Overview (Overall Grade after 8 Categories: B
Written by James Hamel
This review covers two separate models of A6 available in the United States with the first being a week we spent tooling around Los Angeles in the resolute luxury of a 2015 Audi A6 sedan with the 3.0 liter 333 horsepower supercharged 6-cylinder motor all wrapped in a delicious Garnet Red paint job which was so deep and lustrous it was almost maroon. Audi, as always, knows how to get these feel good factor details right especially when what you are driving is a $60,000 plus fully loaded Prestige S-Line Model with every bell, whistle and kazoo known to man.
Then later we were fortunate enough to get to spend a week piloting the 2015 Audi A6 TDI clean diesel luxury sedan which boasts a 3.0 liter 240 horsepower/428 lb. feet of torque turbodiesel V6 engine which is always ready to give you a quick shove of acceleration whenever you need it. Oh yeah, it has that and gets 24 city/38 highway but expect to get over 40 on the highway since the EPA estimates for diesels are always lower than what we have achieved easily at freeway speeds in a diesel powered car.
Now while out similarly loaded A6 TDI rang up to about $67,000 you cannot approach the purchase of an Audi from a fully sensible and rational approach. Audis, from their crisp styling to the smell and feel of their deliciously appointed interiors are feast for the senses. While perhaps not all Audis are the stylistic adventurers of previous years, we can guarantee you an A6 purchase will never look foolish. Let's just have a look at which A6 was better?
Oh dear, or should we have gone entry level with the 2.0 liter turbocharged 252 horsepower/273 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder? While that is a peach of a motor in the A3, A4, Q5, A5 and TT we think that both the gas and diesel V6 engines make wiser long term choices. But by ordering you A6 with the 2.0 turbo your base price lowers down to about $46,000.
What We Loved about the 2015 Audi A6
What We Didn't Love about the Audi A6
- Materials, Build, Paint and Assembly Quality all proved flawless
- On Prestige models the interior is lit at night with ambient opera lighting coming from nearly every corner, separation, even from under the seats so passengers can travel in adjustable low or conversational but not distracting high light.
- The engines are powerful and sound cool in totally different ways.
- Prices get high in the upper reaches where most customers want to go
- No free maintenance packages like rival BMW
- Time for Audi to try some more unconventional designs as their whole line is looking too similar
Exterior View (9 out of 10)
They have an old German saying we won't attempt to try to spell here for you but translated into English it essentially means "sausages of three different lengths." If you'll notice in the sedan line-ups for Mercedes, BMW and Audi this old adage has held true for generations with the 3-series, 5-series and 7-series all bearing a striking resemblance to one another with the only difference being overall length. This same concept holds true, albeit to a far lesser extent than at Mercedes and BMW, when you look at the A4, A6 and executive A8 sedans. They all look pretty much like the same sausage only the sizes and badges are different. Oh yeah, and the price tags.
Thankfully Audi has the most cohesive and upscale looking exterior designs in the premium car sector and the A6 is no exception. The car looks best when equipped with a mean looking set of rims but these can cost a pretty penny. We never said looking rich and cool was cheap. Despite lacking a bit of imagination, we still love the way the A6 looks. Especially parked in our driveway.
Interior Comfort, Quality and Overall Ease of Use (9 out of 10)
Audi has long been the gold standard for luxury car interior build quality, style and overall feel good factor and the 2015 Audi A6 proves this still to be the case. But competitors are catching up with even Cadillac showing up Audi now and then with some if not more stylish at the very least more adventuresome interior designs and color combinations. Granted, it all depends on how adventurous you as the buyer are when picking out your new Audi A6 because you can always pick a nice medium grey leather and somber wood trimmings but despite not showing dirt it won't stimulate the senses.
Audi offers a plethora of personalization options from different shaped sport, contour seats with a massage and ventilated a/c function up front to a sumptuous dark brown to a deliciously tasty beige with brown accenting on the dash. So your A6 can have an eye catching interior so long as you have an imagination and a deep enough pocketbook. But trust us, if you are going to buy an Audi A6 then value for money should not be your top concern. If that is the case take a look at a Hyundai Genesis or Kia K900, both of which are splendid choices in this segment if you can get past badge snobs.
Technology (10 out of 10)
There were a number of reasons we were very impressed with the technology in the 2015 Audi A6 and it wasn't just because it worked and the center console mounted MMI knob is easy to manipulate and understand. We like when automakers do not just rely on touch screen technology as millions of Americans actually suffer from some form of hand tremor and can show up as early as puberty. So we appreciated the circular knob surrounded by buttons that open menus for functions like Bluetooth telephone, the audio system connectivity and more. It's all quite simple once you have used it once or twice.
But we were really impressed with Audi's pop up navigation screen which lowers into the dash when not in use and when called upon it uses the latest Google Maps software to show exactly where you are in route to your destination. Very cool. The second thing we loved was the Audi's multi-angle, multi-camera parking aid which can help you not only when backing up but even parallel parking or navigating a narrow fast food drive thru should you be prone to eating at such establishments. So no more worry about scrapes on your expensive alloy wheels giving away your weakness for stops at the local Foster's Freeze for a milkshake.
