Updated: October 2, 2013
Well, after SEAT Leon and Audi A1, which are kind of cars for mortals, it is time to take a look at a car designed for demigods, executives, and people with more than one mistress less than half their age, if the various polls out there can be trusted. Indeed, Audi A6 is a very respectable saloon, with a lot of interior space and a slew of expensive digitalized equipment fashioned to keep your mind off the price tag, powerful engines and the unmistakable posh aura of top-speed limit of 250 km/h.
I had the chance to drive one for about 450 km down a long stretch of a nice 130 km/h limited motorway plus some maneuvering and slaloming down the higher-letter alphabet tarmac, and see how it behaves and carries, and what it does, all in all. So unlike the previous two reviews, which are more of long-term experience journeys, akin to what the writers of yore used to do, like Twain and Hemingway, we are just going to have, in the best of Audi fashion, a quick one-night stand. Please follow me, rubber on all four wheels.
What it does
Diesels are designed to be boring, right. They power trucks and submarines and ships, hardly sporty cars, you may assume. Well, I had something similar in mind, well not really, but I am playing along to garner sympathy for the story's message, until another friend gave me a ride in his bi-turbo 3.0 TDI BMW X3, which comes with even more torque than Lamborghini Gallardo. That's it. Less than six seconds to a hundred even if you try to drive up a tree, accompanied by a sadomasochistic kick in your back. Awesome.
With expectations set very high, I ogled the Audi A6 with a fair share of excitement. On paper, its engine can deliver 241 HP, plus 500 or 580 Nm of pulling power, depending on the model year, again in and beyond the range of most supercars. Mated to a seven-speed S tronic box, plus having the permanent four-wheel drive, the saloon is capable of cruising at 250 km/h easily, but better yet, it can reach 100 km/h from standstill in just 6.1 seconds. You are not spared any BDSM. Speaking of torture, in the US, the entry price for A6 is pretty much the same like A1 elsewhere. Which means, elsewhere, it costs three kidneys and a liver. Damn. Moving on.
As a young person, I find the Audi A6 looks somewhat boring, but that's like saying, the Battle of the Ardennes was boring. The nose is sharp, typical Audi, a copypasta of excellent brand recognition from the smallest to the bigger or sportiest model. Saloons are not my kick, but the twin chromified tailpipes and 225/55 R 17 tires help distinguish this vehicle as a fun carrier of five, plus extras. Well, you know the car is a badass when it has a TDI plaque and two individual exhaust tubes on the opposite sides of a car, not stuck together, mind.
At first, I was mildly WTF-ed. Everything has a button. Now, after about one or two hours of doing some gentle monkey experiments, preferably while parked, because the parking break is entirely electronic, even without a manual, you will get yourself familiarized with the cockpit, and things will become mostly intuitive.
The engine is started by pressing the aptly named START button on the right side of the massive gear level, and you just have to have the car keys somewhere in your general proximity. Then, there's a whole bunch of buttons on the central floor console, and they govern everything, including the powerful Audi multimedia system. The large and somewhat sexy wheel aft of the manstick acts as your joystick, and you can use it to switch radio stations or rotate through alphabet letters for the navigation system destination address. Somewhat exhausting overall, if you ask me, but for people with money, this could be the next thrill.
The navigation system works well. It is precise and useful and will work outside the big urban metropolitans of large countries like Germany or France. The thing is though, when you are driving without the GPS turned on, the dash displays your speed in large numbers in the LCD screen between the rev counter and the ego counter. Nice. When you turn the navigation on, the numbers go away, and are replaced by arrows pointing you toward your destination. You cannot have both. It's like wife and mistress, you sort of must choose one.
Needless to say, the aircon is good, everything fits like a surgical glove, and there is nothing cheap about the interior. My only complain is that the fold-down media screen could be somewhat bigger. It has a wide frame, which is simply unnecessary. All of that space could be used to display information. But people at Audi probably have figured out that typical Audi A6 customers like wide screen frames, being more on the conservative side. In some areas that is, ahem.
The seats are very comfortable, but they are designed to be big and lavish, not molestful, so they will not hug you in corners. The trunk is, if I may so bluntly name it, surprisingly small for this class of a vehicle, which means it's massive, but not as big as you would expect. Then again, who cares about that. You have more torque than a submarine.
