What a body! And that just touches the surface (pun intended) of the 2006 Audi A6, competing in the mid-luxury class.
The most profound change for the third generation of this vehicle is the streamlined sheet metal that seemingly morphed from the more upright styling of earlier editions. The A6’s voluptuous shape should garner more interest on the road. The distinctive styling of previous models never translated into increased sales or market share.
The mechanical details under the skin have not changed dramatically. But then again, there was little in terms of handling or performance that the previous A6 lacked. The base power plant, the 3.2 litre V6 motor, with direct FSI (fuel stratified-charge injection) , providing 255 horsepower and 243 lb ft of torque, is a treat to drive. The engine produces power in a usable range and the six-speed TipTronic transmission does an outstanding job finding the right gear almost all the time. I found little reason to use the manual shifter during my time with the car. A more potent package can be had with the 4.2 litre V8. While this engine seems like a shoe in for one’s favorite choice, the paper trail of engine dynamics tells only one side of the story. I found the 4.2 was a bit peaky and not as fluid as the 3.2. For top end speed there’s little argument over which is better suited, but for most driving the smaller model was the hands down winner. That said, 0-100 km/hr speeds in the seven second range are attainable with the six-banger.
Inside the cabin, this model offers comfort galore. The legendary Audi ergonomic experience for driver and passengers carries over to the new A6. Even the MMI (Multi Media Interface) console proved itself intuitive; operating the controls of the heating system and radio became second nature within minutes of picking up the car.
One expects quality – from bank vault solid to living room quiet – from a luxury manufacturer. The A6 doesn’t disappoint. The underpan has been strengthened to lessen flex over previous models, resulting in a tighter, better handling car.
Having been fortunate to drive both the Sedan (introduced in 2005) and the new for 2006 Avant (wagon) versions of the A6, I found both models had a greater presence on the road, than the outgoing models. Its swanky sheet metal gave the car a more affluent feel than its price suggests. The Avant maintains my conviction that Audi builds the most handsome wagons in the business. The attention garnered by it was silly; people kept asking, “what was this car?” It’s a Wagon! Most assumed it was borne of another German manufacturer, failing to notice that the three-pointed star had somehow laid down and split into 4 linked rings?
The dual rail storage system in the Avant wagon challenged me at first but once mastered, the ability to secure odd sized and unusual loads in the rear cargo area offered travelling security. Drivers will appreciate the added safety of this feature and realize the peril in wagons or SUVs lacking cargo restraints.
On the road, you quickly lose the sense that these are large heavy cars. The four-link front suspension and trapezoidal link rear suspension provide excellent feedback from the road in a civilized manner and the Quattro all wheel drive system, helps keep the A6 pointed where you want in a corner or on the straight and narrow. Most of my driving in the A6s was done in the Haliburton region north of Toronto. It was a treat how they performed on rural roads as well as on local and 400 series highways. Over rural roads you clearly noticed the more rigid floorpan of the A6 and the benefits of the Adaptive Air Suspension, allowing you to lower or raise the vehicle or let the computer automatically do it for you depending on road speed and terrain.
From a proven safety standpoint most people quickly notice the Quattro system. But the A6s impressive list of additional safety features includes the Electronic Stability Control (ESP), anti lock brakes with electronic brake distribution and hydraulic brake assist, front driver and passenger side Air bags, driver and passenger side seat mounted chest airbags, rear head curtain airbags, and optional rear side airbags.
Options worth noting are the Adaptive Air Suspension, the DVD Nav system, Adaptive Cruise Control and a power tailgate on the Avant. The Adaptive Cruise Control was a novel radar-based system, which sensed slower moving vehicles and slowed the A6 to maintain a user-set distance. When the road was once again clear, the system automatically resumed the cruising speed. One benefit of the radar-based system over other laser-controlled systems was the radar unit’s ability to operate in bad weather, perhaps when the system was needed most.
Overall it’s hard to find fault with this car. Prices start at $63,210 Cdn. for the sedan and $66,710 Cdn. for the Avant, both equipped with the 3.2 litre power plant. The 4.2 litre V8 in a sedan, will come to you for at least $75,640 Cdn. But when you consider pickup trucks in the $50,000 range, the A6s are automotive bargains.