Fuel Economy (8 out of 10)
Fuel efficiency in the 2015 Audi A6 TDI is either a strong suit or if you are a led foot with a penchant for the premium unleaded stuff it may be a bit of a lush when it comes to guzzling fossil fuels. Not that it matters much if gas goes under $2 a gallon as some recently have predicted.
Predicted Reliability and Initial Quality Ratings (7 out of 10)
We went to a number or resources to investigate the reliability of the A6 compared with enemies such as the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes E-Class. We discovered something odd, that very rarely do these three record similar quality results per model year with the usual issue being teething issues the first year after a redesign. But in the Audi as well as competitor's cases all repair and quality issues are dealt with by the next model year. The only problem is Lexus and Acura usually fail to show such problems with their models.
Safety (10 out of 10)
The most recent Audi A6 was just tested by the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) and it received top marks all around for an overall "Top Safety Pick Plus" rating. Way to go Audi. So if you want a safe family car that's still fun for you, you may have met your match.
Performance (8 out of 10)
There was a time not too long ago when Audi was known for its relatively stodgy handling, wooden and numb feel to the steering and the powertrain calibration always could be hit or miss. Then Audi made a big comeback to such a degree many are calling them the new BMW. Having driven and old Audi and a new one, we can agree that there has been a sea change from behind the wheel of each Audi no matter which one you buy. The only thing that stayed the same was the continued assurance of Quattro full-time all-wheel drive.
Both of our 2015 Audi A6 testers came equipped with a slickly calibrated 8-speed automatic gearbox mated in one vehicle to a 3.0 liter 333 horsepower gasoline V6 and in the other to a 3.0 liter 240 horsepower/428 lb. feet of torque TDI diesel powered V6. In case you didn't notice the TDI and its enormous torque figure, well, that's sufficient for the car to be able to pull an 80 year old redwood tree out of the ground by its branches. Not that anyone would want to do that but you get the idea.
Otherwise we really enjoyed the way the 2015 Audi A6's steering and suspension were both lively and compliant so we could have fun when we wanted and have a relaxing cruise when the occasion called for it. Cornering grip is plentiful and between the two models we would say we preferred the gas powered V6 over the diesel only because its engine weighed less so the front to back weight ratio was more even thereby enhancing handling. In other words, the 2015 Audi A6 3.0T just felt a little lighter on its feet and we liked that.
Pricing and Value for Money (7 out of 10)
The 2015 Audi A6 in its most basic form stickers for around $46,000 but that's with the firm's albeit well proven but perhaps a bit small for this application 2.0 liter 252 horsepower/273 lb. feet of torque turbocharged 4-cylinder. This motor is more than willing in the A4 and even the Q5 but in the A6 it may not give off the refined air that an owner may be seeking. For that you will need a little over $57,000 for the Audi A6 with the 3.0 liter turbocharged 333 horsepower/325 pound feet of torque V6. But keep in mind that includes features like navigation, sunroof, power, heated front seats, auto dim headlamps as well as the availability of a world of new options.
We picked a mid-level trim A6 and thought there were some options definitely worth having. Wisely, Audi offers both a cold weather package ($500 for heated steering wheel are rear seats) as well as a warm weather package ($900 for four zone climate control and rear seat window blinds) which during our test period came in very handy as we had our canine road tester in the Audi with us. Yes, dog's love Audis too especially when they have their own control and air vent in the back seat. And humans might like that too.
We would also tick the box for the $2,550 Driver assistance package which includes the aforementioned around the car camera system, lane keeping assist, pre-collision preparedness, distance sensor and adaptive cruise control and more. We would also probably go for the still affordable Bose Audio System upgrade. There is one notch up in the Audi A6 but it requires purchasing a vehicle in the most expensive "Prestige" trim and it is called a Bang & Olufsen audio system which not only has 23 speakers for real surround sound but it puts out over 1,900 watts of power. So be sure you are a true audiophile before you even look at how many thousand more that option costs you. Although it is tempting, Bose does make excellent audio systems as well.
"The Final Numbers" and the Competition (68 points out of 80: 85%)
If ever there was a tough field of competition this would be it with BMW, Lexus, Mercedes, Cadillac, Acura, Infiniti and even the shockingly resurgent Lincoln brand. Add in Maserati and the forthcoming models alleged to be on their way from Alfa Romeo and you will have bloody battleground in which the Audi A6 will have to fight. But considering the fact that Audi has such a huge head start on most every competitor, has an enormous engineering and design budget and currently has cars that are more fun to drive than most BMWs and you have a recipe for desirability.
Truly our only hesitation is that sadly the things you may most desire in the world also happen to cost the most. Load up any A6 with the juicier options and you easily pass $60,000 easily landing somewhere in the mid $70,000 range. That's a bargain to a Mercedes owner but spending that much on an impressively efficient (yet brutally powerful) A6 diesel doesn't really fit the purpose of the car like that motor does in the Q7 SUV. For our money, we would go with the 3.0 liter turbocharged 333 horsepower V6 whose velvety smooth demeanor fits the car perfectly.
However, if your budget comfortably slides into the mid-$75,000 range might we recommend something in a four door supercar like the Audi S6 with its turbocharged 4.0 liter V8 good for 450 horsepower powered to the pavement through all four tires? With gas prices low at this moment, this would be an optimum time to buy and enjoy a new S6. For the rest of us, there is a wide variety of choice in the A6 lineup.
Photos by MaryAnne Wendt and James Hamel