Standard equipment is likely to include climate control air-conditioning, electric windows, 16-inch alloy wheels (too small, go for the bigger 17 or 18-inchers for the right look), the MMI system and a CD player. The engine line up includes a V6, but the real grand-daddy of the range is the 4.2-litre 335bhp V8 quattro. Until Audi decides to launch a mentally powerful RS6 variant, that's the most powerful A6 we'll get and it's the most expensive. But you do get an engine that punches very hard with a characterful snarl that sounds like a backwoods, moonshine-running V8. Very nice.

Audi is making another bold claim for the new A6. Namely, that it is the `sportiest executive sedan in its class.' So why'd they launch it to the press on some of the slowest and busiest suburban roads in Italy, with a few squirts of motorway in between? Whatever, we did our best to push the car whenever a corner or traffic circle presented itself - apologies to the guy in the red MkII Golf, by the way - and found that the new A6 is composed and well balance, but lacks the sort of lively feedback through the steering and chassis that comes as standard with the BMW 5-Series. So this is unlikely to be a car to worry BMW on that score, but it is a superbly refined cruiser.

With a body structure that is 34 percent more torsionally rigid, no vibration, rattles or squeaks make it through to the cabin, and the suspension is allowed to do its best work smoothing out little imperfections and keeping the body tied to the road over dips and crests.

So then, overambitious claims about `sportiness' aside, the A6 has the space, refinement and `specialness' about its cabin to take the fight straight to BMW, Merc and Jaguar. It might even give big brother A8 a fright.

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