractive range of A6’s to offer fleet customer’s & the plug-in TFSI e only enhances this.