Review: 2009 Audi A6 3.0T suits high-speed cruising to a "T" - or is that an "S"?

2009 Audi A6 3.0T – Click above for high-res image gallery

In 1982, Audi introduced its redesigned 5000 to the world and unwittingly influenced the shape of sedans to come. The 5000's smooth flanks, disk wheels and flush-mounted side glass were replicated by a generation of cars over the next two-and-a-half decades, and when its successor debuted in 1994, the A6 grew some curves while retaining Audi's patented blend of staid Germanic modernity.

The 2009 Audi A6 isn't nearly as revolutionary. It sits atop the same C6 platform we've known since 2005, and last year, the automaker gave its upper mid-sizer a mild makeover consisting of new front and rear fascias, light clusters and a few interior tweaks. Maybe that's why Audi thought it need to commission actor Jason Statham to star in a multi-million dollar Super Bowl advert to boost the A6's image. Well, that and to highlight the automaker's all-new supercharged 3.0-liter TFSI V6 – the same engine due to be fitted to several new Audis, including the 2010 Audi S4. How does the restyled A6 fair during a week of testing? And more importantly, is this new blown V6 a suitable replacement for Audi's 4.2-liter V8? Find out after the jump.

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Photos Copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.

The basic profile of the A6 dates back a decade, with its curving greenhouse drawing heavily on the original TT coupe. The current generation stretches the glass longitudinally and, like other contemporary Audis, the A6 has a tornado line (designer speak) just below the sheetmetal's shoulders to connect the outermost corners of the front and rear light assemblies.

Those light clusters were the main focus of last year's refresh, although their shape remains rectangular, lacking some of the sculptural elements found in the new A4, A5 and Q5. Other modern Audi design cues have been adopted on the refreshed A6, including the RS4-esque intakes below the headlamps, along with taillights that extend towards the center of the trunk lid, pinching off at the license plate pocket.

Inside, our A6 tester had a two-tone, brown and black leather finish which drew mixed reviews from passengers. While the leather and dash materials are top-notch and soft to the touch, the color combination left some people cold. The two-tone interior does an admirable job of breaking up the vast blackness found in most modern Audis, but those who prefer a monochrome look can choose to coat the A6's interior in black, gray or beige. As for the rest of the A6 interior, it's standard Audi: no great breakthroughs, but fit, finish and materials are excellent and ergonomics are similarly good.

As with all German luxury marques, Audi has incorporated a control knob on the center console to allow users to navigate through the myriad of features and functions available through the automaker's infotainment and climate control system. Unfortunately, the updated A6 makes due with the second generation Multi Media Interface (MMI), while the new Q5 and refreshed Q7 get the third-gen system. For its part, the second iteration of MMI is still heads-and-shoulders better than most incarnations of BMW's iDrive, but it still has some annoying quirks.

The system's most notable niggle is how you spin the knob to scroll through the menus. Contrary to the majority of wart-operated devices, the Audi system places the scroll bar to the left of the menu list, and while it may seem intuitive to turn the MMI knob clockwise to scroll down, instead, it takes you up. We'll admit it's a minor annoyance that fades away after a few days, but for a system this complex it's yet another learning curve we could do without. In fact, given the flexibility and configurability of other aspects of MMI, we'd like to see a user setting where we could flip-flop the scrolling, much as many video games will allow the user to invert the axises on their controllers.

Across The Pond, the A6 and its ilk are considered "executive" vehicles, often used to ferry management-types to the board room and golf course. As a result, the A6 has an expansive 15.9 cu-ft trunk and a commodious back seat able to coddle two passengers in comfort. While Audi cites the A6's capacity at five, the sedan's rear confines are contoured to maximize the comfort of two passengers, so if your shuttling more than four people around for more than a short jaunt, it's best to take two cars.

For 2009, the existing normally aspirated 3.2-liter V6 and 4.2-liter V8 engines carry over and are joined by the new supercharged 3.0-liter V6. Until now, Audi has used the TFSI designation for turbocharged and direct injected gasoline engines. For marketing reasons, officials chose not to change that appellation for this all-new supercharged mill – presumably the Four Ringed brand didn't want to create confusion among consumers by calling this the 3.0S, lest people confuse the model for a sportier S-Line trim. Nevertheless, a few letters don't compromise the engine's effectiveness.