Now, here's the part that matters. First, you must know that you actually get two cars, not one. Audi A6 has an automated gearbox, with D and S modes. When you slam the massive handle fully backwards, it will go into the Drive mode. If you nudge it a bit further back, it will switch into the S mode. The two could not be any different if you were to choose two different vehicles.
The D mode, or Dunce, is designed for old people. When cruising thusly, Audi A6 is not a pleasant battleship. You feel its size and weight, and it is simply trying to edge you out of the center of the road into the gutter, using all its massive inertia. You have to fight the steering wheel, and it feels imprecise. You would not expect the car to wallow at mere 150 km/h, but that is what it does in the mode designed to love your kidneys.
The S mode, or Sweet, is what you want. The moment you engage it, the car suddenly gets smaller. You are far more aware of its length and width, you know where the car is going to be the next moment, and the steering and the suspension become rigid and precise. Audi A6 then becomes like any small hatch, for that matter, and the four-wheel drive comes to your assistance. Moreover, in the sport mode, the engine's brain tries to maintain a steady 2,000 rpm for best performance and fuel economy, and this is quite handy when going downhill, because the car will maintain speed and direction with good accuracy. You will not be forced to break or fight its weight into corners. It will do all the hard work itself, with a firm hand, like an archetypical headmistress with a leather switch.
Acceleration is rocket quality. No matter what speed you're going, if you floor it, you will go fast, and the engine may not even bother dropping a gear, because there's no need. You will hit enormous speed in seconds, and it's real fun being able to do this. You feel the power all around you, back and front, through the seat.
Fuel consumption is a tricky deal. You cannot really judge it based on a short dash of just a few hundreds of kilometers. Anyhow, I enter the fuel station and topped about 30 liters with some 400 km gone under the tires, with aircon blazing and the average road speed of about 140 km/h. This translates into roughly 7.5 liters of diesel per 100 km, which is quite impressive for the car this size and the driving conditions. Most of the time in S mode, indeed. Cautious drivers can probably go down to Leon values, which is really neat.
Problems what I found
Can you find problems in an Audi A6? Yes you can. The first would be the electronic parking brake. Feels unnatural. The second would be the rather annoying Start/Stop system. Much like the smaller brother, Audi A6 will sort of try to conserve on various greenhouse emissions by suddenly switching everything off, when you do not expect it. I mean, if you stop for a quick rest, it is expected that you push the gear level in the park mode and engage the parking brake. Then, you also want the cool air to keep breezing against your cheeks. Nope, the Start/Stop system will not let you do that.
Too much digitalization can also mar the experience a little. I know this is expected, but then, if you really have to wonder what all those buttons do, and you never use half of them, then the extras are simply unneeded and maybe even detrimental. Then again, this is probably the least bad digitized cockpit I can think of. It's simple and unobtrusive and elegant, the classic Audi way.
The wipers feel cheap. They are identical to what you have on Audi A1. You get three piss-thin squirts of shampoo against the dash, and then some half-assed silicon action that will not wipe all those murdered bugs that easily, as evident in some of the images higher up. I purposefully did not GIMP anything out. These kinds of details can really ruin it for the more stringent buyers, and the more expensive you go, the more sensitive you are to the little issues.
Audi A6 is an expensive toy. I liked the opportunity to drive and enjoy the awesome power of its V6 diesel engine, but I am not really sure if I'd want to own it. I don't feel mature or old or stylish enough to be seen driving an Audi A6 around, regardless of its comfort, opulence and excellent performance. That engine on a smaller hatch, now that sounds like a winning formula. Quattro, torque to lug a jet, and little thirst. Like I said, turbo-diesel engines can be mad fun, so you'd better forget all your ancient notions about sooty cargo slaves.
Well there you go. Audi A6 3.0 V6 TDI is a decent looking chap, luxurious, comfortable, stuffed with gadgets, and with a phenomenal drivetrain, as long as you go for letter S, and that's just one letter away on the keyboard from letter D, and one tiny nudge of the gear handle. Two completely different experiences, so maybe the price tag can be justified. But there's the unmistakable question of image, so make sure that Audi A6 fits your mental state before buying it. Then, sort out the financial front. Grade: 8.5/10.