Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
A redesigned Audi A6 sedan debuted for 2012, followed by a high-performance S6 for the 2013 model year. Also new for 2013, the Audi A6 2.0T became available with all-wheel drive as well as front-drive, while the A6 3.0T gained a top-view camera system and a fuel-saving start/stop system.
A new A6 TDI clean-diesel model joined the lineup for 2014, with an appealing EPA fuel-mileage estimate of 24/38 mpg City/Highway. Audi claims that beats the miles-per-gallon figure of any TDI competitor. In the A6 TDI, the V6 engine develops 240 horsepower and a burly 428 pound-feet of torque, working with an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission and Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive. Audi says the 2014 A6 TDI can accelerate 0-60 mph in a swift 5.5 seconds.
Heated seats are newly standard in the entry-level 2014 A6 2.0 model. Audi A6 2.0T Premium models offer a new optional package with Xenon plus headlights and 18-inch wheels. The 2.0T, TDI and 3.0T models can have a new 19-inch wheel package with all-season tires and 15-spoke star-design wheels, as well as a 19-inch Sport package with 5-double-spoke wheels.
A new Black Optic package for the 2014 A6 and S6 features a black optic grille with high-gloss Singleframe ® surround and gloss-black window surround, as well as 20-inch titanium finish 5-arm rotor-design wheels.
For 2014, A6 Prestige models include Audi side assist, which monitors the blind spot areas, as well as fast-approaching vehicles, at a range of approximately 150 feet to the rear. In an impending rear-end collision, Audi pre-sense rear closes the windows and sunroof and tightens seatbelts. The A6 Prestige model also gains power folding mirrors, while the 2014 S6 has these three features as standard.
Also new for 2014, the Driver Assistance plus package (which includes Audi adaptive cruise control with stop and go; Audi pre-sense plus; and power-folding, power-adjustable, auto-dimming, heated side mirrors with memory) now includes a Topview camera.
The base A6 2.0T uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 engine that now makes 220 horsepower (up from 211 in 2013) and 258 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and comes standard with front-wheel drive. Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive system with an 8-speed automatic transmission is optional on the 2014 A6 2.0T. Fuel economy for the 2014 Audi A6 2.0T is very good, with an EPA-estimated 25/33 mpg City/Highway with the CVT and 20/29 mpg with the 8-speed automatic and Quattro. Premium-grade fuel is recommended.
The 2014 Audi A6 3.0T is silky smooth, and potent, with a supercharged, direct-injected 3.0-liter V6 that produces 310 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. Quattro and the 8-speed automatic transmission are standard, as is Audi's stop/start technology, which turns the engine off at stoplights and during other lengthy idles to save fuel. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 18/27 mpg City/Highway. Premium gasoline is recommended, and Audi claims the A6 3.0T accelerates to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds.
The high-performance S6 is Audi's answer to the BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG. The Audi sits between those two in terms of sportiness, with the BMW suited more for the racetrack, and the Mercedes more of a luxurious cruiser.
After a one-year hiatus, the Audi S6 returned for 2013 on the same new chassis the A6 received for 2012, with a body that's better balanced and more athletic. What differentiates the S6 from the A6 models is a more powerful engine, a sport-tuned adaptive air suspension, upgraded brakes and high-performance tires, as well as unique exterior and interior trim.
At the heart of the 2014 Audi S6 is a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8. Cranking out 420 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque, the V8 is paired with a dual-clutch 7-speed transmission. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard. Although the engine in the 2014 S6 is slightly less powerful than its V10 predecessor, the 2014 S6 is faster and more efficient than the last generation. Audi estimates the S6 can go from 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds, which is more than a second quicker than the old model. That's especially impressive, considering the current S6 is about 130 pounds heavier. EPA fuel economy estimates for the 2014 S6 are 17/27 mpg City/Highway, which is better than might be expected in view of the car's weight and performance.
