Audi A6 V8 - Another Seductive Sedan
By Jim Bray
It's another one hit out of the park for Audi and its A6.
Audi really needs to do something about its cars. Seems like every time I drive one I end up a gibbering wreck, recounting my latest love affair. And then I bemoan my bank balance, or lack of same.
I fell head over heels for the A4 a couple of months back, did the same thing with the A6 Avant wagon about a year ago, and about a year before that fell under the spell of the big A8.
And so it was with the A6 sedan, the V8-powered version of which I got to bond with recently. Either I'm easy, or Audi is putting together some mighty fine machines.
Or maybe it's both..
The things I loved about the other Audis are all present in the A6 sedan. So are the things, well, the thing, that rubbed me the wrong way. But the good far outweighs the bad.
The A6 sits in the middle of Audi's sedan line and, like its Avant wagon brother, it felt as if Audi had taken my measurements and built me a car.
I like the extra room you get compared with the A4; just a tad more elbow, passenger and storage space and, if possible, an even more solid feel.
It's a very attractive car, even considering the controversial schnoz that I'm gradually beginning to love - and which seems to suit the A6 better than other models. The car exudes class, with a low front moving through a high shoulder line along the side and to a raised bum that gives the vehicle an elegant yet aggressive appearance. And it's very aerodynamic. We took it on a highway trip into the mountains on a particularly blustery day and it was stable and serene the whole trip, refusing to be buffeted.
Exterior highlights include adaptive bi-xenon headlights (standard on the V8, optional on the V6) that turn up to 15 degrees as you steer into a corner or turn, helping to illuminate your path ahead. My test unit wore the S line package, which includes a distinctive front grille with S line badge, S line badged aluminum door sills, and special front and rear bumpers.
Motivating the A6 is either the 3.2 liter V6 that was so pleasurable in the A4 and A6 Avant I drove earlier, or the 4.2 liter V8 engine that my test A6 4.2 quattro came with. The V8 produces 350 hp @ 6800 rpm and 325 ft.-lbs. of torque @ 3500 rpm.
While I was more than happy with the six, this V8 is a winner, providing prodigious power that's smooth, instant, addictive. I could easily live with the six, but that eight, oh man!
The A6 gets the power to its famous quattro all wheel drive system (which is standard on A6 models) via a 6 speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic manual mode. My tester also had the paddle shifters that make an automatic so worthwhile, and so much fun; I could easily live with such an automatic.
The quattro helps the car handle beautifully and taking it through some of my favorite twisty bits was an absolute gas, even though this isn't a small car.
Speaking of gas, the suspension includes twin tube gas-filled shocks in addition to its four link, anti-roll bar setup up front and Trapezoidal-link (with twin-tube-gas-filled shock absorbers) in the rear. They help contribute to the fine driving characteristics.
And also speaking of gas, you'll want to burn premium in this premium sedan.
My tester wore 255/35 ZR tires on 19 inch wheels front and rear. They're so low profile they look almost as if someone stretched black rubber bands around the rims. Very cool, though.
Inside is another beautiful Audi cockpit, driver focused with instrumentation that's an attractive and efficient blend of analog and digital. The temperature and fuel gauges are located in the corners of the instrument panel, next to the large analog tachometer and speedometer. A configurable digital readout enhances the information at the driver's "fingertips". An LCD screen atop the center stack shows the navigation map, audio and other settings, and rear view camera display.
Fit and finish of the aluminum, leather and wood-trimmed cabin is superb, and all seats are comfortable and supportive. It was a tad tight for the third soul in the back seat, but we managed more than two hours each way on our highway trip without major complaint.
The downside of the interior, as usual, is the confusing Multi Media Interface (MMI) control terminal, which is located behind the gearshift. The MMI requires far too much thought, especially if you're trying to use it while driving (of course you shouldn't - but I bet you will). To be fair, once you've programmed your favorite settings into it you can control a lot of the stuff from the steering wheel or, if the car has it, by voice recognition, but Audi (and others) needs to start thinking about using properly programmed touch screens.
This time around the MMI was worse than usual. When I first picked up the car, the MMI was - well, it was having some kind of snit (perhaps it had read one of my earlier reviews). The radio, etc. would play for a few seconds, then it and the LCD screen would shut down. It did this repeatedly, sending me to the owner's manual.
As it turns out, there's a simple reboot process much like the "Control-Alt-Delete" Microsoft Windows users know so well. So I tried that, about four times, and after that all was as well with the system as it's possible to be.
That was the only downside to this great car. Other than that, I loved the A6 and would buy it in a minute - even with that damn MMI.
There are many nice touches, including rear and rear side window blinds. The rear blind is operated from the dash, but the side blinds are manual and a tad hard to raise or lower with one hand, forcing you to kind of twist around in the back seat to use both hands. It isn't a big deal, though, unless you're built like Humpty Dumpty (I speak from experience!).
The audio system is superb, with plenty of power and excellent sound quality. Climate controlis multi-zone and automatic, of course, with indirect ventilation and B-pillar outlets, air quality, humidity, and even "sun angle" sensors.
Audi's optional advanced key system sends a signal to a proximity sensor in the door when you approach the car and, if the car verifies you, the doors unlock when you pull the door handle. Separate Start and Stop buttons (why two?) fire up, or close down, the engine. When leaving the car, a touch on a little sensor thingy on the door handles locks the vehicle.
Audi A6's also come standard with Bluetooth capability which can be operated via the multifunction steering wheel, the MMI system or the optional voice recognition system.
The Audi A6 4.2 V8 starts at $56,300 U.S./$71,900 Canadian.
Copyright 2008 Jim Bray
Jim Bray is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. His columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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