Monday, December 7, 2009

Audi A6 4.2 Review



For years and years the luxury status-car of choice has always been either a BMW or a Mercedes-Benz.And today, there's no question that Audi simply makes some of the very best driving and looking cars in the world.

Chances are good that the first time a 2005 Audi A6 sets its sights on your rear bumper, you'll begin to question the validity of that disclaimer etched into your side-view mirror. You know, "Objects in mirror are larger than they appear." The sixth-generation A6, wearing a nose that would have made Karl Malden feel shortchanged, gives credence to a more fitting disclaimer—"Some objects in mirror really are that big."

Love it or hate it, you'd best get used to the A6's super-schnoz, a knockoff of the single-frame trapezoidal grille unveiled on the Nuvolari Quattro concept at the 2003 Geneva auto show and first seen in production form on the A8L W-12. Naturally, Audi refers to the grille as the "Nuvolari," and it will adorn the 23,000 or so A6s destined for America for the 2005 model year, as well as every other new Audi in the foreseeable future, including the upcoming A3 and the face-lifted A4. Audi is intent on establishing a design theme across its lineup to increase brand awareness, and the gigantic grille is the preeminent symbol.

It's a bold move, no doubt, Audi moving on from the successful styling of its Bauhaus beauties—notably the TT and the previous A6—in favor of a big beak and fresh curves and creases. But like the grille's size, the payoff could be huge.

As far as we're concerned, Audi's styling swing with the A6 is a fashionable move forward. Whereas the previous car looked lean and toned, the new one appears full-bodied and buff. Credit a more coupe-like greenhouse, "tornado" lines that cut above the side sills and through the rear bumper, and a rear contour line that forms an integrated decklid spoiler. The smoothness that epitomized the previous A6 has been replaced by flexed muscle. Moreover, the '05 now sports healthy hips accentuated by front and rear tracks widened by 1.4 inches and 1.1 inches, respectively, and an overall width stretched by about three inches. Audi has also moved the front suspension forward 3.3 inches, extended the wheelbase by the same amount, and increased overall length 0.1 inch to 193.5. The leaps in width and wheelbase have resulted in an A6 that looks more substantial and athletic, presenting the visage of a freight-train fullback in a three-point stance.

If bigger is better, then does flashier mean finer? Audi thinks so, and the A6 is dressed to impress. Chrome accents sparkle around the exterior—on the door handles, front bumper, side-window molding, trunklid, and, of course, Mr. Trapezoid up front. BMWs used to be the flashy Germans, but not anymore. The A6's front end is further enhanced by standard fog lamps, and LED taillights add some pizazz to the rear. Eight-cylinder A6s like our test vehicle carry a base price of $51,220 and also come with swanky adaptive bixenon headlights with an active cornering feature. They swivel in concert with steering angle and road speed to cast light on approaching turns. Choose the $41,620 A6 3.1-liter Quattro—the model Audi says will account for 90 percent of the mix—with a 252-hp V-6, and you'll have to fork over $3000 for the lights, which are part of a Premium package.

Our Copper Red test car, a V-8-powered 4.2 Quattro, came to us dripping with options. The extras included a Sport package ($1500) with a firmer suspension, sport seats, and 18-inch alloys shod with 245/40R-18 summer Pirellis; a Cold Weather package ($1050) with heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and headlight washers; a premium Bose sound system with XM satellite radio ($1300); a DVD-based navigation system ($1500); and voice recognition ($350), which allows you to bark at audio, nav, and phone functions after pressing a button on the steering wheel. The "advanced key" ($750) lets you keep the fob in your pocket or purse and unlock a door by simply raising a handle, as well as start or turn off the engine by pressing one of two buttons on the center console. For added security, the "Stop Engine" button can be held down to lock the wheel.

Loaded to the gills, our brick-colored beauty totaled $59,370. That's a sizable jump compared with the $53,860 4.2 Quattro we tested in September 2001, but it reflects the addition of a lot more equipment, not to mention more performance. And in light of the price tag a Mercedes E500 4MATIC wears—$61,420 to start—the A6's asking price doesn't seem so steep.