As a fuel-saving measure, Audi's S6 employs cylinder on demand technology, which deactivates four of the V8's cylinders during periods of lower loads. Audi says this can reduce fuel consumption by 10 percent at moderate highway speeds. The S6 also benefits from a self-locking center differential and torque vectoring.
Plenty of electronic safety and convenience features are available on the A6 and S6, including lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warning and night vision. There's even an option that can turn the vehicle's onboard wi-fi into a wireless hotspot for up to eight wireless-enabled devices.
It's hard to beat Audi's interiors, and the A6 is no exception. One arc flows gracefully into the next, on the dash and door panels, from vents to grab handles. On the 3.0T, the leather is grainy, wood is walnut, trim brushed aluminum. The S6's leather interior is quilted in a diamond pattern, and the instrument panel and doors can be trimmed in carbon fiber.
Each A6/S6 seats five people, but they're more comfortable for four. Rear legroom is decent, but the rear center seatback doubles as a fold-down armrest, so it's not contoured for a human back. Plus, the hump in the floor that houses the drivetrain underneath spreads the unlucky passenger's feet.
Competitors to the 2014 Audi A6 include the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Jaguar XF. For the S6, buyers might consider the Jaguar XFR-S, BMW M5, and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG.
The 2014 Audi A6 is available in four models: the 2.0T with a 220-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, CVT and front-wheel drive; the 2.0T Quattro with the same engine plus 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive; the A6 3.0T Quattro with a 310-horsepower 3.0-liter supercharged V6, 8-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive; and the new A6 TDI, with a 3.0-liter clean-diesel V6, 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive. The 2014 Audi S6 has a 420-horsepower, 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8, seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and all-wheel-drive. Depending on model, the A6 and S6 come in Premium, Premium Plus, and/or Prestige trim levels (each of which is actually an option group).
In Premium trim, the A6 2.0T ($43,100) comes standard with three-zone air conditioning; leather seating surfaces; eight-way power heated front seats; a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with multi-function controls; 5-inch monochrome driver information display; Multi-Media Interface (MMI) with 6.5-inch screen; Bluetooth; a 10-speaker audio system with single CD player, satellite radio and USB port; folding rear seat with pass-through; power sunroof; automatic headlights and wipers; LED taillamps; and 17-inch alloy wheels. Price for the 2.0T Quattro model is $45,200. A Premium Plus package ($4300) adds keyless ignition/entry; the Audi MMI interface with a 7-inch color display; navigation with real-time traffic and Google Earth; the Audi Connect in-car wireless Internet feature; an upgraded audio system with HD radio, CD changer and digital music storage; a rearview camera; front and rear parking sensors; auto-dimming, heated, folding outside mirrors; HID Xenon headlamps; LED running lights; and 18-inch wheels. With Quattro all-wheel drive, the A6 2.0T Premium Plus totals $49,500.
A6 3.0T Premium Plus ($55,100) includes all the 2.0T equipment plus an automatic stop/start engine system. Also included are a 7-inch driver info system, Audi connect, HD radio, navigation with Google Earth, Audi's parking system with rearview camera, and LED running lights. Options for the A6 3.0T include the same Premium Plus features found on the 2.0. A 3.0 Prestige package ($3800) adds four-zone climate control, ventilated front seats, a power-adjustable steering wheel, Audi side assist blind-spot monitor, pre-sense rear, ambient LED cabin lighting, a Bose audio system, adaptive headlights, special S-line badging and adaptive headlamps with cornering lights.
A6 TDI is equipped similarly to the A6 3.0T. In Premium Plus trim, the 2014 A6 TDI ($57,500) includes a 7-inch color screen, automatic start/stop, advanced key, three-zone climate control, Audi pre-sense basic, navigation with Google Earth, and 18-inch wheels. A Prestige package ($3800) adds Audi's pre-sense rear feature, four-zone climate control, adaptive headlamps, Audi side assist, heated auto-dimming power folding mirrors, front seat ventilation, a Bose sound system and a power-operated steering column.
