2016 Audi A6 2.0 TFSI Quattro Premium Review
Just one look at the Audi A6 and it’s easy to see why it’s become one of the most popular mid-size models in its premium class. It’s not all that different in design from other Audi sedans, but for some reason the larger its cars get, the more proportionally attractive they become.
That’s not to say its A3 or A4 aren’t good looking in their own rights, they are and their sales reflect this, but the longer and wider A6, which has just been given a subtle yet effectively edgy face lift for 2016, allows a sharper version of Audi’s trademark horizontally-ribbed hexagonal horseshoe-shaped singleframe grille more space to stretch out and a more upright presence that meets tougher European pedestrian safety standards (and therefore protects ours better too), gives its beautifully reshaped multi-angle headlamp clusters slightly longer and narrower appeal, adds greater width to the more crisply chiseled lower fascia to help it cut through the air, which it does quite effectively, followed up with a paneled underfloor that directs airflow beneath the vehicle to help achieve an overall 0.26 coefficient of drag, permits larger wheel cutouts with more space to be filled by the S Line’s gorgeous twinned five-spoke 19-inch alloys on sporty 255/40 Pirelli P Zero rubber, lends its flowing raked roofline a more coupe-like demeanor and extended rear quarter windows razor sharp edginess, grants its larger rear deck lid a more dignified presence which now ends with a cleaner swept-up integrated spoiler, provides longer, narrower versions of Audi’s brilliantly minimalist taillights that rewrite the book on understated elegance, until seeing them at night when the LEDs light up in an oh-so stylish pattern, and finally affords enough breadth for the newly designed thick, wide gray diffuser-style bumper cap below, complete with elongated chrome-tipped tailpipes, which combined help to deliver sportier more purposefully planted poise when seen from the rear. The reworked 2016 A6 might best display the brand’s noted style, its sheer Audi-ness clearly visible from a mile away.
Likewise, if you want to see where Audi shows its capability in interior design, quality and execution, move up into its larger more prestigious models. This is where the updated and refined A6 impresses with some of the most stylish detailing in the segment, the textured aluminum trim in my base Premium trimmed tester some of the nicest I’ve seen in any four-door. Yet even before getting inside, eyes make contact with a thin strip of rich chrome embellishing the door handle, not to mention beautifully finished metal trim surrounding the doorframe; Audi truly doesn’t hold back when it comes to metal brightwork.
Additionally all of the soft-touch synthetic surfaces inside are made from the highest quality materials, although I was surprised that Audi didn’t include more pliable plastic as part of this mid-cycle upgrade. I could understand cheaper feeling, hollow sounding harder composites being used on the lower dash, which is the case, but the glove box lid? As it stands Audi is still the only brand in the mid-size E-segment that doesn’t go all the way with such finer details, which is a shame because it all looks so amazing. I suppose there’s a possible argument that cheaper plastics are lighter and therefore reduce fuel consumption while improving driving dynamics, and while this is true in theory Audi isn’t a performance at all costs brand like Lotus, so therefore premium consumers deservedly expect more. Likewise, most of the switchgear isn’t as tight fitting and well damped as others in the class, an attribute that Audi once made a name for. Is such the price of sales success? On the positive, as long as you don’t touch, it all looks gorgeous.
Fortunately the seats are extremely comfortable and very supportive, precursors to those driving dynamics I mentioned earlier that are fully up to class expectations thanks to a five-link front suspension with upper and lower wishbones plus a trapezoidal rear setup, also with wishbones. I had forgotten how smoothly the A6 rides, but this one might even be smoother than the A6 TDI I was so impressed with last year, its ability to whisk you away as if floating on air, magically maneuver around curvaceous onramps and then effortlessly sweep past slower highway traffic as good as it gets in this segment. This is the real reason to own an Audi, and it’ll do all this and more as stably in the wet as it does in the dry thanks to optional Quattro all-wheel drive, not to mention dual-circuit, diagonally split ABS-enhanced four-wheel disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, electronic stability control and even a brake disc wiping feature that keeps the rotors ready no matter the weather.
In my notes I dubbed the A6’s all-round maneuverability “a rare sense of control,” and such handling prowess can be made even better by selecting Dynamic mode from the infotainment system. It’s a bit awkward to find, rather than the usual rocker switch on the lower console found in competitors’ cars (and other Audis), which I must say allows much easier and quicker mode modulation (I tend to flick back and forth between eco mode, when available, and sport mode all the time, while sometimes using comfort settings for long highway stints or rough pavement), but it’s there when needed and is well worth the screen time to locate it.
