- Very fast (3.0T, S6)
- Great fuel economy (2.0T, TDI)
- Interior's strikingly finished
- The "wow!" moment of Google Earth maps
- Connectivity par excellence
- Audi's own A7 is better looking
- Steering isn't communicative
- A five-seater for four people
- The CVT's a skipper, we think
Brilliance takes many forms in the Audi A6: the diesel-driven TDI, the supercharged A6, or the turbocharged S6 all stand out in ways the sedate body doesn't quite match.
The Audi A6 battles it out for mid-size luxury buyers, but at times, the toughest fight comes from inside its own house. Of course, it's competition for the brilliant new Cadillac CTS, along with the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class--but it's also the slightly more dowdy alternative to the sexy Audi A7 hatchback, or even the smaller and more affordable Audi A4.
The A6 and the hot spin-off S6 are handsome, sporty sedans, with sleek sheet metal and finely drawn details. For years, we've put Audi design on a pedestal, particularly the A6, only to have it knocked off two years ago by the mechanically similar A7 hatchback. That A7 is one of the few to earn a perfect 10 from our editors for styling; the A6's more conventional lines earn it a more conventional score. The A6's details still win, but truth be told, we're not the biggest fans of Audi's biggest grilles ever. The better news is the cockpit of the A6 and S6 are clones of those in the A7 and S7, and that's a relief: the rich materials are arranged perfectly in coordination with each other, and the plethora of cutlines never seems to get in the way of a good time.
Base A6 sedans come with front-wheel drive and a 220-hp, 2.0-liter turbo-4 paired to a CVT. Opt for all-wheel drive, and the transmission becomes an 8-speed automatic. With these drivetrains, the A6 can reach 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, more or less, and can top out at 130 mph. The paddle-shifted CVT tries, and struggles, to simulate a good automatic, but our strong preference is for the 8-speed.
For efficiency, we'd choose the turbodiesel V-6 paired with an 8-speed automatic. It was rated at up to 29 mpg combined, initially. (In 2015 Audi disclosed that its turbodiesel models had flouted emissions rules. A recall has been announced, and repairs and buybacks are part of the plan.)
The A6 lineup keeps getting more powerful with other V-6 and V-8 versions. A supercharged, 310-hp V-6 pairs with an 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive for 60-mph runs in 5.3 sec. It's a fairly muted, flexible drivetrain, but outstripped fair and sqaure by the 420-hp turbo V-8 found in the Audi S6. With a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and other performance additions, the S6 puts driving thrills at fingertip's reach.
All versions of the A6 family have fine handling, no matter whether the front wheels or all four wheels draw power. Understeer is its default handling mode, even with the AWD system's rear power bias. Drive Select is Audi's drive-mode system; it changes suspension, transmission, throttle, and steering through a toggle switch from comfort to sport modes. Steering feedback isn't the A6's strong suit, though it's better on the S6, with its tauter responses and sweet maneuverability.
The A6 has a sleek shape with a long nose and a swept-back roofline. The sharp silhouette cuts into back-seat room. Front-seat space is great, with nicely padded seats. In back, the A6 has less leg room than most rivals, and the middle seat isn't really useful. We'd opt for the A7 hatchback's cargo space, though it's tougher to get in thanks to smaller doors. The A6 has a fairly small 14.1-cubic-foot trunk, and the cargo floor sits high.
Active safety combines with good crash test scores in the A6. Both the NHTSA and the IIHS give it top scores. Options include a rearview camera, parking sensors, blind-spot monitors, night vision, and a head-up display.
Other features include standard power features, leather, and cruise control. On the options list are impressive tech touches like in-car wireless Internet and navigation with Google Earth maps, as well as premium audio.
2014 Audi A6
It's not as sensual as Audi's own A7, but the A6 is handsome and appealing, inside and out.
German automakers are famed for their styling philosophy for sedans: one shape, three lengths. It can be a sore point for cars like the Audi A6, which looks a lot like its smaller A4 stablemate, while skipping the ultrafabulous curves of its A7 sibling.
The A6 is good-looking, no question. The sheetmetal's nicely contoured, the details are crisp, the profile is handsome. It's just a bit more ambivalent than those other Audis. With the A7, you get a styling statement; with the A4, you're co-opting more expensive cars. You're also getting a massive grille that looks out of place, and a signature curve in the side that's aped by a slew of inexpensive compact cars.