On upper models, an Innovation package includes a head-up display and night vision assist. A6 models may also be equipped with adaptive cruise control, a top-view camera system with front and rear corner views, a blind-spot warning system, active lane assist, and Audi's pre-sense plus pre-collision system (which activates the brakes and adjusts the front seats to protect occupants if a collision is imminent). Other options include a Bang & Olufsen sound system, LED headlamps with daytime running lights, and a sport package with 20-inch wheels.
Audi S6 ($73,400) comes in Prestige trim, including sport seats with unique leather interior and diamond stitching, an adaptive air suspension, heated 8-way power front seats with driver memory, four-zone climate control, a power tilt-and-telescoping sport steering wheel with multifunction controls, keyless entry/start, Homelink garage door opener, Bluetooth, the Audi MMI interface with navigation, the Audi Connect wifi service with 6-month subscription, a Bose Surround Sound audio system with satellite radio and iPod/USB connection, Xenon adaptive headlights and 19-inch alloy wheels with summer performance tires.
Safety equipment that comes standard includes six airbags in front, front side, and front/rear curtain; electronic stability control, anti-lock disc brakes, LATCH for children, and tire pressure monitor. Optional safety equipment includes Audi Side Assist, rear side-impact airbags, and Adaptive Cruise Control. Also optional are a head-up display, Night Vision Assistant, and MMI touch with handwriting recognition.
the company's emphasis on lightweight aluminum body panels. We think the A6 has a beautiful face. We've grown used to Audi's big grilles, which some have likened to the mouth of a largemouth bass. Others have since copied it. On A6 models, the grille slats are black with a chrome surround. On the S6, it's chrome all the way. The S6 also has fog lights integrated into the lower air intakes.
Execution of the shapely aluminum hood is excellent, with horizontal air intakes and wraparound headlamps that are long, sleek and sharp. Its shoulders are like those of a racecar, with aluminum front fenders. Although taller, the roofline is still sleek with its cool little sharkfin antenna.
In the rear, wide tail lamps stretch across the back and stop squarely at the corners (in contrast to many vehicles, whose lenses often wrap around far into the rear quarter panels). An integrated rear decklid spoiler looks like a little upturned tail. Quad exhaust pipes on the S6 look like they mean business without looking too flamboyant.
The A6 interior exudes style and class. One arc flows gracefully into the next, on the dash and door panels, from vents to grab handles. Fit and finish are superb, as is the materials quality. On the 3.0T, the wood is walnut, the trim brushed aluminum.
The leather used for the seats is beautiful, but grainy enough to feel, especially sliding in and out. On a five-hour interstate run, we couldn't find pressure points that felt perfect with the standard 8-way power heated seats with lumbar. We all have different tastes and shapes and even moods, which is the hard thing about critiquing seat comfort.
The S6 is another matter. It uses upgraded, Valcona leather, with the same gorgeous diamond stitching found on other S models. Seats are adjustable 12 ways, which provides a wider range of configurability.
The lovely tachometer and speedometer, with clean numbers and needles in organic white light, are the best. The information from needle-on-numbers goes straight to your brain, without the distraction of a fancy face on a gauge.
Between the tach and speedo there's a big space for stacks of digital information; instead of having to scroll through one report at a time, the A6 shows you three or four, including distance to empty (how far you can go before running out of gas). You can also view the navigation illustrations, a safe place to put that information because your eyes don't have far to travel. Cars equipped with navigation use Google Earth, which is fun to watch, but it's so highly detailed it can be tough to know where you are at a glance.
A 7-inch color display, hidden when the car is off, pops out of the dash when the car is turned on. Audi's MMI, or Multi Media Interface, works similarly to the systems used both by BMW and Mercedes-Benz. It's controlled by a circular knob surrounded by four buttons. We find this setup less distracting than a touch screen, because you don't have to reach out and lean forward to hit a button. And the screen won't get filled with fingerprints.
If pointing and clicking is too tedious, you can also spell out your navigation requests on a tablet-like space with your fingertip. We were surprised by how well it read scribbling while driving. In theory it's slower than using voice, but we found the voice recognition system unreliable, so for us it was faster just to write.
