Audi has given the A6 and S6 sedans a thorough update for the 2016 model year, with revised engines, technology, and looks to keep the line of midsize offerings fresh. The new A6 and S6 will go on sale in the U.S. next spring as 2016 models, but this is more than a facelift as Ingolstadt has made far more changes underneath the skin than on the surface -- even though the changes on the surface are just as welcome.
Stealthy, incremental changes are the way Audi prefers to update its cars. Front and rear fascias get extensive revisions, as do side sills. The hexagonal grille has been resculpted for a wider appearance that emphasizes repeating horizontal lines, with the designers also tweaking the chrome accents found on the grille. The headlights have also been redesigned for 2016, along with the air intakes in the front bumpers, which have also been given a more sinister look. Out back, the rear bumper has been redesigned as well, as have the tail lights which have gained an even sharper, more angular appearance.
If there is a theme to the subtle changes it has to be the emphasis on horizontal lines, which comes a generation after Audi introduced a very vertical, rectangular grille with the debut of the 2003 A8 sedan, a look which then spread to the rest of the family. Audi's evolving design language now favors creating a sense of speed and agility with the use of sharp, horizontal shapes.
EDITOR WES RAYNAL: I've been loving the Audi A6 for a while. The diesel makes it more appealing to me. Why? To my mind, it has all the diesel benefits like torque (check out that 428 lb-ft!) and fuel ...
The changes that matter more are the updated powerplants. Audi has tweaked three of the four engines offered in the A6 and S6, with only the 3.0-liter V6 TDI staying the same. The 2.0-liter TFSI inline-four, the smallest engine in the range in terms of displacement, gets an extra 32 hp and 15 lb-ft of torque for a total of 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque.
Audi has also made some changes to the 3.0-liter TFSI V6, with that mill gaining 23 hp for a total of 333 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. This V6 uses a mechanical supercharger located in the V of the cylinder banks to compress the intake air, while a new electromagnetic clutch can deactivate the charger at low and medium engine loads and engine speeds The 4.0-liter TFSI V8 found in the S6 will also receive a bump in power for 2016, gaining 30 hp for a total of 450 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. The diesel 3.0-liter TDI will keep its 240 hp and 428 lb-ft @ 1,750-2,250 rpm figures, as they're pretty impressive just by themselves. Front-wheel drive versions of the A6 will use a new seven-speed S tronic gearbox.
Audi has updated the front and rear fascias in the A6 range.PHOTO BY JAY RAMEY
To put these improvements into perspective, Audi's 3.0-liter TFSI V6 now surpasses the performance offered by the first-generation Audi A8, which sported a 4.2-liter V8; the S6 now wields the same amount of horsepower that had fans of the marque salivating at the RS6 line of cars just a decade ago. And speaking of the old A8, the A6 and S6 have also benefitted from an aluminum-intensive diet, with the new body now comprised of 20 percent aluminum panels. Audi says that fuel economy ratings will improve as well with the debut of these updated engines, though it's a little too early for EPA's fuel economy figures -- we'll have to wait until the new models go on sale in the spring.
Audi has also made a few changes to the infotainment system, which now features a new super-fast Tegra 30 processor from Nvidia, which is responsible for all media, navigation, and voice control sofware. For the A6 and S6, this translates into an eye-catching specialized 3D graphics program that generates three-dimensional animations for the infotainment system. Technology updates for the interior also include two card readers, a Bluetooth interface, 64 GB of flash storage, 10 of which is set aside for music, and an eight-inch monitor. Audi has also improved the MMI touch system, which allows the driver to write letters and numbers on a special touchscreen located on the center console, near the gearshift, without taking his or her eyes off the road with the system providing acoustic feedback after the input of each new character. Meanwhile, the Audi connect system now offers WiFi for up to eight devices and uses the fast standard LTE when possible, also allowing for online media streaming.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: The only similarities between this 2014 Audi A7 3.0 TDI Prestige and the diesels of yore are the fuel, obviously, the mega-newtons of torque and a slight vibration when ...
Audi has also upgraded the safety and driver asisstance systems in the A6 and the S6, with the debut of secondary collission brake assist as a standard feature. The sedans will also benefit from adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, which enables the car to accelerate and brake to maintain a safe following distance between the car ahead. Audi's driver assistance lineup also includes a lane change assistant -- a common enough feature in today's luxury cars -- which uses two radar sensors to monitor a space up to 229 feet behind the car during lane changes, illuminating a red LED light incorporated in to the side mirror housing if a vehicle poses a threat.
It's too early to talk about pricing or fuel economy -- that information will be available closer to the time that the redesigned A6 and S6 go on sale -- but expect pricing to stay in line with the current numbers, while Audi promises that the mpg numbers should improve just a bit.
