Miser-scmidt: Audi A6 (2006)
If you’ve driven past the gleaming Audi showroom on EDSA lately, then you would have seen a large window decal that reads: 19 km/liter. Fuel economy is an unusual selling point for luxury sedans, but then nobody likes to be parted from money unnecessarily. As Europeans know all too well, the technology that makes it possible to combine high fuel economy and luxury-sedan performance is diesel propulsion. In the case of the Philippines, with a diesel pump at practically every street corner, the market is ripe for diesel-powered super-sedans. We sample Audi’s new entry to the field, the A6 midsize sedan powered by a 3.0 liter diesel V6.
Audi sedans have always been models of elegant understatement. The second-generation A6 in particular was a rolling minimalist sculpture, memorable for the way its fender, headlamp and bumper met up like a piece of Bauhaus furniture. The current model continues that theme, with its clean-cut lines and thin, coupe-like roof. Despite the corporate grille that’s reminiscent of the Joker’s grin, the A6 continues to be an attractive interpretation of a luxury sedan.
The sleek roofline exacts a penalty in ingress/egress. Rear-seat passengers have to bow their heads to avoid conking them when entering the A6. Will Smith probably wouldn’t mind, but Angela Merkel won’t be happy with that. Once inside, though, passengers have plenty of space to stretch out. Our A6 was not the long-wheelbase version designed for the Chinese market, but legroom is abundant even in the back. Shoulder room of the rear seat is wide enough for three adults, but the large center tunnel makes it comfortable only for two.
The driver faces a functional environment, with traditional-looking round gauges and a video screen. There are some bits of cheesiness, such as the push-button glove box release, and there’s a lack of overtly luxurious touches. Overall, the cabin exudes the air of a cool, state-of-the-art driving environment. Refreshingly, there’s no wood anywhere in this cabin and judicious use of aluminum livens up the all-black interior.
In past encounters, we’ve found Audi’s MMI interface to be user-friendly thanks to its menu-driven system. This time, the screen froze for several hours and endless tinkering on the road and while parked couldn’t make it work again. We’ve had enough frozen-screen moments from our laptop, and certainly didn’t want to experience it again while driving. The system righted itself by the end of the day and continued to be its normal, efficient self after that.
This wouldn’t be an Audi without heavy doses of technology, and there’s plenty of high-tech in the drivetrain alone. The engine we drove is the new 3.0 liter diesel V6. The fuel delivery system uses a high-pressure common rail line and new-technology piezo injectors. Piezo injectors use ceramic crystals to which a voltage is applied to vary their structure. They permit injection of smaller and more precisely metered amounts of fuel at higher injection pressures. The engine uses an injection pressure of 1600 bar—reportedly the equivalent of a midsize car pressing down on an area the size of a fingernail. The result is 225 hp and a brawny 450 Nm from just off idle. Furthermore, it allows the A6 to beat stringent Euro-4 emissions standards without the need for a diesel particulate filter.
On the road, the diesel delivers powerful acceleration. The long-travel accelerator gives the driver full discretion in dispensing torque. Keep the pedal pressure light, and the A6 burbles pleasantly up to highway speed. We were even fooled into thinking that the car is slow. But if you need quick overtaking, there’s a huge reserve of acceleration available. Bury the pedal, and the A6 will rocket past other traffic, even on the highway. The factory quotes 0-100 km/h in 7.3 seconds. Whether on the office run or on the drag strip, the diesel does it with a whisper.
The Audi/VW group’s innovative DSG clutchless-manual transmission hasn’t filtered up to the A6 line yet; instead, there’s a conventional six-speed automatic. It responds smartly and unobtrusively. If you want to change gears yourself, you can override the computer by toggling the gear level or pulling on shift paddles behind the steering wheel. Manual override is available any time, even in full-automatic Drive mode.
Underneath the sleek bodywork is a conventional steel chassis. With the diesel engine and all-wheel drive hardware, the Audi A6 tips the scales at a hefty 1625 kg. That makes it more luxury yacht than jetski. Despite the low-effort steering, it certainly doesn’t feel light on its feet. The heavy nose and all-wheel drive contribute to understeer. For quick overtaking, we usually had to toggle the automatic transmission down two gears.
On the plus side, the sedan shrugs off bumps and potholes, and feels as secure as a bank vault. It feels firmly planted no matter the road surface or weather condition. The Quattro all-wheel drive system automatically splits torque among all four wheels, ensuring positive traction even on treacherous surfaces. The system may exact a weight penalty, but few cars feel as confident driving up to Tagaytay on slick, wet roads. Braking is similarly confident, with a firm pedal.
With its restrained styling and relatively obscure badge, the Audi A6 is not for everyone. With its insipid chassis, the 3.0 TDi version is not for the sporty driver either. But for anyone who wants an elegantly designed, all-weather sedan than returns double digits in fuel mileage, this one should be the prime candidate.
Text By Jason K. Ang | Photos By Ulysses Ang