My tester’s 2.0-liter TFSI, upgraded for greater power and efficiency for 2016, was more than adequate when I felt the need to take off quickly, responding more like a V6 than anything with four cylinders, much thanks to direct injection and a turbocharger that combine for 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque from as low as 1,600 rpm, which together with its velvety smooth shifting eight-speed automatic is all most drivers will ever need to induce smiles, zero to 60 mph taking just 6.6 seconds. It gets a set of shift paddles behind the 9 and 3 o’clock steering wheel spokes, which deliver extremely quick and positive response to input with Dynamic mode engaged, while when more conservatively driven the as-tested A6 2.0 TFSI Quattro is good for an EPA fuel economy rating of 22 mpg city, 32 highway and 26 combined, which is actually better than last year’s rating despite the power upgrade. That’s quite efficient for a 3,803-lb sport-luxury sedan by the way, although that curb weight is 15 percent lower than its predecessor and also lighter than the class average due to high-strength hybrid aluminum body panels.
To achieve such numbers you’ll need to switch out of Dynamic mode and choose Comfort or Auto (where I left it most of the time), the final Individual mode allowing you to add in your own specific settings. Its milder mannered modes chosen, the A6 saves fuel by automatically shutting down the engine when it would otherwise be idling, a great feature that also makes sitting at standstill quieter while reducing emissions from your immediate area let alone the entire eco-system.
Such moments allow opportunity to get more acquainted with Audi’s latest generation MMI (MultiMedia Interface) infotainment system, the higher resolution and larger eight-inch display of which powers up out of the dash top and can be lowered back into its recess at the push of a button so as not to completely take over the instrument panel 24/7, as is the case with so many others. Also, the display isn’t a touchscreen that gets covered with fingerprints, but rather is in-line with the majority of premium carmakers that use a controller to move throughout the system and make commands, much like a (non-touchscreen) computer and mouse. A large rotating dial surrounded by a cluster of go-to buttons sits closest to the center armrest, allowing easy access to just about any system within the car, while an innovative touchpad closer to the driver’s seat lets you prompt the system by drawing letters and numbers with your finger, not unlike some smartphone apps. Even more important, the more intuitive MMI has been upgraded to a new MIB 2 Nvidia Tegra 30 processor that’s capable of processing up to eight billion computations per second for smoother, faster operation. All in all Audi’s MMI is a user-friendly system as long as you give yourself a little time to learn its processes. After that, there’s almost no end to what it can do.
The display screen powers up immediately at startup, incidentally, which is initiated by pressing an ignition button that’s still illogically placed on the British side of the lower console (how I love quirks in cars – RIP Saab). The optional $4,900 15-speaker dash-mounted Bang & Olufsen stereo’s powered dash-mounted tweeters follow suit if so upgraded (but you’d need to step up to an S6 to get it), while the standard memory driver’s seat and mirrors move into position too, which altogether creates quite the sense of occasion if you’re not used to such things. Slot the shifter into reverse and an optional rearview camera sends its feed to the infotainment screen (if you’ve chosen to hide the screen away it will automatically power up before backing up and then retract into its pocket when the gearbox is placed in drive), or optionally an even better surround view monitor gives you a much more thorough 360-degree bird’s-eye viewpoint, while optional front and rear parking sensors beep if you get too close to something that might mar the A6’s beautiful paintwork or glistening chrome moldings, and you’re off unscathed.
At a very reasonable $48,400 plus freight and dealer fees, the just above base A6 2.0 TFSI Quattro Premium Tiptronic (you can get a front-driven seven-speed S Tronic dual-clutch auto-shifted version for $46,200) gets an improved standard equipment list that includes 18-inch alloy wheels and tires, auto on/off HID headlamps, LED daytime running lights, LED turn signals integrated into the side mirror housings, LED taillights,rear fog lamps, new acoustic glazing on the glass for a quieter interior, rain-sensing wipers, a powered moonroof, aluminum scuff plates, an electromechanical parking brake,Audi drive select,heatable eight-way powered front seats with powered lumbar support for the driver, driver-side memory, leather upholstery, a tilt and telescopic leather-wrapped multi-function three-spoke sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, a leather-wrapped gearshift lever, aluminum-optic interior trim, auto-dimming rearview and side mirrors, the latter also power-adjustable and power-folding, tri-zone automatic climate control, a high-resolution five-inch driver information system, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, a five-inch multi-information display, the eight-inch powered infotainment system I noted before, a decent sounding standard AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with 10 speakers, digital radio reception, satellite radio, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity,and two new USB ports in the center console, one replacing the old SUV’s outdated 30-pin iPod plug that connected through to the MMI system and the other one powered (glad you’re getting with the smartphone program Audi), as well as cruise control, 60/40-split rear seatbacks plus a rear seat pass-through, Audi pre-sense frontal crash mitigation, and all the usual safety equipment including knee blockers for the airbag system.