Audi has also made a few updates to the infotainment system, which will benefit from a new 3D processor from Nvidia.PHOTO BY JAY RAMEY
How Do They Drive?
Audi took us to Dresden to try out the new and improved A6 and S6 cars on a wide variety of roads, ranging from cobblestoned streets to restricted and derestricted autobahns alike, and to experience the changes that they've made to their midsize offerings firsthand. We started out with the front-wheel drive 2.0-liter TFSI version of the A6 sedan, a base engine variant that's proven popular in the states.
With 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque on tap, the front-wheel drive A6 remains a nimble machine that hides its size well, something that A6 sedans from a decade ago had a tough time accomplishing. The gain in horsepower allows the A6 to feel just a bit more nimble in traffic than its displacement figure could lead you to believe at first, with we caught ourselves repeatedly asking "Is this the 2.0-liter version?" It was indeed, and with front-wheel drive the A6 felt more like a number of A4 sedans that we've recently driven. The steering feel in the A6 remains well tuned and just communicative enough without feeling harsh, striking a nice balance between comfort and precision. Without quattro all-wheel drive, the steering was among the best on any Audi we've driven in the last few years, short of the front-wheel drive A3 hatches.
EDITOR WES RAYNAL: Climbing into this 2014 Audi A4 2.0 TFSI Premium Plus is like getting reacquainted and catching up with an old friend. There's a familiarity here, and a nice luxury-sporting mix. ...
Audi has kept the interior in the A6 unchanged for the most part, with the biggest practical change aside from the infotainment upgrades being the addition of noise suppressing acoustic glass all around. The result isn't quite like being inside an armored A8, but the level of road noise is impressively low.
The A6 stays mostly flat through the corners, not quite to the same degree as the longer, wider cars like the A7, but the chassis' impressive torsional stiffness results in enviable body control. There's consistent response on different surfaces without giving a false sense of security, keeping the car from getting unsettled while tackling different corners. The brakes in the A6 feel confident without being overly touch-sensitive, and even under sudden braking the sedan does not nosedive excessively.
The 450-hp S6 has also received updates inside and out for 2016.PHOTO BY JAY RAMEY
The S6 is a much different beast, and not just because of the powertrain. Granted, with 450 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque on tap it has the stats of a sports car from a decade ago that even the V12s of the time could not hope to match, but it hides all that power well without constantly inviting us to set all those horses loose. The S6 is a heavier car and it definitely feels heavier with quattro driving all four wheels -- the deep rumble of the exhaust while sitting in traffic remains about the only reminder of the power underhood.
On paper and in real life conditions the S6 greatly exceeds its predecessors in terms of power, but the car has not grown up brash or overly exuberant. Instead, it stays nicely planted at all speeds, and even when called upon to perform emergency maneuvers it stays exceptionally well composed. The S6 trades the nimbleness of the A6 for a more surefooted stance, as well as the nicely proportioned sport seats, but all that power does not necessarily translate into a car that feels ready to reenact scenes from "Ronin" in a split-second.
While the lighter A6 does a great impression of a car a segment smaller, in the S6 we could feel every single pound, a feeling that we could not really write off to a stiffer suspension. The two sedans are just about identical in exterior dimensions, with the S6 sporting slightly different fascias front and back, but the difference in terms of feel seemed far more substantial.
The increased steering feel in the front-wheel drive A6 ultimately made for a more compelling handler of a sedan, while the vastly more powerful S6 felt a bit like a suit of armor; more powerful but not necessarily quicker. The 0 to 60 times will of course favor the more powerful sedan -- 4.4 seconds for the V8 -- but the nimble feel of the junior model made for a more relaxed driving experience. At least in rush hour traffic in Germany.
The Matrix LED headlights make quite a difference at dusk. And at night.PHOTO BY JAY RAMEY
Do You Want Them?
Audi's midsize A6 and S6 offer a little something for everyone -- and with quatro all-wheel drive as well as front-wheel drive on the menu the A6 offers great all-weather performance. The interiors have remained impressively solid if still a little stolid, but the tech is very much state of the art and non-annoying, which is a marvel in this day and age. The latest updates to the A6 and S6 lineup may be hard to notice at first but they do keep the lineup fresh, in a cabin that still feels very modern.
The A6 and the S6 remain distinct from their two most obvous competitors, the Mercedes-Benz E-class and the BMW 5-series, with the A6 offering a variety of powertrains for every taste if not for every pocket. The base four-cylinder engines are now tremendously capable, almost putting the old 4.2-liter V8s to shame without guzzling gas.
Audi says that prices won't change much with the debut of the refreshed models; that means the 2.0-liter FWD A6 should still start around $46,000, while the 2016 S6 will stay close to the $76,000 starting price of the 2015 model.
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