Audi A6 History
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The Audi A6 is a mid-size luxury sedan with more than 20 years of production under its belt. It's designed to compete with cars like the Mercedes-Benz E Class and BMW 5-Series.
For more on the current model, including prices, options, and specifications, see our full review of the 2013 Audi A6 and S6.
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 utility vehicle. While the Allroad name has returned to the U.S. market, it's now applied to the wagon version of the A4--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 so far, the A6 splits its drivetrains into two clear offerings. A base 211-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder is paired with a continuously variable transmission and front-wheel drive, while the 310-hp 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, admittedly with little feedback.
The A6 now offers tech features galore, from in-car wireless Internet service to navigation with Google Earth mapping. It's all cutting-edge, but all of the features we want can be found on the much more attractive Audi A7, a mechanical clone with a sexy hatchback body and a V-6-only marketing position. It's rated as a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS, but the federal government has not assigned any crash-test scores as of yet.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.
For the third-generation Audi A6, which arrived in the U.S. as a 2005 model, Audi went for a more dramatic exterior style. An upswept "tornado" line across its lower sills gave the new A6 a more pronounced wedge shape, while up front its deep, chrome-framed grill lent it instant distinction. Inside, the A6's cockpit became a little more plasticky and busy, with LCD screens for navigation and all sorts of new tech features. An MMI controller used a roller wheel to navigation through the LCD screen's GPS, audio and climate functions.
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 for its mid-life 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. Priced somewhat lower than the usual German competition pitted this A6 against the likes of the Volvo S80, Lincoln MKS and Acura RL--at least, in terms of price, if not image. Its 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 E-Class and BMW 5-Series.
The high-performance S6 sedan rejoins the U.S. lineup in the 2013 model year, offering a new twin-turbo 4.0 TFSI V-8 engine making 420 horsepower and capable of accelerating to 60 mph in less than 4.8 seconds. The S6 gets additional performance improvements like a sport differential, sport-tuned adaptive air suspension, and a seven-speed S tronic transmission--plus appearance changes like a four-outlet exhaust, special wheels, and two additional, exclusive 'S' colors: Estoril Blue and Prism Silver.
The new RS6 wagon provides an even hotter performance package, but that model isn't expected for the U.S. market; instead we'll get the RS5 Cabriolet and an RS7 fastback.