Hybrid’s niche market

Audi A6 Hyrbrid
Audi A6 Hyrbrid
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Just because you can doesn’t always mean you should. Audi’s A6 Hybrid is a fascinating technological showpiece but falls rather flat as a commercial viability due to the fact that the far cheaper 3.0 TDI diesel model trounces it on just about every objective measure.

Some buyers just don’t like the feel of a diesel engine and it’s these customers to which the A6 Hybrid will have the strongest appeal.

It’s undoubtedly a very smooth thing, the 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine, and in this guise it’s mated to a 53bhp electric motor, which results in a combined 242bhp. It’ll reach 62mph in 7.5secs and keep going to 149mph. The A6 Hybrid can run in full electric mode but the batteries will have done their all in a couple of very gentle miles. Still, the car smears smoothly between petrol and electric modes and the brakes are particularly good. Many hybrids have a rather over-zealous brake regeneration system, where braking energy is harvested back to the batteries, with the result that even small applications of the brake pedal can feel grabby and nasty. Not so the A6 Hybrid. In fact, it’s tough to notice any brake regeneration going on at all.

The car can actually get to 62mph on battery power alone, but you’ll get little more than a minute out of it driving like this. The upside of this ‘lite’ hybrid application is that the weight penalty over a standard A6 2.0-litre petrol is just 37kg and this means you’ll notice little in the way of additional tardiness on turn in to a corner. You might well notice the electric motor’s 210Nm of torque chiming in at the front wheels when accelerating out of a bend though. In the wet, you’ll get a bit of scrabbling before the traction control system gathers things up. The eight-speed automatic gearbox, however, is virtually beyond reproach.

The A6 Hybrid doesn’t look particularly different from the outside, aside from the badging. Pop open the boot and you’ll see that capacity has gone down from 530 to 375-litres, so if all-up space is important to you, the black pump may still be the only viable option. Otherwise it’s pure A6, a car that in its current generation is few millimetres broader in the beam than before, yet both shorter and lower than its predecessor. The wheels have been teased further out towards each corner of the car, giving a marked improvement in both front and rear leg room. Use of aluminium has cut the car’s body and chassis weight by 15 per cent, with 80kg being shaved off the final product. This effectively means that the hybrid gets its electric tech included and yet still weighs 43kg less than the previous 2.0-litre petrol model.

This is one of those cars that looks good, drives well and seems an interesting left-field choice. It’s only when you start looking at it in relation to other cars for sale that the whole edifice rather falls down. At around £44,000, it’s certainly not cheap and for quite a few thousand pounds less, you could buy an A6 that’s quicker, cleaner and more economical if you opted for a diesel. It’s a model that occupies a niche within a niche within a niche, so don’t expect to see too many plying our roads.