Powered by a slightly detuned version of the 340-hp, 4.2-liter V-8 found in the S4, the A6 treats the driver to 330 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, increases of 30 ponies and 15 pound-feet over the previous A6. New for '05 is a six-speed Tiptronic automatic, which sends power to all four wheels via Audi's ubiquitous Quattro system. Smoother and more refined than the preceding engine, the 40-valve unit absolutely purrs from idle to redline, emitting only a muted growl to let you know it's constantly reaching for the 6800-rpm threshold. And the six-speed makes the most of those 330 horses, jockeying them in swift, seamless shifts.

At the test track, acceleration times were quick, but not much quicker. The sprint from 0 to 60 mph required 6.3 ticks and the quarter-mile 14.8, both 0.1 second faster than the numbers posted in September 2001. The new A6 has more power, and more pounds—224 to be exact—effectively offsetting any significant gain in straight-line performance. That said, the A6 might not feel any quicker, but it now rushes ahead so effortlessly and quietly that triple-digit speeds become startlingly prevalent.

Through our 10Best driving loop, the A6 proved to be a far more sporting machine than its forebear. Suspended by a front four-link setup and a beefy rear lower control arm and lateral link, the rigid A6—Audi claims torsional stiffness is up 35 percent—had minimal body roll, staying impressively flat through near-100-mph sweepers. Who says Audi couldn't build a BMW? Turn-in from the speed-sensitive Servotronic power steering is of the right-now variety, and overall feel is outstanding, with communication transmitted in a light, linear fashion. Hairpins? No sweat. Decelerating to suitable speeds occurs rapidly, courtesy of larger 13.7-inch front and 13.0-inch rear vented rotors and a progressive, easy-to-modulate pedal.

Over smooth surfaces, the A6 floats like a dream cruise. No surprises there. But subject it to roads that have endured a dozen frigid winters, and the ride becomes reminiscent of taking a horseback trip. Every depression, ripple, and bump gets noticed, making passengers wonder if you've selected a taut damper setting that doesn't exist. Even with front and rear rubber-isolated subframes, the stiff body and hard suspension simply transfer those impacts into the cabin, resulting in rattles from interior bits drumming on one another. Our advice: If the roads you travel don't resemble butter, bypass the Sport package.

The interior may produce unwanted noises at times, but ease behind the four-spoke steering wheel with its chrome trapezoid to mimic the schnoz and perfect thumb indents at 3 and 9 o'clock, and its merits quickly become evident. The cockpit, adorned with brushed aluminum and walnut (in our tester) or birch wood, as well as rugged-looking Volterra leather upholstery, is downright posh and more classy and sporty than the prior car's. Two metal-rimmed, teardrop-shaped pods stare back at you through the wheel, one housing the engine temp and tachometer, the other, the fuel gauge and speedometer, both adding a touch of style. The pods flank a small digital display that presents redundant information, such as a navigation instruction, from the Multi Media Interface (MMI) system, which boasts a seven-inch color display at the top of the center stack. Like a high-end stereo receiver that's festooned with buttons and knobs, MMI is a bit daunting at first, but after a few hours of fiddling with the two knurled knobs and four submenu buttons, it becomes intuitive and easy to use. Much to our delight, the HVAC controls have been appropriately placed in the center stack. And don't bother looking for a parking-brake lever or glove-box handle—each has been replaced with an electronic button.

Thanks to the lengthened wheelbase and forward relocation of the front suspension, the interior is a roomier, more comfortable cabin to inhabit. Shoulder room is up about an inch front and rear, and rear-seat legroom has grown by nearly three inches. We'd be remiss if we didn't mention airbags. Our 4.2 Quattro had eight of them, including optional rear seat-mounted side bags ($350).

Is the new A6 more of a sports sedan than the BMW 5-series? It's too close to call without subjecting them to a comparison test. But we can say that the A6 is, without question, a more luxurious sedan than the Bimmer.

source: caranddriver