The Happy Middle of Luxury
Steve Schaefer, Sat, 18 Aug 2007 08:00:00 PDT
The A6 is Audi's "middle" sedan, sitting comfortably in the lineup between the svelte A4 and the full-sized A8. If the A4's rear seat is a little tight and the A8 is a little hard to park, the A6 is "just right."
Being in the middle doesn't mean middling, however. You can buy the 4.2 model, with a 350-horsepower V8 behind the big-mouth grille. The Hungarian-built powerplant is up 15 horsepower over the 2006 model. The V8 runs through a six-speed Tiptronic automatic with sequential shifting. Despite the brute force under the hood, the A6 still manages to earn EPA ratings of 18 mpg city, 25 highway (also improved from the 2006). I averaged 17.5 mpg.
To lighten your fuel bill and monthly payment, you can buy the 3.2-liter V6 instead. It has 95 fewer horsepower, but all the style and functionality of its more powerful sibling. You'll get from zero to 60 in about 7 seconds, more than a second slower than the big V8's performance.
My Night Blue Pearl Effect tester had the 4.2, and that made highway motoring effortless. When you stand on it on a freeway onramp, the 4,200 pound A6 bursts out like a cannonball out of a cannon. A car with 350 horsepower in the olden days was more likely to be a Corvette than a luxury sedan like this one. Things have changed.
My tester also had Quattro all-wheel drive. This is an Audi specialty, and with its electronic differential lock, it aids safety in slippery conditions. It does not let the car climb giant boulders, but it does add grip when you need it, completely automatically.
The A6 features a fully independent suspension, with four links up front and a trapezoidal rear setup. From a nontechnical perspective, it stays firm and stable without transmitting annoying road irregularities to the well insulated interior.
Inside the A6 is a fine place to be. Audi's legendary assembly quality and premium materials make you feel a special kind of satisfaction. You get real wood inlays spread out over the console, dash, and doors. My tester featured a handsome, golden burl style that complemented the Cardamom Beige interior. The metallic accents in this car gleam tastefully, without the sharp glint of chrome.
As a 4.2, my tester had a standard Bose surround audio system. With the car's ample insulation keeping ambient noise at bay, the sound pours over you as you slip through the air.
Audi features a console mounted control called Multi-Media Interface (MMI). This high tech control is something like using a computer mouse except that you have to touch one of four corners and then push to select that function. If it's audio, then you use a dial to search for and select what you want to hear on the Bose system. It gets easier to use with time, but I still would have liked a few more old-fashioned buttons out on the dash. It is easier to use than BMW's infamous iDrive, however, and the voice commands mitigate it somewhat.
My son, a teenager who enjoys looking at himself, found the double mirror on the passenger's visor (the driver gets one too). You can see a normal or magnified image. The latter aids skincare and post-shaving inspections.
My wife, who has lived through 15 years of weekly car swaps and owns her own Audi, enjoyed the pretty chime that reminds you to put on your seatbelt. My tester featured the $4,000 Technology Package. It combines voice recognition technology for the navigation system and main controls, an Advanced Key and Advanced Parking System, and Sirius satellite radio. It also boosted the alloy wheels to 18-inchers.
Audi prides itself on providing a safe car for your family. The A6 won a silver-the top pick-in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ratings. With front, side, and Sideguard curtain airbags, the A6 is a very good place to be in during a collision. The EPA's Green Vehicle Guide gives the A6 with 4.2-liter V8 an Air Pollution rating of 6 and a Greenhouse Gases rating of 4 (a little disappointing). Bigger, more powerful engines inevitably put out more CO2.
Starting at $55,300, my Quattro A6, with the aforementioned extras, came to $61,265 on the bottom of the window sticker. If that's daunting, you can select a nice front-wheel-drive model with the 3.2-liter V6 starting at $41,950.So, find yourself happily ensconced in the middle of everything with the A6.