2006 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
Stylish wagon joins family of luxury cars.
The Audi A6 continues the firm's legacy of dynamic excellence and exceptional comfort. The A6 is packed with technology, enhancing convenience and driving dynamics. The attention to detail inside and out is impressive.
Most vehicles are redesigned every five years or so and this latest-generation A6 was launched as a 2005 model. It's larger and roomier than the previous-generation version, and features dramatically changed styling. If you believe the best time to buy a new car is in its second year of production, then the time to buy the A6 is now. The newest generation of vehicles typically have the latest in safety features and engineering, and some studies suggest quality is higher in the second year of production because the bugs have been worked out.
For 2006, the A6 lineup has been filled out to include an Avant, or wagon, as well as a new front-wheel-drive model.
There is much to love about the A6. Its cabin is airy and comfortable, with firm, supportive seats. Its styling is crisp, clean and modern, though the front is dominated by a massive grille that's somewhat controversial. There's nothing controversial about the driving experience, however. Underway, the A6 boasts sharp, precise steering, and a firm ride. In high-speed corners the quattro models feel like they're on rails, one of the benefits of Audi's superb all-wheel-drive system. Braking and handling are excellent, whether on dry pavement or when hurdling through a torrent of rain.
V6 and V8 versions of the A6 are available. The well-equipped V6 model delivers brisk acceleration performance, while the V8 qualifies the A6 as a high-performance sports sedan. Either way, the Audi A6 deserves consideration by anyone shopping for a luxurious sports sedan in its price range.
The 2006 Audi A6 line includes the 3.2 quattro ($43,970) and 4.2 quattro ($53,770) sedans, and the new Avant 3.2 quattro ($46,870). Also new for 2006 is a 3.2 FrontTrak sedan, which uses front-wheel drive and a CVT automatic.
The 3.2-liter V6 delivers 255 horsepower, while the 4.2-liter V8 generates 335 horsepower. The quattro models feature Audi's all-wheel drive and come with six-speed automatic transmissions. The Avant is a wagon.
The A6 3.2 comes loaded with standard features. Among them: leather upholstery; wood trim; dual-zone automatic air conditioning with pollen filters; AM/FM/6CD with 10 speakers; 12-way power driver's seat with four-way adjustable power lumbar support; split-folding rear seats; tilt/telescoping steering column; leather-wrapped, multi-function steering wheel; leather-wrapped shift knob; theft deterrent system. It comes with 16-inch alloy wheels.
Options for the 3.2 include premium leather upholstery ($1,000); power opening and closing rear tailgate ($450); manual rear and side window sunshades ($250); 18-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires ($900); rear side airbags ($350); a DVD-based navigation system ($1,800); Sirius or XM satellite radio ($550); a leather-segmented steering wheel with shift paddles ($690). Also available by ordering: a heated steering wheel ($200), adaptive air suspension ($2,300), and adaptive cruise control ($2,100).
The S-Line Package ($2,950) includes a sports suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels, gray birch wood trim, S-Line badges, S-Line front and rear bumpers, and headlight washers. Solar sunroof panels are available for 4.2 models ($600). A Premium Package ($2,500) for 3.2 models includes bi-xenon headlamps, adaptive headlamps, a Bose premium sound system, auto-dimming interior mirror with compass, auto-dimming and electrically folding exterior mirrors, memory for the driver's seat and mirror adjustments, Homelink, and a storage package. The Technology Package ($3,800) includes voice recognition, Advanced Key, rear Parktronic, DVD navigation, and satellite radio. A Cold Weather Package ($400) offers heated rear seats and a ski sack. The 3.2 sedan also offers front sport seats ($500).
The 4.2 quattro comes standard with the premium leather, 17-inch wheels, high-intensity headlamps, power sunroof, upgraded mirrors and upgraded audio. The 4.2 offers similar options to those for the 3.2.
Active safety features that come standard include an electronic stability program, anti-lock brakes (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution, and Brake Assist. Passive safety features include 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. A tire-pressure monitor comes standard to alert the driver to a soft tire.
The Audi A6 is a study in excellent design. It has the look of a four-door coupe, with clean, flowing lines. The overall looks is upscale, masculine. A giant grille dominates the front of the car. Some like it, some don't. It's a slippery design with a drag coefficient of 0.28.
