2005 Audi A6 Expert Review:Autoblog
The much disputed redesign of the Audi line has finally made it's first stop to the Autoblog Garage. An "oyster grey metallic" A6 pulled up sporting a thin layer of dirt and that trademark snub-nose. Bad weather contributed to the dirt, German engineers had their hands in the grill.
In person the A6 and the grill look much more masculine and attractive then in the photos I’ve seen. The size of the
A6, over the smaller A3, also adds some substance and visual weight to the design. It is striking.
Inside the A6 is very similar to the A8 I drove last year. Except here the LCD screen is integrated formally into the dash. There’s Audi’s version of iDrive of course called the Multi-Media Interface or MMI. At first I was confounded by it but after a day it becomes second nature with easy controls on the steering wheel to help prevent unwanted button pushing when it counts.
All the materials scream luxury and for close to $60,000 for this fully loaded 4.2 Quattro they should. The coolest feature to me was the grill like shape on the wheel. Do you call that synergy?
Like many new luxury cars these days the better part of the second day in the A6 was spent dealing with the MMI. The system isn't overly complex but still needs a real sitdown with the massive instruction manual. Actually I use more of the test and fail method with no instructions. What I like most of all is the placement of the control dial on the center stack. It is very easy to place your arm on the armrest and adjust the controls in a relaxed manner without having to look down too often. This is much better than reaching forward to the dash to change controls.
Since I leave the radio function up most of the time the MMI interface is really easy to use. When you adjust the environmental controls you are using buttons higher on the dash that will then display images on the LCD screen. This is the only time you’re really reaching forward and I’m glad they’re separated like this so you don’t have to change the settings as frequently.
While I don’t know if I’d want a system like this in a sports car for the luxury sedan it seems appropriately high-end while still allowing you to drive without being distracted constantly. Anyone that gets a week in the A6 will figure out the controls quickly but there seems to be about 100 other settings that can be customized that I probably won’t have the time to discover.
Otherwise the interior is very nice. The leather is sturdy and the front seats have enough electronic controls to contort one’s body in dozens of ways. I really love whatever kind of material they used on the heated steering wheel. It looks slick yet feels sticky and offers awesome grip. Plus it gets mildly warm when you use the heated seats. This definitely feels like a $50,000 car. I’m not quite sure what a $56,570 car feels like but this definitely has the value of the $50,500 base price of the 4.2 Quattro.
Check out Day 1 in the A6.
UPDATE: Here’s a picture of the LCD but it’s not so great. That’s why I didn’t post it. I’ll take another one that shows off the nice line from the left of the gauges all the way to the end of the LCD you see here.
I know I've been inundating everyone with the looks and interior quality of the A6 and have talked little about the driving experience. My apologies. The test vehicle features the 4.2-liter, 335 horsepower V8 engine that offers lots of highway power. I can't say I'm in love with the way it reacts to the right foot in short bursts. Perhaps I'll get more used to the feel of the accelerator over time but it seems a bit sensitive and a tad jerky.
But floor it and the A6 flys. On the highway this thing is a monster and you can tell it was made for the Autobahn. The only problem is the Autobahn is probably a lot smoother than I-90 here in Chicago. And the suspension seems tuned for silky smooth asphalt, not the pockmark laden concrete I usually see. Even around-town bumps are more than noticeable. This feel was totally unexpected from the luxury sedan. Compared to sports cars I’ve tested the agitation is insignificant but it is a surprise nonetheless.
The A6 really excels at cornering. Quattro, or all-wheel drive, allows for some high-speed exits from highway ramps and I took more than a few at higher than normal speeds. Every time I felt safe as can be and was really moving. Even parking the A6 in my crowded lot is pretty easy despite the size. After getting acclimated to the pinpoint turning of the wheel being a tad more precise than I’m used to (I almost took out a curb or two) I really enjoyed the response.
The big beast of an engine does intrude into the cabin, especially under heavy acceleration. This is no Lexus. The A6 was made for drivers that want to feel the road and hear the engine and both of them are definitely prevalent. I don’t think most owners will mind though if they go into the experience looking for those attributes.
I think one tough car buying bracket to be in is this mid-level luxury one that the Audi A6 finds itself in. On the one hand you have all the cars on the same stratus like the BMW 5 Series and Acura RL. You couldn't really go wrong with all three of them. Then you'd also have to think you could save a lot of money and still feel very well taken care of in the BMW 3 Series, Acura TL and Audi A4. Then you could probably get a new Pontiac Solstice for the weekends.
Let’s just say for arguments sake you have to spend the money on one of the same tier cars though. If you want the smoothest ride possible you go for the Acura RL. If you want even more authentic German handling and steering go for the BMW. If you want to be somewhere in the middle the A6 is just the ride. Me? I’m a conservative. I’d save a few grand and go with the Acura, which after a short test-drive I found plenty fast, great AWD and very plush inside. But the A6’s interior is definitely a cut above and I really think their MMI system is the best one going compared to iDrive and Acura’s, which I don’t think has a name, it’s just a big dial in the middle of the dash.
