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 economy without the diesel drawbacks including smell and coarse operation (I couldn't tell I was in a diesel from the sound). This is a fine engine installed in a terrific midsize sedan.
The car leaves the line fast and smooth. Throttle response is right now, unlike some competitors' diesels, and the power stays stout throughout the revs. The overall diesel smoothness and operation make me wonder why anyone would order it with any other engine. (I don't include S model in that view because that's another kettle of fish entirely.)
According to Audi's website, this car has stop/start, but I imagine it's too darn cold to operate. I don't blame it. I would love to stay in bed in the morning, too. My mileage to and from the office was about 20 mpg according to the in-dash measurer. Not blow-me-away impressive, but the conditions have been just horrible, with some wheelspin, lots of stop-and-go -- I didn't expect much. Frankly, 20 mpg was a very good number, in my opinion.
The rest of the car is pure A6, meaning the interior is gorgeous and well built, the chassis is rock solid and the exterior is sharp.
This 2014 Audi A6 TDI is an excellent car. No, it's not cheap, but excellence costs money. The car is worth it.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: Boy, Wes is right: This A6 TDI isn't cheap. I was expecting low-to-mid $50k range, but this is nearly $70,000 and that's a tough diesel pill to swallow.
I have about three hours total in the car between yesterday and today; that was about 30 miles, with both traffic and ice all over the road.
My first complaint is that it didn't warm up fast enough. Both last night and this morning, it took about 15 minutes in the car to get to a comfortable temperature and for the windshield to defrost completely. The heated seats work quickly, but that won't keep your face and hands warm when it's -5 degrees.
Actually, the whole heating system is a pain. You have to find either your “fan” or “mode” button, then quickly go back to the wheel to adjust the levels. I wish it would just work with the central dial.
I also didn't find the seats very comfortable. The bottoms were flat, and I didn't get much support for my skinny rear end.
The interior does look good, though. It's warm and inviting. I like the flip-up navigation screen, the gear-shifter setup and the center cluster. And most of the time, the central MMI control works great.
I like the look of the A6 and the rest of Audi's sedans. They get sort of sharp in the front, with various edges pointing forward, but it's also generally flat, giving it a muscular, blocky look. The company has cleaned up the rear quite nicely, and I can't think of many ways to improve it.
Like all Audi vehicles, the A6 was great in the snow and ice. I never slowed, let alone got close to getting stuck. The front lip is a bit low, which had me crushing some snow chunks while I was driving over them, but nothing hung up this car.
ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: This 2014 Audi A6 TDI Prestige was a sled in the snow that got dumped on us. A lot of the credit goes to the Pirelli winter tires installed on our test car, but don't forget about the all-wheel drive, either. During one of my nights with the car, I decided to slog through the foot of snow on the ground to do some grocery shopping. The unplowed roads were nasty, with the A6's front bumper serving as more of a snowplow, but at no time was I afraid of getting stuck, losing control or sliding off into a ditch.
The only hiccup was my fault. Instead of shoveling a path through the large pile of snow at the bottom of my driveway, I instead thought I could just bust through. Well, I couldn't, and I got high centered, causing me to climb out through the driver's window, grab a shovel and dig the car out.
I remain quite taken with this car, its stellar winter-weather performance aside. It remains my pick in the luxury midsize-sedan segment over the Mercedes-Benz E-class and BMW 5-series. The interior is beautifully done, with top-notch materials and nice wood-trim pieces. Audi's MMI infotainment interface is intuitive, with the rotary knob and hard buttons, and the Bose sound system sounds great. Jake is correct that the seats are on the flat side, and I would prefer more side support. It would be great if you could get the sport seats from the S6 in the A6…
Now for the diesel that was new for the 2014 model year: Wow, there's a lot of torque coming from this turbodiesel V6. It's a wonderful thing to have on tap when it comes to merging onto the expressway or breezing by slower traffic. It's matched well to the ZF automatic gearbox that provides quick and seamless shifts. And I have no doubt real-world fuel economy in non-winter weather would be much better than the 22.8 mpg I observed during my fill-up. That tank included numerous days of slow winter-weather driving and admittedly a lot of warm-up time.
Dynamically, it's an Audi A6 with lightly weighted, but quick-responding steering. The suspension is firm, with enough give tuned in for a ride that is comfortable enough on the 20-inch tires. Brakes deliver confident stopping muscle.
It's a quiet, comfortable, efficient and still handsome-looking sedan. Yes, our particular test car is a little pricey, but keep in mind it is a Prestige version that gets the S line exterior treatments and a bunch of other features like four-zone climate controls, Bose stereo system, adaptive lights, side assist and front-cooled seats. If you can do without that stuff, then there is the Premium Plus trim that will lop off $2,800 from the jump. Forgo the driver-assistance package and that's another $2,800 in savings.
As for alternatives to the A6 TDI, the only other car that stacks up closely to it is the BMW 535d xDrive sedan. The diesel offered in the E-class by Mercedes is a 2.1-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 195 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. The diesel in the BMW is a 3.0-liter turbo inline six-cylinder that compares closely to the Audi's 3.0-liter V6. In horsepower, the Audi's 240 are outdone by the BMW's 255. But diesels are about torque, and the Audi holds a slight upper hand here, with 15 lb-ft more than the Bimmer (428 versus 413). Both cars have eight-speed automatic gearboxes, too.
The EPA fuel-economy ratings are also not surprisingly close between the two. The A6 TDI gets a 24 mpg rating in the city and 38 mpg on the highway, while the 535d xDrive is 26 mpg city and 37 mpg highway.
