Audi A6 is a luxurious midsize sports sedan that seats four people in comfort. The A6 lineup was completely redesigned for the 2012 model year, and a new high-performance S6 follows suit for the 2013 model year.
Also new for 2013: The 2013 Audi A6 2.0T is available with all-wheel drive. The 2013 Audi A6 3.0T comes with a top-view camera system and a fuel-saving start/stop system.
The A6 2.0T uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes 211 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and comes standard with front-wheel drive. Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive system with an 8-speed automatic transmission is optional on the 2013 A6 2.0T. Fuel economy for the A6 2.0T is very good, with an EPA-estimated 25/33 mpg City/Highway with the CVT and 20/30 mpg with the 8-speed automatic and Quattro.
The A6 3.0T is silky smooth, and fast. It gets 310 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque out of a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 that produces 310 hp and 325 lb.-ft. of torque. Quattro and the 8-speed automatic transmission are standard, as is Audi's stop/start technology, which turns the engine off during long idles to save fuel. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 18/27 mpg City/Highway. Premium gasoline is recommended.
After a one-year hiatus, a new 2013 Audi S6 returns on the same new chassis the A6 received for 2012. The high-performance S6 is Audi's answer to the BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG. The Audi sits between the two in terms of sportiness, with the BMW suited more for the racetrack, and the Mercedes more of a luxurious cruiser.
Like the A6, the new S6 now has a longer wheelbase and is slightly shorter and wider. The new body is better balanced and more athletic. What differentiates the S6 from the A6 models is a more powerful engine, a sport-tuned adaptive air suspension, upgraded brakes and high-performance tires, as well as unique exterior and interior trim.
At the heart of the 2013 Audi S6 is a new twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8, which replaces the old naturally aspirated V10. The new powerplant cranks out 420 hp and 406 lb.-ft. of torque, and is paired with a dual-clutch 7-speed transmission. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard. Although the new engine in the S6 is slightly less powerful than its predecessor, the 2013 S6 is faster and more efficient than the last generation. Audi estimates the S6 can go from 0-60 mph in less than 4.8 seconds, a full second less than the old model. That's especially impressive, considering the new S6 is about 130 pounds heavier. EPA fuel economy estimates for the 2013 S6 are 17/27 mpg City/Highway, which is impressive considering the car's weight and performance.
A bevvy of electronic safety and convenience features are available on the A6 and S6, including lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warning and night vision. There's even an option that can turn the vehicle's onboard wifi into a wireless hotspot for up to eight wireless-enabled devices.
It's hard to beat Audi's interiors, and the A6 is no exception. One arc flows gracefully into the next, on the dash and door panels, from vents to grab handles. On the 3.0T, the leather is grainy, wood is walnut, trim brushed aluminum. Leather interior on the S6 is quilted in a diamond pattern, and the instrument panel and doors can be trimmed in carbon fiber.
Competitors to the 2013 Audi A6 include the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Jaguar XF. For the S6, buyers might consider the Jaguar XFR-S, BMW M5, and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG.
Audi A6 was completely redesigned for the 2012 model year.
We think the A6 has a beautiful face. We've grown used to Audi's big grilles, which some have likened to the mouth of a largemouth bass. Others have since copied it. On A6 models, the grille slats are black with a chrome surround. On the S6, it's chrome all the way. The S6 also has fog lights integrated into the lower air intakes.
Execution of the shapely aluminum hood is excellent, with horizontal air intakes and wraparound headlamps that are long, sleek and sharp. Its shoulders are like a racecar, with aluminum front fenders. Although taller, the roofline is still sleek with its cool little sharkfin antenna.
In the rear, wide tail lamps stretch across the back and stop squarely at the corners (in contrast to many vehicles now, whose lenses often wrap around far into the rear quarter panels). An integrated rear decklid spoiler looks like a little upturned tail. Quad exhaust pipes on the S6 look like they mean business without looking too flamboyant.
The A6 interior exudes style and class. One arc flows gracefully into the next, on the dash and door panels, from vents to grab handles. Fit and finish is superb, as is the materials quality. On the 3.0T, the wood is walnut, the trim brushed aluminum.
The leather used for the seats is beautiful, but grainy enough to feel, especially sliding in and out. On a five-hour interstate run from Seattle to Portland, we couldn't find pressure points that felt perfect with the standard 8-way power heated seats with lumbar. We all have different tastes and shapes and even moods, which is the hard thing about critiquing seat comfort.
The S6 is another matter. It uses upgraded, Valcona leather, with the same gorgeous diamond stitching found on other S models. Seats are adjustable 12 ways, which provides a wider range of configurability.