There are so many nice features here like the power folding side mirrors (a must for city parking), heated seats and steering wheel and amazing Bose stereo that add a lot of comfort and utility. But I think the strong looks of the car, especially in this color combination, are a major factor in swaying buyers. Some might hate it but it doesn’t leave anyone lukewarm. In person the A6 is a striking vehicle with a long hood and beefy stance. Very masculine, very German.
Basically the only thing I wasn’t thrilled with was the performance. The ride was just too rough for a car like this. Maybe if I was in an S6 it would be worth it. Handling and highway speeds were terrific and the car is maneuverable in any parking lot. But overall I was left wanting something more for the price tag. I think if I had tested the 3.2-liter at $10K less I wouldn’t have as high a standard. You at least get the looks and the entire “Audi” package if not the extra 80 horsepower.
New Car Test Drive
All-new luxury sedan delivers superb driving experience.
Audi is among the sportiest of the luxury brands and the all-new 2005 Audi A6 kicks it up a notch with its dynamic excellence and exceptional comfort.
The A6 is packed with technology, enhancing convenience and driving dynamics. Its interior is airy and comfortable, with firm, supportive seats. It's roomier than last year's model. The 2005 A6 is larger than the previous-generation version, substantially wider and with a longer wheelbase.
Its styling is all new, crisp, clean and modern, the front dominated by a massive grille. It looks upscale with a contemporary design that will not be confused with the rounded lines of the previous A6. Regardless of what you think about the styling, the more closely you look at the new A6 the better it looks. The attention to detail inside and out is very impressive. This is a high-quality design.
Underway, the A6 boasts sharp, precise steering, and a firm ride. In high-speed corners it feels like it's on rails, one of the benefits of Audi's superb quattro all-wheel-drive system. Braking and handling are excellent, whether on dry pavement or when hurdling through a torrent of rain. The well-equipped V6 model offers brisk acceleration performance, while the V8 qualifies the A6 as a high-perforance sports sedan. The 2005 Audi A6 deserves serious consideration by anyone shopping for a luxurious sports sedan in its price range.
Two models are available: the A6 3.2 and A6 4.2. The 3.2-liter V6 delivers 255 horsepower, while the 4.2-liter V8 generates an estimated 345 horsepower. Pricing hadn't been announced at press time, but Audi said the 3.2 model would be priced around $40,000, while the 4.2 would be in the low $50,000 range. Both come with a six-speed Tiptronic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive.
The A6 is equipped with the latest-generation in active safety features to help the driver maintain control and avoid a crash. Its electronic stability program virtually eliminates skidding of the front or rear tires. Slam on the brakes and the anti-lcok brake system (ABS) allows the driver to maintain steering control by eliminating tire lockup. Electronic Brake-force Distribution transfers braking force to the tires with the best grip to improve braking performance. Brake Assist provides full braking force when it senses the driver has mistakenly reduced pressure on the brake pedal. A tire-pressure monitor alerts the driver to a soft tire.
In the event of a crash, the A6 offers a carefully designed structure, excellent seatbelts, two-stage frontal airbags, side-impact airbags to protect the torso, head airbags to protect the head in a side impact, and active front head airbags to help protect occupants from a collision from behind.
The previous-generation Audi A6 seemed a bit on the small side for its class, and the new model addresses that. The 2005 A6 is nearly 2 inches wider. It's just an inch longer overall, but the wheelbase is significantly longer (by 2.3 inches), which results in a roomier interior.
Clean, flowing lines give the new A6 a more upscale, more masculine appearance than the rounded lines of the previous generation. A giant grille dominates the front of the car. Most people seem to like it, but the design has drawn criticism from some quarters. AutoWeek magazine ran a head-on shot of the yawning A6 aside a highly publicized photo of a panicked Macaulay Culkin from the movie 'Home Alone.' We think the new A6 looks much better in person than it does in photographs. The grille makes sense when viewed as part of the progression of A6 design over the years because it essentially joins what had previously been upper and lower grilles into one large one. The chief designer for the A6 told us while conducting a walkaround that Audi spent a considerable amount of time and effort designing the grille to work with U.S. license plates. A6 models sold in states that do not require front plates get an elegant blank panel with two chrome strips. In spite of the grille controversy, the A6 is a study in excellent design. It has the look of a four-door coupe. It's a slippery design with a drag coefficient of 0.28.
Much of the beauty of the A6 is in the details: Body panels fit more closely together around the doors, hood and trunk lid, as well as along places such as the bottom edge of the tail lamp. It's a result of closer tolerances. You won't find a rubber strip at top of windshield, nor strips on the sides of the roof. Door jams, the trunk flange and other areas normally hidden are Class A surfaces, smooth and painted as on the exterior body panels. Not everyone will notice these details, of course, but most will perceive a general look of quality.
Aluminum was used for key body panels to save weight, though not to the extent of the expensive all-aluminum A8. The lever-style outside door handles are stylish, but we find they aren't as easy to operate as the grab handles that don't require flipping your hand over. That's a personal preference on our part. Overall, The A6 sets a benchmark in quality of materials and build quality.
