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Audi A6: Similar Look, But Completely New

Numerous improvements advance Audi sedan's appeal.

by on Jun.21, 2012

Audi's A6 may look like little more than a styling refresh, but it's actually completely new.

Audi’s latest-generation A6 may look a lot like its predecessor, but its understated exterior hides numerous improvements over its predecessor.

Immediately noticeable are the LED taillights and optional LED headlights. But more importantly, the new A6 is up to 176 pounds lighter than the slightly smaller model it replaces.

Audi accomplished this mostly through the increased use of aluminum, where it is the acknowledge leader.

Yeh, We Reviewed That!

The engine is largely carryover. A supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 provides the power. It sings an expressive tune to well past 6,000 rpm.

New in this model is an eight-speed transmission. In normal driving, it shifts almost inperceptably. Shifts are only slightly more pronounced in spirited driving. A sport mode seems to change its characteristics only slightly. The transmission can be manually shifted with paddles behind the steering wheel or with the stick.

The wood in many cars hardly looks like anything that was ever part of a tree, but not in the Audi A6.

With Quattro all-wheel drive that comes with the bigger 3.0-liter V-6, getting a wheel to spin is virtually impossible on pavement. Electronic locking differentials at both ends of the car, along with traction control, of course, make sure of that.

It rides and handles superbly. The suspension is slightly on the stiff side, but the benefit is phenomenal handling for such a big car. The steering is one-finger light at slow speeds, in fact maybe a little too light. But effort builds with speed, when it is nicely weighted.

The A6's engine, a 310-horsepower 3.0-liter V-6, is a sweet piece.

Audi has really nailed down this all-wheel drive thing. Like most Audis, the A6 carries a large percentage of its weight over the front wheels. But the Quattro system is so well developed, it doesn’t feel unbalanced.

The interior is beautifully finished, but there are a couple of perplexing issues. First the beautiful part. Real wood with rich graining wraps from door handle to door handle as well as the center console. Every button is a pleasure to operate.

Audi’s Multi-Media Interface – or MMI – works is somewhat complicated, but nothing your typical mid-level executive won’t figure out. Interestingly, the navigation system offers a choice between regular background and Google Earth. While looking at the surrounding topography is interesting for map geeks, the safety of driving with it activated is questionable.

Racy 19-inch wheels are a $1,500 option on the A6.

Now about those negatives. The zoned climate control is schizophrenic. It has trouble keeping a set temperature. During a spring drive, at times, it blows uncomfortably, so you turn up the temperature, only to get to warm and have to turn it back down. And with two mechanical knobs, there is no way to set one temperature for the whole car.

The other complaint – one that would only be made in America – is the cupholders. They refuse to accept an oversize bottle such as a Sobe. And the springs in the keepers inside the cupholders are so strong, you almost have to deform the vessel which you trying to cram into them. These things will shred your typical McDonalds cup. It would appear they were designed to stand up to a crash at 150 mph while keeping your iced tea from spilling. The Germans have never understood Americans’ obsession with cupholders – and they still don’t.

Cupholders not withstanding, the Audi’s interior is outstanding. It’s roomy and spacious, although another cubbie in the center console would be appreciated. The back seat is spacious and comfortable as well. The trunk would seem to have good space – but at 14.1 cubic feet, it’s actually on the small side. Also, the fast rear window leaves a rather narrow trunk opening.

The A6 comes standard with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder, mated only with a continuously variable transmission and front-wheel drive. The 211-horsepower four banger is a great engine for the smaller A4, but at nearly 3,700 pounds, it’s a lot of car for a 2.0.

Tested here was the supercharged 310-horsepower 3.0-liter V-6. The bigger engine comes standard with Quattro all-wheel drive and a sweet eight-speed automatic transmission.

The base car opens at $42,575, including shipping. This A6 Premium Plus starts at $54,995. Besides the bigger engine, traditional automatic and all-wheel drive, the Premium Plus includes Xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, Audi MMI navigation, keyless start and parking system with front and rear sensors, among other goodies.

With upsized 19-inch tires ($1,500), blind-spot monitoring system ($500) and cold weather package ($450), this Aviator Blue metallic ($475) stickers at $57,920.


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