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2006 Audi A6 review

December 23, 2005 03:43 PM EST | Audi , Luxury Brands , Sedans , Wagons | Email to Friend

View large imageSolid performance, an elegant cabin and reasonable pricing make the A6 a worthy competitor in the luxury sedan and wagon class. If you're shopping for a premium midsize car, this one should be on your short list.

Pros
Elegantly detailed cabin, nimble feel, all-weather capability, strong V8, easy-to-use MMI system, low price for this class.

Cons
V6 short on low-end torque, handling not as sharp as a BMW's, no manual transmission available.

What's New for 2006
Two new models debut this year, a 3.2 Avant (wagon) version and a front-wheel-drive 3.2 sedan with Audi's CVT continuously variable transmission. An S-line package is now available for both the 3.2 and 4.2 sedans and features a sport suspension, 18-inch wheels with summer tires and upgraded trim. Bose surround audio is now standard on the 4.2 sedan, while the Avant and 4.2 receive standard heated front seats. New options this year include adaptive cruise control and an adaptive air suspension system. All models get wood trim and a tire-pressure monitor standard. Finally, the A6's Bluetooth system is now Treo Smartphone-compatible.

Introduction:
The A6, Audi's midsize luxury car, has been around since 1998. The first-generation car, though offering all-wheel drive and a fantastically trimmed interior, was increasingly outclassed in its later years. A full redesign brought forth the second generation just last year. The suspension is comprised of an upgraded four-link front suspension and a self-tracking, trapezoidal-link rear setup borrowed from the A8. Audi reports that torsional stiffness is up by more than 34 percent over the previous A6. All of these upgrades were designed to help smooth out unwelcome body roll while turning tight corners and keep the wheels firmly planted on the road.

In keeping with Audi tradition, the interior features a wealth of aluminum, leather and wood. The wood in particular is some of the most gorgeous you'll find in this class. An Advanced Key feature allows drivers to keep the key on their person and simply hit the start button when entering the car, instead of fumbling for the ignition. Other creature comforts include optional voice control for the Bluetooth hands-free cell phone system; an audio system with available Bose Surround Sound; and an optional DVD-based navigation system. For 2006, Audi has added a station wagon version to the A6 line, as well as a front-wheel-drive model with a CVT automatic transmission.

The A6 has plenty to offer buyers who crave luxury (in fact, no one beats Audi in this area) and like the idea of owning an all-weather vehicle. Though the standard direct-injection V6 is still a little short on low-end torque for our taste, the available V8 is as smooth and potent as any eight-cylinder in the class. Serious enthusiasts are still apt to prefer the near telepathic steering of BMW's 5 Series, but the majority of drivers will be quite content with this Audi's combination of luxury, sporty handling and comfortable ride quality.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The midsize A6 is sold in sedan and Avant (wagon) body styles. Sedans come in 3.2 and 4.2 trim levels (which correspond to the engine found under the hood), while the wagon is 3.2 only. Standard features on the 3.2 sedan include 16-inch alloy wheels, wood interior trim, leather upholstery, 12-way power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 10-speaker stereo with a glovebox-mounted CD changer and a tire-pressure monitor. The 3.2 wagon adds 17-inch wheels and a sunroof. The top-line 4.2 sedan provides HID headlights, upgraded leather upholstery and driver memory settings. The S-line package will give you a sport suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels with performance tires, gray birch wood inlays, headlight washers and unique bumpers and grille. Other options include adaptive air suspension, rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, a DVD-based navigation system and voice recognition technology.

Powertrains and Performance:
The A6 offers a standard 3.2-liter V6 and an optional 4.2-liter V8. The V6 is rated at 255 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque, while the V8 bumps up to 335 hp and a torque rating of 310 lb-ft. The sedan is available with either engine, while the wagon comes with the V6 only. The 3.2 front-wheel-drive sedan has a continuously variable transmission (CVT) instead. All other A6s come with a six-speed automatic transmission and the quattro all-wheel-drive system. While both transmissions work well, serious enthusiasts may miss having the option of a true manual transmission.

Safety:
The A6's standard four-wheel antilock disc brakes include BrakeAssist and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution. Stability control is also standard as are anti-whiplash front head restraints, front-seat side airbags and full-length head curtain airbags. Rear-seat side airbags are optional. NHTSA has not crash tested the A6, but the car performed admirably in IIHS testing, earning the top rating of "Good" in both front-offset and side-impact tests.

Interior Design and Special Features:
The A6 offers one of the best interiors of any midsize luxury sedan. Besides offering standard leather and wood inlays, each cabin is filled with supple, high-quality materials. If you bought an A6 for the sake of luxury alone, you wouldn't be disappointed. All models come with the Multi Media Interface (MMI) vehicle management system, whose 7-inch display is integrated with the 10-speaker Bose stereo and the optional navigation system. In practice, it's much easier to use than BMW's iDrive or Mercedes' COMAND and helps minimize cabin clutter.

Driving Impressions:
Even with direct injection, the V6 is light on low-end torque, though most buyers will find the acceleration acceptable. The V8 is more satisfying with its deep reserves of power and exceptionally smooth demeanor. While the Audi's handling is softer than BMW's 5 Series or Infiniti's M35/M45, it provides an excellent ride around town along with predictable reflexes and precise steering through turns. Additionally, its quattro system affords it prodigious grip around turns that makes spirited driving that much more fun, while providing all-weather capability.

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