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The 2011 Audi A6 returns for a final model year before its replacement shows up in U.S. dealers. It’s still attractive, and attractively priced, but the A6 is less spacious and less distinctive than the likes of the Infiniti M37 and M56, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and the BMW 5-Series and 5-Series GT.
The A6 comes as a four-door sedan or five-door Avant wagon. The shape reads svelte--from the side and rear, at least. Audi’s grille is a gaping maw and a big styling misstep in an otherwise refined, well-detailed look. As sleek as the sedan may be, the Avant wagon easily is the more handsome vehicle. In its cabin, the A6 remixes the family recipe of plain shapes, simple controls, and lots of wood. It's less organized and more cluttered, with less wood trim than there used to be, and as a result it's less satisfying.
Three engines are offered in the A6. Audi leaves shoppers few reasons to opt for anything but the supercharged six-cylinder that was new in 2009, since it's as quick as the V-8 and nearly as economical as the non-supercharged V-6.
For the record, the base engine is unremarkable but refined 3.2-liter V-6. It puts out 265 horsepower via a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that has seven programmed "shift" points that lets it simulate an automatic transmission. Audi says it's good for a 0-60 mph time of 6.9 seconds and fuel economy of 18/28 mpg.
Up a rung on the performance ladder is the supercharged V-6, which is paired with quattro all-wheel drive and a responsive six-speed automatic available with paddle shifters. In both the sedan and the wagon (where it's the only powertrain offered), it’s estimated at a 0-60 mph time of about 6 seconds and rated at 18/26 mpg.
With its six-speed, paddle-shifted automatic, the 350-hp, 4.2-liter V-8 also is coupled to an all-wheel drive system. Audi says its 0-60 mph time is 5.8 seconds, and fuel economy rests at 16/23 mpg.
Handling across the board is a high point, with distinctly light-touch controls, deft steering and responsive brakes. The Sport package adds harshness along with its 18-inch all-season or 19-inch performance tires.
The A6 sedan doesn't have much more interior room than the smaller A4, and it's considerably more narrow than the Infiniti M, the latest BMW 5-Series, and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.The front seats are rather flat and firm; the rear bench is sculpted for two, so a third passenger won't be comfortable, and there's less back-seat room overall than in competitive luxury sedans.Dual front, side, and curtain airbags are standard, along with anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, active headrests, and tire-pressure monitors. A blind-spot alert system is optional, along with active cruise control, a lane-departure warning system, parking sensors, and a rearview camera.
It's well-equipped, with a navigation system now included as standard equipment, but that could be a new source of frustration to drivers who haven't experiences Audi's Multi-Media Interface (MMI). It’s easier to use than systems like BMW’s iDrive and has beautiful 3D mapping and iPod integration, but MMI looks and feels outdated compared to touch-driven systems from Jaguar and, especially, Ford, with its new MyFord and MyLincoln touchscreen systems, which adopt Apple’s finger-swipe gestures.
For an in-depth review of this luxury line of sedans and wagons, see our most recent full review of the Audi A6.