Inside, the A6 has Audi's singular style. The buttons and switches are many, but Audi subdues them all with a blend of wood and leather and metallic trim. Concave door panels and a carved-out dash give the impression of greater interior space, and the overarching interior theme is pleasing.
That said, the myriad panels, pieces, trim bits and buttons in the A6 cabin can get a little busy. Clarity of layout helps keep it in check. The dash sits low and is slim, so concessions have to be made. The pop-up screen for infotainment is one. We're also not totally on board with the A6's red interior lighting; it's a touch too Top Gun for silken treatments like Audi's gorgeous layered-oak trim.
2014 Audi A6
Skip the base model and its CVT--the Audi A6 is best in TDI or S6 form.
If you're only into the A6 for the Audi nameplate, there's a tepid base version for you. But if you're seeking ultra-high economy or muscular performance, there are three other editions cued up, all with forced-induction engines.
The base A6 is the dispassionate front-drive, CVT model. The powerplant isn't the fault. The 2.0-liter turbo-4 drops 220 hp with lots of low-end grunt, but it can only do so much in the A6's big body and with the lackluster transmission. Add all-wheel drive and the A6 with the turbo-4 adopts an 8-speed automatic with paddle shift controls. It's a much better option, and 0-60 mph times fall in the low 7-second range.
When it was launched, we strongly recommended the 240-hp turbodiesel V-6. With a narrow powerband, an 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, it turned in smart performance numbers and excellent fuel economy. Then VW Group was found to have cheated on emissions testing, and it all was rendered moot. If you own one of these vehicles, Audi has set up a web site for buyback and repair information.
From there, Audi ups the ante with a supercharged V-6. The V-6 puts out 310 hp through an 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, which is set to a fixed 40:60 power split. Its 60-mph times clock in around 5.4 seconds, with a top speed of 130 mph. It's a happy co-conspirator in this form, with the automatic snapping off quick shifts by itself, or timed with the inputs on the shift paddles.
There's still another version to consider. Audi drops its 420-hp, 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 in the A6 and calls it an S6. The S6 also gets a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, better brakes, a stiffer suspension, and can be fitted with a torque-vectoring rear differential that can shift power between the rear wheels. Capable of 60-mph runs in 4.5 seconds, the S6 has supremely satisfying handling with reasonable ride quality even though it rides on summer tires and 21-inch wheels.
If possible, avoid Drive Select. It switches driving modes from comfort to sport, changing up the car's shift patterns, throttle delivery, steering weight, and damping. Its sport mode dumps weight in the steering without adding precision, and there's no mode we think is programmed to show off the car's best traits.
2014 Audi A6
Comfort & Quality
There's somewhat less room in the A6's back seat than other mid-size luxury sedans, but fit and finish are excellent.
Practical car shoppers may look at the Audi A6 and think it's more useful than the sexy A7 hatchback. The reality may be a little more nuanced: the A6 has more head room, but it's not vastly more spacious. Like many other mid-size luxury sedans (the Jaguar XF, for example), the A6 doesn't put size above substance.
With an overall length of 193.9 inches, the A6 sits right in the middle of the mid-size sedan class. Interior space is slightly below par because Audi gives it a short trunk and a long nose, in an attempt to mirror classic sport-sedan proportions. That translates into slighted rear-seat and trunk space.
The A6's front seats are surrounded by fine head and leg room. Knee space is cut into by a wide center console. The seats are sculpted for long-distance comfor, and can be equipped with ventilation and heating. In back the A6 can tote two adults in reasonable comfort. Knee room is a bit shy for 6-footers, but it's better than in the related A7, which has small doors and a low roofline.
In-car storage isn't great. The console is shallow, the glove box too small, and the cup and bottle holders have Europe in mind, not big-gulp America. The trunk, at 14.1 cubic feet, is slight compared to the ginormous storage bins in a Taurus, at 20 cubic feet. The fold-down rear seats don't fold completely flat.
Where the A6 excels is in fit and finish and noise suppression. The cabin is quiet, tightly assembled, and feels appropriate to a price tag that can soar to $60,000 or more.
2014 Audi A6
The IIHS calls the A6 a Top Safety Pick, and Audi now makes blind-spot monitors more widely available.
The Audi A6 has some of the best crash-test scores among sedans, of any price.