The new 2006 Avant is an especially sleek looking wagon, distinguished by a coupe-like roofline. The arching shoulder line and relatively narrow glass create a dynamic profile that terminates in a gently sloped tail marked by distinctive two-piece LED taillights. Overall the design language says European elegance.
Much of the beauty of the A6 is in the details: Body panels fit 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 close tolerances. You won't even find a rubber strip at the 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 this level of detail, but most will sense 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 aren't as easy to operate as the grab handles that don't require flipping your hand over. Overall, the A6 sets a benchmark in quality of materials and build quality.
The atmosphere inside the Audi A6 is light and airy, particularly with the lighter-colored leather choices. The leather that comes standard in the 3.2 model is nice, including a handsome two-tone treatment of light-colored seats and door inserts and charcoal dash and door trim. Wood trim now comes standard on all models. Premium Volterra leather comes standard on 4.2 models and is optional on 3.2s. We particularly like the gray birch trim in the S-Line Package.
The front seats are comfortable and supportive. We never gave them much thought during a drizzly day of driving from Milan to Lake Como, 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. This latest-generation A6 is much roomier than pre-2005 models.
Up front, everything is oriented around the driver. 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. Too many times, we've found it a distraction, though less so than BMW's iDrive system.
High technology can also be found in what have been traditionally 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 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.
If greater utility is needed, the Avant is an elegant answer. This A6 sport wagon provides the versatility of a sport utility without compromising the superb road manners of a European-bred sports sedan. The luggage compartment offers a variety of configurations and features two securing rails recessed into the floor of the load area, while four lashing eyes and a luggage net are provided to secure objects. The load floor can be folded up and locked in several ways, which provides access to a lower load area lined by a plastic tray, an ideal cubby for stowing wet or muddy gear.
The Audi A6 is dynamically superb. The A6 quattros deliver a feeling of being on rails, benefits of a rigid chassis, a well-engineered sports suspension, and Audi's superb 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.
New for 2006 is an adaptive air suspension that optimizes road holding and comfort. It's a marvelous invention that really helps keep the car securely fastened to the ground.
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, impossible to do on public roads without being socially irresponsible, and you'll eventually encounter a small amount of understeer. The highly rigid chassis gives the car the feeling of being carved from one block of material. This rigidity allowed the Audi 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 3.2 V6 delivers strong response from 2000 to 6000 rpm. It offers lots of torque, 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. This impression was reaffirmed in a subsequent drive of the A6 Avant 3.2 in Italy's Dolomite Mountains. Not only was the V6 in full compliance with our lead-footed driving habits, if we hadn't occasionally looked in the mirror, we couldn't have told whether we were driving the sedan or the wagon as we raced up and down the twisting alpine roads. We also like the V6's better 19 city/26 highway EPA fuel mileage compared to the V8's 17/23.
The V8 produces 335-horsepower, enough to propel the A6 4.2 from 0 to 60 in 5.8 seconds, which is quite quick indeed. Unlike most cars based on front-wheel-drive platforms, the 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. If the mood strikes you, shift into the Tiptronic mode and shift manually, but we found it worked exceptionally well in Drive. It always seems to be in the right gear, whether quick acceleration is wanted or smooth, quiet cruising is preferred.
The Audi A6 excels at driving dynamics. It's a wonderful car for quick commuting, smooth high-speed travel, and spirited driving. It's smooth and quiet, good for easy conversation and listening pleasure. It's more enjoyable to drive than the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and is a compelling alternative to the BMW 5 Series, particularly when weather enters the picture. For weather, you can't beat quattro.
NewCarTestDrive.com editor Mitch McCullough filed this report from Milan, with Greg Brown in Italy's Dolomites.
Audi A6 3.2 FrontTrak; 3.2 quattro ($43,970); 4.2 quattro ($53,770); Avant 3.2 quattro ($46,870).
Options As Tested
Premium Package ($2,500) includes bi-xenon adaptive headlamps, Bose premium sound system; auto-dimming interior mirror with compass, auto-dimming and electrically folding exterior mirrors, memory for driver's seat and mirror adjustments, Homelink, storage package; Sunroof package ($1,450) includes power glass sunroof and heated front seats.
Audi A6 3.2 quattro ($43,970).
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