|2009 Audi A6
- Versatile supercharged engine w/direct injection delivers performance and efficiency
- Excellent balance between handling and ride quality
- Quattro all-wheel drive provides unflappable traction
- Top notch interior materials
- Good overall value in its class
- Multi Media Interface controls are awkwardly placed
- Rear seating could use a bit more room
- Exterior styling is still a bit conservative
In the world of mid-size luxury sedans, German manufacturers have long reigned supreme. The Mercedes-Benz E class, BMW 5 series, and Audi A6 are the benchmark by which other executive cars are judged and have the global sales figures to support their best-in-class status. In the US, however, BMW and Mercedes have long had the upper hand, outselling Audi by a large margin in the mid-size segment. With the newly revised 2009 A6 sedan, Audi is looking to turn this situation around and capture some market share from its teutonic rivals.
Befitting its German heritage, the A6 is most comfortable on the open road, cruising at a high rate of speed. This car was designed for the Autobahn, or for those of us in the U.S., any stretch of highway neglected by the law enforcement community. We drove the A6 up and down California for a week and even at more sedate rates of speed the car impressed us with its smooth ride, serene interior, and capable performance. Although the A6 isn’t the fastest or best-handling car in its class, the overall driving experience exudes the ease and sophistication that only great luxury sedans can bring.
Audi gives buyers a choice of three different engines for the A6: a 255 hp 3.1 L V6, a 300 hp 3.0 L supercharged V6, and a 350 hp 4.2 L V8. Our test model featured the supercharged engine, which is all-new for 2009 and provides the best balance of price and performance. Performance is so good that we doubt many customers will spend the extra money for the V8. Torque is plentiful at any speed and the engine revs eagerly to the redline, without the histrionics often associated with forced induction. About the only thing holding the car back is a rather hefty 4,100 pound curb weight, but in real world driving conditions we rarely wished for more power. An added bonus is excellent fuel efficiency, up to 29 mpg on the highway.
Shifting duties are handled by a 6 speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic® that features sport and manual modes. Shifts are quick and quite smooth, and the sport mode does a nice job of keeping the engine in the right gear for more aggressive driving. The A6 also comes with a revised version of Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive that features a more rear-biased torque distribution (40/60 instead of 50/50) to provide more responsive handling. Although we weren’t able to test the A6’s wet weather performance, pinning the throttle around some turns proves how unflappable this system is, with hardly any wheelspin even under hard acceleration.
Although Audi did a great job of tuning the suspension to balance ride quality with handling, the A6 is a pretty big car and doesn’t hide this fact when cornering. Push the car to the limit in the twisties and you’ll get some body roll and moderate understeer, but the low profile 18 inch all-season Continental tires provide a surprising amount of grip and the all-wheel drive and stability control help make sure things don’t get out of hand. Out on the freeway, the A6 is perfectly poised and relishes taking wide sweeping turns at speed.
At first glance the A6 looks to be impeccably crafted, as would be expected from a pricey luxury sedan. Fit and finish is outstanding and the doors close with a satisfying thump. Once on the road, however, our ears were assaulted with a startlingly loud squeaking noise emanating from the right rear seat. Folding the seat down worked to silence things, but driving around with the trunk exposed is no way to impress the neighbors. Given the otherwise superb build quality, we suspect that the seat was manhandled during previous testing and we’re confidant Audi would fix such an obnoxious noise under warranty.
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