The IIHS hasn't put the A6 through its small-overlap front-impact test as of yet, but in all other tests it gets “good” ratings.
The NHTSA tested the A6 for the first time in more than a decade, and gave it 5 stars in all categories.
Along with the usual safety standards, the A6 comes with free Bluetooth, and most models have all-wheel drive. All A6s at Prestige trim and above have blind-spot monitors.
Active-safety options include a rearview camera, which really should be standard by now; parking sensors; a head-up display; adaptive cruise control; and night vision.
Outward vision is fine in the A6, helped along by big windows and a low beltline. The short trunk makes the rearview camera even more convenient, and a new corner-camera display helps in very tight parking situations.
2014 Audi A6
Audi's above-and-beyond features include Bang & Olufsen sound, in-car wireless internet, and Google Earth mapping.
No Audi A6 suffers for a lack of standard equipment--but many of them have hefty pricetags, thanks to the huge range of luxury and entertainment options Audi makes available.
The A6 gets a long list of standard gear, including power features; cruise control; leather; power front seats; a sunroof; 17-inch wheels; automatic climate control; tilt/telescoping steering; AM/FM/XM/CD audio with a 6.5-inch LCD screen; keyless ignition; and LED taillamps. Heated front seats are now standard, as of the 2014 model year.
Audi's Multi Media Interface (MMI) also is included on every A6. It's a roller-controller system that uses a knob and some hard keys to control navigation, phone, audio, and other functions. MMI's menus have been streamlined over the years, and the shortcut buttons are a welcome relief, but the system still can be a formidable few hours of learning before it becomes familiar. Like other automakers, Audi blocks all touch input from the screen, but there's a touchpad called MMI Touch that allows some secondary input. MMI Touch is a panel that doubles as both preset buttons for the audio system, and as a Palm Pilot-style scratch pad, on which drivers can write out letters to enter destinations or choose from the phonebook.
The next step in A6 features consists of the Premium Plus package. It adds a seven-inch color display; 18-inch wheels and tires; a CD changer (for anyone who still uses physical artifacts); HD Radio; real-time traffic data; front and rear parking sensors; and Audi Connect, and an in-car wireless data service through T-Mobile. Audi Connect taps that data stream to enable Google Earth navigation maps and traffic information. Audi's system also allows you to plan and send up to 50 destinations to the car's navigation system from a computer and Google Maps.
A6 Prestige models come at the top of the model line. And what's confusing is that you can add a $6,550 Prestige Package to them, which adds a lot of good stuff like distinct 18-inch wheels; four-zone climate control; adaptive headlights; LED interior lighting; a Bose speaker package; ventilated front seats; a power-adjustable steering column; cornering lights; and S-line cosmetic trim, including its own grille and bumpers. S6 models are only offered in Prestige trim.
Other noteworthy options include a cold-weather package; a Sport package with 19-inch all-season tires and five-spoke wheels; a xenon headlight package; and a Black Optic package with gloss black exterior trim and 20-inch wheels wearing summer tires. The best option? An awesome 15-speaker, 1300-watt Bang & Olufsen with tweeters that rise on startup.
Beware that you can easily load an A6 Prestige up toward the $70k mark--and that's about where the S6 Prestige starts.
2014 Audi A6
Audi's TDI diesel finally slots into the A6 here, and it's capable of great fuel-economy numbers.
With either Audi's turbocharged four-cylinder or its supercharged V-6, the A6 turns in competitive fuel-economy numbers. Can we just call the wide span between the new TDI turbodiesel and the super S6 a wash?
With the 2.0T, the A6 earns its best gas mileage ratings. The catch? To get those 25/33-mpg figures, you'll have to put up with a continuously variable transmission, a gearbox that seems out of tune with Audi's luxury niche. That's true just for front-drive models; with the all-wheel-drive turbo four, the transmission's an eight-speed automatic, and fuel economy registers at 20/29 mpg or 23 mpg combined.
Gas mileage isn't too bad with the 3.0T and quattro. The supercharged, direct-injected V-6 powerplant and its standard all-wheel drive deliver 18/27-mpg fuel economy, or 22 mpg combined.
For the best numbers of the lineup, look no further than the A6 TDI, new this year and on deck with 24/38 mpg EPA ratings, or 29 mpg combined. That should more than offset the S6's 17/27 mpg, or 20 mpg combined, given Audi's ambition for turbodiesel sales.