The base engine's a smooth but unremarkable 3.2-liter V-6 with 265 horsepower, coupled to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with seven pre-programmed "gears" to give it a more conventional shift feel. Audi promises a 0-60 mph time of 6.9 seconds and fuel economy of 18/28 mpg.
The 3.0T gets the new supercharged V-6 and quattro all-wheel drive tuned for rear power bias of 40:60; it's teamed to a responsive six-speed automatic available with paddle shifters. This is the only powertrain offered on the Avant wagon; in both body styles, it's rated at 18/26 mpg, with a 0-60 mph time of about 6 seconds.
The 350-hp, 4.2-liter V-8 also sports the six-speed automatic with paddle controls and all-wheel drive. Audi rates its 0-60 mph times at 5.8 seconds, and fuel economy at 16/23 mpg.
With any of the engines, the A6 lineup has a distinctly light touch to its controls, and it steers as deftly as the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class and better than the electric-steering BMW 5-Series lineup. It's responsive from its wheel to its brake pedal and feels lighter on its feet than most cars in this class. A Sport package adds 18-inch all-season or 19-inch performance treads and paddles for the automatic shifter to V-6 cars, but its settings give the A6 a harsher ride.
The supercharged V-6 A6 is competitive, even with the $77,000 Audi S6. That supersedan spits out 435 horsepower from a 5.2-liter V-10 derived from Lamborghini's engines, and it channels the high-revving engine's power through a six-speed automatic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive. A "sport" driving mode holds gears at redline, so you savor the throaty, muffled roar of the V-10-but you'll only extract a 0-60 time of about 5.1 seconds, less than a second faster than the 3.0T. The EPA rates the S6 at 14/19 mpg.
The dollar-to-speed equation may not make sense, but the S6's steering is perfectly weighted and responsive, the brakes powerful and sure, the ride motions beautifully damped as the big tires grip, the suspension takes a set, and your thumbs call up exactly the right gear to power through each corner, whether slow, fast, or ruggedly rough.
Kelley Blue Book: "Acceleration is quite satisfying with the V6 and the automatic transmission responds effectively"
Edmunds: "the 3.0T went from zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds...just as quick as the last V10-powered S6 we tested"
Cars.com: "I question why anyone would buy the less fuel-efficient A6 4.2"
Cars.com: "Purists will bemoan the lack of a true manual transmission" Autoblog: "a more balanced feel"
Cars.com: "The wheel turns with a light touch"
Kelley Blue Book: "ride can get bouncy"
Edmunds: "We'd give the 19-inch-wheel version a pass"
Cars.com: "strong but touchy braking"