Nestled between the cylinder banks is a belt-driven compressor huffing enough air through the manifold to deliver 300 peak horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque between 2,500 and 4,850 rpm. In the A6, the engine was developed to deliver instant, seamless acceleration at freeway speeds. And it does. Flawlessly. The belt driven blower means turbo lag is nonexistent and with this much grunt available at the flick of an ankle, it could easily replace the V8 before long. Although the engine – shared by the 333 hp 2010 Audi S4 – has been slightly detuned, the 4,123-pound A6 gets to 60 mph in just under six seconds and you'll never be struggling to merge onto the highway or make a pass on a two-lane road.

Also updated for 2009 is Audi's all-wheel drive setup, and like the versions employed on the new A4 and A5, the reworked Quattro system features a 40/60 front-to-rear torque split. Approaching the limits of grip, the A6 offers a more balanced feel, eliminating much of the understeer traditionally associated with 50/50 AWD platforms. Power is transferred via a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission that allows the shift lever to be pushed to the right for manual gear selection. However, unlike more explicitly sporting models, the A6 3.0T doesn't offer steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, something we expect to be rectified in the future.

The A6's clear métier is to cruise the Autobahn at elevated speeds in surefooted comfort, and while we didn't have the opportunity to play with the A6 in inclement weather, past Quattros have always done an outstanding job of maintaining a stable trajectory no matter the conditions. As A6s (and 5000s before them) have done for the past quarter-century, the slick aerodynamic shape results in admirably low levels of wind noise, making this Audi a very relaxing place to cover long distances. The suspension also does an excellent job of soaking up the expansion joints, frost heaves and potholes that typify Northern roads without ever feeling floaty or out-of-sorts.

Since Audi isn't offering its excellent 3.0-liter V6 TDI in the A6 for American consumers, the sedan's fuel economy is only so-so, although not bad for its performance level. We saw just over 21 mpg during our test and the EPA rates the A6 3.0T at 18 mpg in town and 26 mpg on the open road.

The normally aspirated front-wheel drive A6 starts at $45,100, while the 3.0T jumps to $51,600. With its navigation system, our Premium Plus model carried a sticker of $54,200 – several thousand more than its Japanese competitors, but right in line with its German counterparts from BMW and Mercedes.

Like its compatriots, the A6 is available in wagon trim (Avant in Audi/Euro parlance) and for 2009, the new supercharged V6 is the only powerplant available. To our eyes, the wagon has better proportions than the sedan and offers even more utility thanks to its cavernous rear compartment and its retention of Quattro all-wheel drive. If we were making the payments, we'd opt for the wagon, with the wonderful engine making the deal that much sweeter.

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Photos Copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.

2009 Audi A6 3.0T Premium Plus
Performance Brakes/Tires/Wheels
Engine Supercharged 3.0-liter V6 Front Brakes 12.6-inch ventilated discs (ABS)
Configuration/Valvetrain DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder Rear Brakes 11.9-inch solid discs
Max Horsepower @ RPM 300 hp @ 5,100 RPM Wheels (front) 18-inches
Max Torque @ RPM 310 lb-ft @ 2,500 to 4,850 RPM Wheels (rear) 18-inches
Drive Type All-wheel drive (40/60 split f/r) Tires (front) 245/40 R18 All Season
Transmission Six-speed Tiptronic automatic Tires (rear) 245/40 R18 All Season
Fuel Injection Direct Injection
Compression Ratio 10.5:1 Exterior Dimensions
Recommended Fuel 91 octane Length 193.5 inches
Fuel Capacity 21.1 gallons Width 79.2 inches
EPA Fuel Economy (city/hwy) 18/26 mpg Height 57.4 inches
0-60 mph time (MFR est.) 5.9 seconds Wheelbase 111.9 inches
Top Speed 130 mph (electronically limited) Curb Weight 4,123 pounds
Suspension/Steering Interior Dimensions
Front Four link, with anti-roll bar Maximum Seating 5
Rear Trapezoidal-link Luggage Capacity 15.9 cu-ft
Steering Speed sensitive Rack-and-pinion Head Room (Front/Rear) 38.7 / 37.8 inches
Turns Lock-to-Lock 2.74 Shoulder Room (Front/Rear) 57.1 / 55.9 inches
Turning Circle (feet) 39 Leg Room (Front/Rear) 41.3 / 36.9 inches

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