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 the 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 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 sizing hierarchy.
For pure efficiency, there's 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 the A6 TDI 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 TFSI V-8 engine making 420 horsepower and capable of accelerating to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. The S6 gets additional performance improvements like a sport differential, sport-tuned adaptive air suspension, and a seven-speed S tronic transmission. Visual differences include a four-outlet exhaust, special wheels, and the availability of two additional, exclusive 'S' colors: Estoril Blue and Prism Silver.
Audi A6 historyThe 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 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.