New & Used Audi A6: In Depth
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The Audi A6 has been the German automaker's mid-size, five-passenger sedan for more than two decades. Its main competition comes from vehicles like the Cadillac CTS, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and BMW 5-Series.
Joined for parts of its life by the higher-performance and sportier S6 sedan, the A6 range has also included the Avant wagon and--briefly--the Allroad crossover wagon. While the Allroad name has indeed returned to the U.S. market, it's now applied to the crossover-wagon version of the A4, which resides one step below the A6 in the Audi hierarchy.
A new Audi A6 went on sale for the 2012 model year. Offered only as a sedan here, the A6 initially split its drivetrains into two clear offerings. A base turbocharged four-cylinder is paired with a continuously variable transmission and front-wheel drive, while the supercharged V-6 version gets quattro all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission with available paddle shifters. There's no contest as to which we prefer: the four-cylinder CVTs in Audi's past have been fuel-economy specials, while this A6 with the six-cylinder is a spectacular straight-line performer, with taut ride control and light steering, although admittedly little feedback.
For pure efficiency, there's now the excellent A6 TDI, which was introduced for the 2013 model year. Its pairing of a 240-hp turbodiesel six and an eight-speed automatic earns a 0–60 mph time of about 5.5 seconds and EPA ratings of 24/38 mpg, or 29 mpg combined.
Today's A6 offers a wide array of top tech features, from in-car wireless Internet service to navigation with Google Earth mapping. The same cutting-edge features can also be found in the V-6-only A7, which uses the same mechanicals as the A6 but places a slinky hatchback body on top. The A6 gets top 'good' scores from the IIHS, as well as a perfect five-star rating from the federal government's NHTSA.
The high-performance S6 sedan rejoined the U.S. lineup in the 2013 model year, offering a new twin-turbo 4.0-liter TFSI V-8 engine making 420 horsepower and capable of accelerating the car to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. The S6 gets additional performance improvements like a torque-vectoring sport differential, sport-tuned adaptive air suspension, and a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission. Visual differences include a four-outlet exhaust, special wheels, and the availability of two additional, exclusive 'S' colors: Estoril Blue and Prism Silver.
Following the e-tron Q7 announcement, Audi has said it will build an A6 with the plug-in hybrid powertrain. The A6 e-tron will initially be available in China in the A6 L extended-wheelbase model, in a move similar to what BMW is planning for its plug-in 5-Series. If such an A6 arrives here, it is likely to be in the next generation and be sold in the normal wheelbase length, as the U.S. has not historically gotten the A6 L model. A new A6 is likely a few years off at this point.
Audi A6 history
The first American-market A6 arrived in showrooms as a 1995 model. In that generation, the A6 name merely moved to the existing Audi 100 chassis with a light facelift. But 1998 brought a more distinct new A6 in both sedan and Avant wagon forms. Offered with a choice of four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines, the A6 also had front-wheel drive, available quattro all-wheel drive, and a choice of manual and automatic transmissions--along with new features like stability control, side airbags and a navigation system.
Audi chose a more dramatic aesthetic for the third-generation A6, which went on sale in the U.S. for the 2005 model year. The brand's signature "tornado" line carried across the sills, helping give the car a wedge-like profile. The chrome-edged grille gave the car instant recognizability. The cabin materials took a downward turn to a more-plastic look, while the layout got a tad cluttered with new tech options and a screen for the navigation system. The new Multi Media Interface (MMI) let occupants control climate, audio, and GPS functions through a roller wheel.
On the performance front, the usual pairing of four-cylinder turbo engines and V-6 powerplants came with options for Tiptronic automatic transmissions (the standard gearbox on some models was a continuously variable transmission); quattro all-wheel drive; and later, a V-8 edition came solely with quattro and the automatic. An Avant wagon returned to the range in 2006, and an S6 sport sedan with a Lamborghini-derived V-10 engine invigorated the range in 2007. Then, in 2009, the A6 swapped its staid V-6 engine for a supercharged six, picking up a mild cosmetic refresh at the same time to complete its mid-cycle update.
In the final years of the third generation, the Audi A6 was sold in both sedan and wagon body styles, with an amazingly quick and tenacious performer in the form of the S6. Prices somewhat lower than the usual German competition pitted this A6 against the likes of the Volvo S80, Lincoln MKS, and Acura RL--although those models didn't supply the same kind of image or driving character. The A6's light driving feel and the still-fresh exterior shape complemented its supercharging, direct injection, curtain airbags, and new versions of the MMI controller, helping the A6 maintain its "otherness" when compared with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5-Series.