Like the exterior, the interior of the new Audi A6 is more expressive than that of the previous model, and the attention to detail is remarkable.
The interior is light and airy, particularly with the lighter-colored leather choices. The standard leather is nice and is available in a good-looking two-tone treatment light-colored seats and door inserts and charcoal dash and door trim. Among the trim choices, we liked the dark brown walnut and light beige birch wood trim found on the 4.2 model better than the standard aluminum trim on the 3.2.
The front seats are comfortable and supportive. We never gave them much thought during a day of driving on a drizzly day in Italy, a good sign. The rear seats are comfortable, too. Audi designed room in the rear-seat footwell for bulky shoes, like sneakers on teenage boys, to be able to easily swing by the B-pillar when getting in and out.
It's a driver-oriented cockpit. A center console with a control panel separates driver and passenger, and their legs go into separate tunnels. The driver benefits from a nice four-spoke steering wheel or a nicer, sportier three-spoke wheel and a straightforward instrument panel. The center stack is angled toward the driver. Climate controls are located at the bottom of the center stack that are sophisticated but straightforward and easy to operate. At the top of the stack, above the vents, is a crisp seven-inch screen that displays navigation and other functions.
Audi's Multi Media Interface, which features a large knob and some buttons on the center console, controls many of the interior functions. This eliminates a lot of switches, making for a clean-looking dash. To further reduce clutter, the switch for the glovebox is located on the center of dash. Mastering the MMI takes time and requires reading the owner's manual. We sometimes found it a distraction, though less so than BMW's iDrive system.
High technology can also be found in what were previously mundane controls. The parking brake is electronic; pull the switch up to set it, press to release it. The hood release operates only when the door is open. The wipers are speed sensitive. A Bluetooth-enabled interface integrates compatible cell phones.
Typical of many German sedans, the A6 does not offer many places to put stuff. The glovebox is very small, especially with the available CD changer. The cup holders are nice, though they are positioned awkwardly toward the rear.
The trunk is deep. Luggage capacity is nearly 16 cubic feet, more than the BMW and comparable to the Mercedes, but trunk opening is relatively small. Attention to detail can be seen inside the trunk. Raise the floor panel to get at the spare tire and you'll note that it can be hooked up in place, making it easier to remove or replace the spare.
In terms of dynamics, the new A6 is a superb automobile. It delivers that feeling of being on rails that we've come to expect from Audi, benefits of its rigid chassis, well-engineered sports suspension, and quattro all-wheel drive. The quiet cabin allows for easy conversation even when driving quickly.
The ride feels firm, but is nicely damped for sharp bumps. It's among the best in class in comfort and near or at the top of class in handling. Audi's servotronic steering allows precise control; the driver simply thinks where he or she wants to go and the car goes there. Grip is excellent. Drive the car to its limit, which is hard to do on public roads without being socially irresponsible, and there's a small amount of understeer as is typical of a front-drive based chassis. The highly rigid chassis gives the car the feel of being made from one block of metal and allowed engineers to precisely tune the suspension. The A6 uses Audi's proven four-link front suspension and the self-tracking trapezoidal-link rear suspension adapted from the A8.
The flat torque curve of both the V6 and V8 engines gives the A6 a feeling of smooth, sophisticated power and responsiveness at all speeds. The V6 delivers strong response from 2000 to 6000 rpm. It offers lots of torque, that force that propels you from intersections and up hills, giving it quick acceleration off the line and responsive performance at all speeds. Audi says the 255-horsepower V6 is capable of propelling the A6 from 0 to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds, which is reasonably quick. We were able to easily work through traffic between Milan and Lake Como and felt no need for the more powerful V8. Audi says the 335-horsepower V8 can accelerate from 0 to 60 in 5.8 seconds, which is quite quick. Unlike most cars based on front-wheel-drive platforms, the Audi A6 mounts its engines longitudinally, rather than sideways, improving the flow of power between front and rear wheels and improving driving dynamics.
The six-speed automatic transmission that comes on all models is super smooth and adds considerably to the joy of driving the A6 and its responsive performance. It always seems to be in the right gear, whether quick acceleration is wanted or smooth, quiet cruising. If that isn't good enough for you, select the Tiptronic mode and shift manually among seven ratios. But we found it worked exceptionally well just leaving it in Drive.
The all-new 2005 Audi A6 represents a compelling alternative to the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and other cars in this class. It excels at driving dynamics, making for a wonderful car for quick commuting, smooth high-speed travel, are spirited driving. It's smooth and quiet, promoting easy conversation or listening pleasure.
The V6 and V8 engines coupled with the excellent six-speed automatic deliver responsive performance. Quattro all-wheel drive makes this a stable ride regardless of prevailing environmental conditions. Comfort, luxury, a feeling of quality, and those driving dynamics make this a great luxury sedan.
Audi A6 3.2 quattro; A6 4.2 quattro.
Options As Tested
Premium Package with wood interior trim, multi-function steering wheel, bi-xenon headlamps, Bose premium sound system; rear Parktronic; DVD navigation system; premium leather upholstery.
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