The Audi A6 was both a classic and an outlier in my motoring year for a number of reasons. A classic in that it was a saloon car, an outlier both in that respect in a trend of crossover-SUV formats and in that it was the only diesel passenger car I drove in 2023 writes Brian Byrne.

Saloon cars have almost dropped out of the showrooms in mass-market cars, but do still have a place in premium executive and luxury spaces. Audi has long been recognised in the premium placings now, and while the brand is big in the crossover-SUV format, it is noteworthy that saloons are high in their sales in the Irish market. The A4 is the brand’s top seller here, and the A6 is in 4th place after it, the Q3 compact SUV and the A3 hatchback. There’s not a big market share gap between all four.

The current generation A6 has been around since 2018 and is stylistically conservative, where its buyers like it to be. Owners appreciate the comfort, quality and technology, and are prepared to pay for these but also are averse to making luxury car brand statements about their status. And if the platform and powertrain underpinnings come from Audi owner Volkswagen, that’s no bad thing — anyhow, they also appreciate that Audi’s own engineers work appropriate magic on all aspects of the car to make it their own.

As noted, the external style of the A6 is understated. But there’s a quiet elegance along with the hint of sporty heritage that comes with an Audi. In this generation, longer and wider than its predecessor, the radiator grille sports a new honeycomb design, and in the S-Line and Black Pack trim of the review car is completely black, setting off the chrome interlinked circles of the carmaker’s identity. The A6 is a gracing addition to any driveway, while the format means it doesn’t dominate outside one’s home.

When you get in, the car provides an immediate sense of quality and tradition. All the modern conveniences are in place, but designed into an interior that is quietly informative rather than hi-tech distracting. My sense was that the car is deliberately assigned to the needs of the driver to bring it and all of its occupants to where they want to be, safely and in comfort. People first. There is extensive brightwork, perhaps more so than expected, but so well executed that it reinforces the premium placing as opposed to being loud.

The digital visuals are clear, colourful and bright. Managing the climate is by the system’s own screen, so while the controls are by touch, there’s no need to dig through distracting menus. The automatic transmission selector is centre console located, my preferred place if I want to manage shift points manually. In the back, plenty of comfort for two adults and probably no real discomfort for three. Boot space is an adequate 360L.

The powertrain in the review car was the 204hp TDI 2.0. After all the petrol and electric cars I have been driving, I’d have expected a heavier sound of diesel. But in fact, the engine is such a refined motor, and the soundproofing of the cabin so good, that progress was always almost serenely quiet. The 7-speed dual clutch automatic matched power needs perfectly and, while the car had enough punch to be pushed, the ethos prompted smooth and unrushed executive driving.

There’s no denying the usefulness of the hatchback, SUV and estate car formats for the wide range of today’s family needs. But I’m glad to see that there is still a demand in some spaces for the traditional saloon. Classics are so for a reason.

PRICE: From €58,925; Review car €63,220  WHAT I LIKED: The elegance of understated prestige.