2016 Audi A6: Blame it on the SUVs!

Published on November 3, 2014 in First Drives by Sylvain Raymond

When it comes to full-size SUVs, competition for first place is fierce among the top three German automakers. Not only do all three boast prestige—a major consideration for buyers—they also offer such outstanding quality that other contenders have a hard time keeping up.

Introduced in 2011, the current generation of the A6 will be moderately refreshed for 2016. A few tweaks will help it keep pace with the other frontrunners while Audi plans a more serious overhaul for a little later. In short, we’ll notice some nips and tucks, but nothing ground-breaking.

The grass is always greener

The A6 is sold in several countries and the sad truth is that not all the trims make their way to Canada. Since North Americans love their SUVs, the wagon version of the A6 (called the A6 Avant) isn’t imported to this side of the Atlantic, much to the dismay of people who like that kind of car. The same goes for the allroad, a relatively popular trim once sold in our country.

But the absence that we really feel—and high-performance buffs will agree—is that of the RS6. While it has the brand’s mild-mannered looks, the RS6 is a true beast powered by a 560-hp 4.0-litre turbo V8. It’s a dream car for anyone looking for a machine capable of blasting down the track one day and driving the kids to hockey practice the next.

Canada’s A6

On our side of the pond, it’s a lot easier to keep the A6 lineup straight, because the only model offered is a four-door sedan. It’s the same deal at BMW, where they’re trying (but not yet succeeding) to add some variety to the 5 Series by tacking on a GT with a hatchback rather than a traditional trunk. It seems that the only one of the three who still believes in the wagon is Mercedes-Benz, which offers up the E-Class.

At least Audi still offers buyers some choice for the drivetrain, the only aspect that still stands a chance of getting your heart pumping as you shop for an A6. The base trim is the A6 2.0T which, as its name suggests, is equipped with a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder. With 252 horsepower, it delivers 32 more ponies than the current model and is now in line with the competition’s entry-level models. All A6 trims come with quattro all-wheel drive, which is definitely a good thing.

For added prestige (and an extra $7,000), you can opt for an A6 with a 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine that now pumps out 333 horsepower compared to 310 in the previous model. The engineers improved fuel efficiency by adding a new electromagnetic clutch that deactivates the supercharger when loads and speeds are lower.

The 3.0 TDI diesel version is back without any real changes to speak of, but its hefty price makes it less popular than the diesel offered at Mercedes-Benz.

The sportiest in the bunch is the S6. While it’s not as feisty as the RS6, it can nonetheless send shivers down your spine thanks to its 4.0-litre eight-cylinder engine that churns out 450 horsepower (30 more than before). The increased power isn’t what caught our attention as much as the rich rumble of its engine. After all, its purr is something you can appreciate a lot more often than the 1.5 seconds they shaved off the 0-100 km/h sprint.

The Tornado line

Tornado. That’s what Audi decided to call the A6’s key style inspiration. But since full-size luxury sedan owners are more often drawn to refined taste and rational choices, the model is evolving gently. The sedan has kept its serious, elegant lines, but updated its style with LED headlamps. The front grille and panel have been modestly updated, the tail lights are new, the exhaust tips are wider and different rims have been introduced.

Extroverts are more likely to choose the S6 over its counterparts for its distinctive style and sporty aptitudes. They’ll find the same qualities in the passenger compartment. While the interior of the A6 makes use of neutral tones and wood accents, the S6 shakes things up a bit with Alcantara seats and carbon fibre appliques. Comfort, however, is available in spades on all models. After all, isn’t comfort the main reason for choosing this type of vehicle? All passengers are treated to ample space, especially head and leg room. The dashboard is uncomplicated and the layout of the controls is excellent. Audi really does make great interiors.

On the road

Let there be no mistake: The A6 was built for comfort. If you’re looking for a lightweight, agile sedan, choose the A4/S4 instead. With more horses and torque at lower speeds, the TSFI four-cylinder engine delivers much better performances and can jet the car from 0-100 km/h in just 6.7 seconds. Not to mention the fact that its average fuel consumption is 5.9L/100 km.

Despite its size, the A6 offers a balanced ride and serious braking. There are countless safety systems, but the best system of all is the all-wheel drive. The quattro system is purely mechanical and in everyday driving conditions its limited-slip centre differential transfers 60% of torque to the rear axle and 40% to the front axle. But when conditions change, it can distribute anywhere from 70% to the front to 85% to the rear.

There’s no question that this category is replete with great choices. The A6 scores points for great overall balance and an exceptional cabin.

Test drive report
Test model 2015 Audi A6
Trim level 2.0T
Price range $53,500 – $85,500
Price as tested 53 500 $
Warranty (basic) 4 years/80,000 km
Warranty (powertrain) 4 years/80,000 km
Fuel economy (city/highway/observed) 9,4 / 7,1 / N/A L/100km
Options N/A
Competitive models BMW 5 Series, Jaguar XF, Lexus GS, Lincoln MKS, Volvo S80
Strong points
  • Nice selection of engines
  • More power than ever
  • Interior fit and trim
  • Gotta love the diesel
Weak points
  • Costly options
  • Stern style
  • The diesel is really expensive
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