Cars equipped with the Audi Connect system, which uses a 3G connection to turn the car into a wireless hotspot, can support up to eight WiFi-enabled devices such as phones, iPads or laptops. Cargo space measures a relatively small 14.1 cubic feet, but standard split-folding rear seats and a pass-through help to create more room when needed.
The 2014 Audi A6 offers three powertrains: a 2.0 turbo, a 3.0 supercharged V6, and the new 3.0 TDI clean-diesel. The S6 features a 420-hp twin-turbocharged V8 that replaced the old V10. It's all about efficiency, now.
Audi's 2.0-liter turbo engine found in the A6 2.0T is certifiably smooth and relaxed at 80 mph, and is a fine choice if you're content with 220 horsepower. The CVT might not perform as well as the Quattro version with the 8-speed automatic transmission, but it's the best choice for fuel economy.
The supercharged V6 in the 3.0T feels like the perfect midsize luxury car engine. All the speed you need, smooth acceleration and a nearly seamless 8-speed transmission. Fuel economy isn't bad, either with an EPA-estimated 18/27 mpg City/Highway, although we got a spectacular 31.6 mpg running with the cruise control set at 72 mph. Puttering around town, we dropped as low as 16 mpg.
You can drive the A6 in a racy manner without holding back, assuming you know what you're doing and are doing it safely. The unibody chassis is stiff yet light, with an aluminum hood, front fenders, and suspension bits; and things like laser welds between the roof and side panels make a difference in rigidity. The Servotronic steering is electromechanical and speed sensitive, meaning it gets more precise as the car goes faster.
The versatile suspension stays flat. Our A6 was equipped with the optional Sport Package, including 19-inch wheels with summer performance tires and firmer suspension tuning. Over speed bumps and sharp edges at slower speeds, the ride can surprise you with a small shot now and then, but over unsmooth pavement at 50 mph there's no discomfort.
Quattro all-wheel drive seamlessly shifts power between the front and rear wheels according to the available grip. While cruising on the highway, the front/rear power distribution is split 40/60, but depending on traction demands, it can vary from 15/85 to 70/30.
Drive Select, a standard feature, allows the driver to select from four modes (Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Individual) that adjust the transmission, power steering and engine to alter shift points, steering boost and throttle response. With this many options, one of them will be just right for what you're after.
The S6 is like an A6 on steroids. Its 420-hp twin-turbo V8 is strong and responsive, and the variable sport air suspension manages the S6's weight beautifully around corners. With its upgraded brakes, the S6 stops quickly.
Like the A6, the S6 also uses Drive Select. Around town, we recommend Comfort or Auto mode for the smoothest ride and best fuel economy. On city streets, we found Dynamic mode to feel twitchy, with jackrabbit-like acceleration and grabby brakes. On high-speed sweepers or twisty canyon roads, Dynamic mode was well-suited to the task. But it lacks the seamless refinement of the sport mode found on the BMW M5. We were fond of the Dynamic mode's enhanced exhaust note, however.
The Audi A6 offers speed, style, technology and comfort with good fuel mileage. The S6 splits the difference nicely between track-ready performance and ultimate luxury. If fuel-efficiency is a prime consideration, the new A6 TDI should be a welcome alternative.
Sam Moses filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after his test drive of the A6 3.0T in Washington state, with Laura Burstein reporting from Los Angeles.
Audi A6 2.0T Premium ($43,100); A6 2.0T Premium Plus ($47,400); A6 2.0T Premium Quattro ($45,200); A6 2.0T Premium Plus Quattro ($49,500); A6 3.0T Premium Plus Quattro ($55,100); A6 3.0T Prestige ($57,900); S6 Prestige ($73,400). Step-up models (Premium Plus, Prestige) are actually priced as option packages.
Options As Tested
metallic paint ($475); 19-inch wheel Sport Package ($1500); Audi Side Assist Package ($500) with blind spot alert, rear Pre Sense system and power-folding side mirrors.
Audi A6 3.0T quattro Premium Plus ($54,700).
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