If you're in the market for a German midsize-luxury sedan with a potent diesel engine, what should you do? As I said earlier, I'm an A6 fan for the nicer interior and handling that feels lighter on its feet, in my opinion. And I don't care for run-flat tires that BMW insists on using. But it's certainly worth going for a test drive in both.
WEST COAST EDITOR MARK VAUGHN: Audi specifically and the Germans in general do diesels pretty well. They invented the things after all. While diesels continue to improve, and while this one is among the most refined on the market, there is still enough hint of diesel rattle to remind you what's underhood. Maybe diesel buyers like that, reminding themselves of how efficient their powerplants are. Which brings me to your first reason for hate mail: I didn't get a mileage reading! I only had it a couple days and drove maybe less than a hundred miles, so there was no time to record a meaningful mileage figure. I'm sorry.
However, I can still discuss whether it's worth it in terms of efficiency to get the 3.0-liter turbo V6 diesel over the 3.0-liter supercharged V6 gasoline Audi A6. The base stickers are about $7,000 apart, meaning you pay seven grand to get the diesel. Published fuel efficiencies show an advantage of 6 mpg city and 11 highway when you compare diesel versus gasoline. So it'd take you a little while to get a return on investment if all you wanted was better fuel efficiency, depending on how much you drove.
However, there is also engine performance to consider.
As you'd expect from a diesel, this one had massive torque -- 428 lb-ft of it. Horsepower was a “mere” 240. The supercharged 3.0 gasoline V6 Audi A6 makes about 100 lb-ft less torque at 325, but 70 more hp at 310. So you have a few things to consider, namely, do you want horsepower or do you want torque?
Torque has advantages. When I launched it a few times with the test equipment in place, it really flattened my pompadour for the first 50 or 100 feet before seeming to plateau. I got a 5.6 second run to 60 mph and was pretty happy with that. Audi lists a 0-to-60 mph time of 5.5 seconds.
The car is nice and stable at speed. I didn't drive it on any significant curves so I don't have much to say about handling except that it felt pretty well tied down. All the body and suspension movements were under control, especially rebound in the shocks, which I appreciate in a car this big and heavy -- almost 4,200 pounds. Living in SoCal, I didn't get a chance to wring out the quattro function in the snow like my colleagues did back in Detroit, which I think would make this a very attractive proposition in places where it snows -- though you may have to heat the block if it gets really cold.
Our test car out here in California had the sport suspension package and 20-inch wheels, which was $2,300 altogether. We got our 20s front and rear wrapped in 255/35 Pirelli P Zeros.
The interior is clean and dark. I like the raised grain on the wooden dash trim. The Audi multimedia interface is still overly complex and I still haven't really warmed to it in all the years it's been on Audis. For instance, you need more steps than I'd like to take to change the radio station. Audi is crazy proud of the resolution on the MMI screen. I don't care so much about the resolution on the MMI screen. I want to change radio stations easier. Granted, with more programming I could have pre-programmed favorites but what if I want to try a non-favorite station? Is this too nit picky? OK, I'll quit whining. The Bose sound system is good -- so good you'll want to crank it when your favorite song comes on the radio. The trunk is huge. It'll easily accommodate a cello with lots of room for other stuff, in case you have cellos to haul around. Who needs a wagon?
The sticker on this car was $66,795, base price is $58,395. That's a little more than the rear-drive versions of the BMW 535d. The big premium for diesel makes sense in Europe, where there are sound financial reasons to buy diesel cars. Does it make sense here in America? Maybe not to most people, which is why diesels have never really taken off here. But to the diesel faithful, who tend to share their thoughts more so than perhaps other groups, it makes perfect sense and is worth every rattling nickel.
ASSOCIATE WEST COAST EDITOR BLAKE Z. RONG: This A6 TDI feels remarkably similar to the long-term S7 that I commandeered for Seven And S7 fame. Oh, how I've missed that car. At a paltry-sounding 240 horsepower but 428 lb-ft of torque, this car feels just as fast as the 420 horsepower in the S7.
Long live torque, the rotational force of the gods. On gentle acceleration you get this sensation around the base of your neck that you're about to be pushed, and pushed hard -- like reaching the apex of a roller coaster, the most common likening.
The A6 is blessed with many virtues: steering that's light but accurate, an excellent ride, and great styling -- it pulls together all of its cues from its bigger brother A8 (and subsequently its flamboyant sister A7) and looks larger and more dramatic than it actually is.
2014 Audi A6 TDI Prestige
Base Price: $58,395
As-Tested Price: $66,795
Drivetrain: 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel V6; AWD, eight-speed automatic
Output: 240 hp @ 3,500-3,750 rpm, 428 lb-ft @ 1,750-2,250 rpm
Curb Weight: 4,178 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 24/38/29 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 22.8 mpg
Options: Driver-assistance package including Audi adaptive cruise control cruise control with stop & go, Audi pre sense plus, Audi active lane assist, top view camera ($2,800); A6 Prestige model package including S line model, four-zone climate control, ambient lighting plus with LED, Bose Sound System, front seat ventilation, power adjustable steering column & memory, auto-dimming, power-folding, heated exterior mirrors, Audi adaptive light & cornering light, Audi side assist ($2,800); 19-inch sport package including 19-inch five-double-spoke, all-season tires, sport suspension, 3-spoke multifunction steering wheel with shift paddles ($1,500); 20-inch 10-spoke V-design wheels, summer tires, supersedes 19-inch sport package wheels ($895)
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