The lovely tachometer and speedometer, with clean numbers and needles in organic white light, are the best. The information from needle-on-numbers goes straight to your brain, without the distraction of a fancy face on a gauge.
Between the tach and speedo there's a big space for stacks of digital information; instead of having to scroll through one report at a time, the A6 shows you three or four, including distance to empty (how far you can go before running out of gas). You can also view the navigation illustrations, a safe place to put that information because your eyes don't have to travel. Cars equipped with navigation use Google Earth, which is fun to watch, but it's so highly detailed it can be tough to know where you are at a glance.
A 7-inch color display, hidden when the car is off, pops out of the dash when the car is turned on. Audi's MMI, or Multi Media Interface, works similarly to the systems used both by BMW and Mercedes-Benz. It's controlled by a circular knob surrounded by four buttons. Different drivers have different preferences, but we find this setup less distracting than a touch screen, because you don't have to reach out and lean forward to hit a button. And the screen won't get filled with fingerprints.
If pointing and clicking is too tedious, you can also spell out your navigation requests on a tablet-like space with your fingertip. We were surprised by how well it read scribbling while driving. In theory it's slower than using voice, but we found the voice recognition system unreliable, so for us it was faster just to write.
Cars equipped with the Audi Connect system, which uses a 3G connection to turn the car into a wireless hotspot, can support up to eight WiFi-enabled devices such as phones, iPads or laptops.
Cargo space measures a relatively small 14.1 cubic feet, but standard split-folding rear seats and a pass-through help to create more room when needed.
The 2013 Audi A6 offers two powertrains, a 2.0 turbo and a newer 3.0 supercharged V6. The new S6 features a 420-hp twin-turbocharged V8 that replaces the old naturally aspirated V10. It's all about efficiency, now.
Audi's 2.0-liter turbo engine found in the A6 2.0T is certifiably smooth and relaxed at 80 mph, and is a fine choice if you're content with 211 horsepower. The CVT might not perform as well as the Quattro version with the 8-speed automatic transmission, but it's the best choice for fuel economy. And it costs about $8000 less.
The supercharged V6 in the 3.0T feels like the perfect midsize luxury car engine. All the speed you need, smooth acceleration and a nearly seamless 8-speed transmission. Fuel economy isn't bad, either with an EPA-estimated 19/28 mpg City/Highway, although we got a spectacular 31.6 mpg running with the cruise control set at 72 mph, on premium fuel. Puttering around town, we dropped as low as 16 mpg.
You can drive the A6 in a racy manner without holding back, assuming you know what you're doing and are doing it safely. The unibody chassis is stiffer and lighter, with aluminum hood, front fenders, and suspension bits; and things like laser welds between the roof and side panels make a difference in rigidity. The Servotronic steering is electromechanical and speed sensitive, meaning it gets more precise as the car goes faster.
The versatile suspension stays flat and with you all the way. Our A6 was equipped with the optional Sport Package, including 19-inch wheels with summer performance tires and firmer suspension tuning. Over speed bumps and sharp edges at slower speeds, the ride can surprise you with a small shot now and then, but over unsmooth pavement at 50 mph there's no discomfort.
Quattro all-wheel drive seamlessly shifts power between the front and rear wheels according to the available grip. While cruising on the highway, the front/rear power distribution is split 40/60, but depending on traction demands it can vary from 15/85 to 70/30.
Drive Select, a standard feature, allows the driver to select from four modes (Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Individual) that adjust the transmission, power steering and engine to alter shift points, steering boost and throttle response. With this many options, one of them will be just right for what you're after.
The S6 is like an A6 on steroids. Its 420-hp twin-turbo V8 is strong and responsive, and the variable sport air suspension manages the S6's weight beautifully around corners. With its upgraded brakes, the S6 stops quickly.
Like the A6, the S6 also uses Drive Select. Around town, we recommend Comfort or Auto mode for the smoothest ride and best fuel economy (although we realize some would consider this a waste of the S6's potential). On city streets, we found Dynamic mode to feel twitchy, with jackrabbit-like acceleration and grabby brakes. On high-speed sweepers or twisty canyon roads, Dynamic mode was well-suited to the task. But it lacks the seamless refinement of the sport mode found on the BMW M5. We were fond of the Dynamic mode's enhanced exhaust note, however.
The Audi A6 offers speed, style, technology and comfort with good fuel mileage. The S6 splits the difference nicely between track-ready performance and ultimate luxury.
Sam Moses filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after his test drive of the A6 3.0T in Washington state, with Laura Burstein reporting from Los Angeles.