As mentioned my tester included the $1,800 S Line Sport package that includes the 19-inch alloys I spoke of earlier, unique bumpers (that are worth the price of admission alone), and a sport suspension (plus my tester had a sporty black roofliner that’s a zero-dollar swap; while a $3,100 Technology package added a color multi-information display, an upgraded MMI touch infotainment display with navigation and a rearview camera (the latter really should be standard), Audi connect, HD radio, plus front and rear parking sensors; finally a $500 Cold Weather package added a heatable steering wheel and heatable rear outboard seats. The only factory installed standalone feature in Premium trim is a set of rear side-impact airbags for $350.
You can also upgrade to Premium Plus trim for $49,900 in FWD or $52,100 with AWD that adds proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, the no-cost choice of dark brown walnut, lighter-colored layered walnut or fine grain natural ash hardwood inlays, a powered steering column with memory, four-way powered driver’s lumbar support, a larger seven-inch multi-information display, the MMI touch infotainment upgrade with handwriting-recognition technology, Audi Connect, voice activated navigation, Bluetooth audio streaming, INRIX XD Traffic, plus side assist and rear sensing active driver’s aid. Of note, many of the features Audi charges more for come standard with competitors, so make sure to compare the details when shopping or be prepared to pay for the extras with this car.
The $2,550 Driver Assistance package is mostly filled with items that would cost more with rivals too, however, featuring auto high beams, adaptive cruise control with low speed plus stop and go capability, the aforementioned 360-degree surround monitor, autonomous active lane assist, and Audi’s pre-sense plus active safety system. So equipped the newest A6 was given an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating, while all A6 models received a full five-star crash test rating from the NHTSA.
The A6 is not only safe, secure and very nicely equipped, but all of this gear gets added to a four-door sedan that’s very accommodating both front and back, the rear seats allowing room for three adults in comfort, although if only two are aboard a fold-down armrest enhances the art of relaxation. My five-foot-eight frame found more than enough space to stretch out, while I still had inches above my head and in front of my knees making me fairly confident six-footers and taller shouldn’t have a problem fitting in. The 14.1 cubic-foot trunk should be ample for most peoples’ needs too, while the rear seatbacks fold forward in the usual 60/40-split and extra versatility of a pass-through allows more comfortable window seating for two rear occupants while skis or what-have-you are stowed in between.
I mentioned earlier that the A6 was a strong seller, and compared to many of its rivals it does very well with22,850units sold last year for its second best result in 12 years (its best-ever sales were 2014), but compared to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series that found 49,736 and 44,162 buyers respectively in 2015 (and last year’s E-Class and 5 Series numbers were the worst since 2009 and 2010 respectively, the mid-size M-B and BMW losing more than 25- and 16-percent since 2014; the A6 only lost 4.5 percent), it’s a rather distant third. It’s also a drop in the bucket when factored into Audi USA’s total 2015 sales of 202,202 units, which is a gain of 11.1 percent over 2014 and by far the best year it’s ever experienced at almost three times the sales it earned a decade ago. Still, the A6 is a critically important model for maintaining the brand’s overall cachet, and compared to the losses most of its premium competitors experience trying to do likewise it’s an unqualified success. While Lexus did slightly better last year with hits GS at 23,117 units, Infiniti could only pawn off 8,449 Q70s, Lincoln just 6,877 MKS four-doors, Jaguar only 5,933 XF models, whereas Acura a mere 2,195 RLX purchasers, and Volvo a paltry 1,887 S80s. Audi may want to pay close attention to Cadillac, however, who’s larger and therefore repositioned (and very impressive) CTS found 19,485 new owners last year (and previous years have had it in the low 30ks to 60k range), and Tesla blew right past the A6 with a staggering 26,400 Model S sales in 2015. It’s amazing how quickly (and quietly) Tesla’s Model S slipped past Audi into this segment’s third sales slot, and all without the aid of internal combustion power—who could’ve imagined? The times they are a-changin’. This updated A6 should improve sales for the 2016 calendar year, so it appears the race is on.
Of course there’s no “clean” diesel A6 alternative for the time being, the previous TDI a favorite of mine due to its rich torque and super economy, although the A6’s 333 horsepower 3.0 TFSI turns most competitive six-cylinders on their heads for just $57,400; and don’t get me going about the $70,900 450 horsepower S6.
Its few tactile quality issues and need to add a number of optional features that should be standard aside, the Audi A6 is one of those rare sport-luxury sedans that does most everything right, and due to head-turning style, impressive performance and all bases covered on the practical front, is well worth your attention.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press; Copyright: American Auto Press Inc.