Pros: Lovely supercharged V6, nimble handling, top-shelf interior, technology galore.
Cons: Base engine is short on power, CVT leaves us cold, back seat comfort could be better.
What's New: The big news for the 2013 A6 is that the 4-cylinder 2.0T model can now be paired with an 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive.
The responsive 2013 Audi A6 reminds us of how midsize sport sedans used to be. Blessed with an athletic chassis, great outward visibility and available quattro all-wheel drive, the A6 is a no-nonsense driver's car. It's also a decidedly fast car with the optional supercharged 3.0T V6. By contrast, the once-unrivaled BMW 5 Series has gone soft as of late, and no other competitor has stepped in to fill the void. That's why we think a properly equipped A6 is arguably the best-driving sedan in its class.
Audi rarely mentions the entry-level A6 2.0T model, however, and that's not surprising if you know the details. The 2.0T coaxes just 211 horsepower from its turbocharged inline-4, which is easily the lowest output in this segment. What's more, the front-wheel-drive 2.0T is saddled with a continuously variable automatic (CVT) that further compromises the car's performance.
But here's the good news: for 2013, the 2.0T offers quattro and a satisfying 8-speed conventional automatic as an alternative to the standard front-wheel-drive/CVT configuration. That means there's finally a decent intermediate option between the ho-hum base model and the supercharged 3.0T. Although the 2.0T quattro holds steady with 211 horses, it's a much more confident and engaging car from behind the wheel.
Of course, every A6 has a beautifully crafted interior with cutting-edge technology, and we love the understated exterior styling, too. If you're after a midsize sport sedan in the mold of BMWs past, the 2013 Audi A6 just might be your next ultimate driving machine.
Comfort & Utility
The A6 is offered in three trim levels: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. The first two are available with either the turbo four or the supercharged V6, while the Prestige comes only with the V6.
The Premium starts with 17-inch alloy wheels; LED taillights; a sunroof; keyless entry with push-button ignition; Audi's Drive Select system (featuring electronic adjustments for steering, throttle and transmission calibrations); leather upholstery; tri-zone automatic climate control (including separate rear controls); power front seats (heated in the 3.0T model) with driver lumbar adjustment; a tilt-telescopic steering wheel; Bluetooth; a 10-speaker audio system and MMI Radio Plus?a basic version of Audi's Multi-Media Interface that includes a 6.5-in power-retracting TFT display screen; full iPod integration; a console-mounted control knob; and twin SD-card slots.
The Premium Plus adds 18-in alloy wheels; Xenon headlamps with LED accents; parking sensors; an upgraded driver information display for the gauge cluster; a navigation system with Google Earth compatibility and voice recognition software; available in-car wireless Internet; and the "MMI touch" handwriting recognition pad.
The V6-only Prestige tops things off with Audi's S line exterior treatment, adaptive Xenon headlamps, cooled seats, a power tilt-telescoping steering wheel, quad-zone automatic climate control (including two sets of controls for rear passengers), and a Bose audio system.
Many of the higher trims' features are available on lower trims as options. Also offered are a Bang & Olufsen audio system (Prestige only); adaptive cruise control; and a Sport package that brings a lowered suspension; a 3-spoke steering wheel with shift paddles; and wheel sizes ranging from 18-20 inches.
The A6's cabin is a thing of beauty. The materials used are exceptionally nice, and practically every button, lever and knob oozes class. We're surprised that there's only one front-seat style, though, as the rather plain standard seats don't provide much lateral support. Audi's Sport packages typically contribute more enthusiastic seats, but the A6's packages don't?not yet, at least. BMW still leads the way here with its fabulous multi-contour chairs.
Ergonomically, the A6 is pretty sound for such a high-tech car. As in other Audis, little things like adjusting the fan speed can be needlessly complex, but most major controls are straightforward. Moreover, MMI has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years, with simplified menu structures and extra physical buttons that give you a fighting chance of accomplishing tasks while driving.
We're a bit disappointed in the A6's back seat. There's adequate legroom, but the bottom cushion is rather low for a conventionally styled sedan, so passengers with longer legs will notice a lack of under-thigh support. If satisfying those in back is a top priority, check out the Infiniti M. One thing we do appreciate about the A6's rear quarters is the standard separate climate controls, which even gain dual-zone functionality in the 3.0T Prestige.
The A6's trunk measures 14.1 cu-ft.
The A6 is a technophile's dream. Well, mostly. If you like to keep your mp3s on a flash drive, you'll have to adapt, as the A6 rolls with SD-card slots instead of a USB port. But that's a mere footnote. Just look at all the standard kit you get, from iPod/Bluetooth integration to a ten-speaker stereo with those SD slots and a nifty MMI display screen that retracts into the dash. And then there's the Premium Plus trim level's upgrades, including a beautiful color driver information display between the gauges, a navigation system that can display Google Earth street views and even a crazy little touch-pad that can decipher the commands you scribble onto it. It's hard to pick a clear technology champ in this geeked-out segment, but the A6 is a strong contender.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The A6 2.0T features a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 rated at 211 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive with a continuously variable automatic (CVT) is standard. We like Audi's 2.0T engine in the abstract, but it feels overmatched in a fancy luxury sedan, and the CVT is an imprecise tool.
We're much bigger fans of the 2.0T's optional 8-speed conventional automatic transmission, which comes bundled with quattro all-wheel drive. The extra kit does add about 150 lb at the scales, but it gives the 4-cylinder A6 a crisper, more buttoned-down feel on the road.
The A6 3.0T, meanwhile, is a whole new ballgame with its supercharged 3.0-liter V6 rated at 310 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. Both the 8-speed automatic and quattro are mandatory here. The 3.0T's V6 is exceptionally refined, and it delivers authoritative acceleration well into criminal territory. We'd only ask for smoother shifts from the 8-speed automatic, particularly in manual mode, which sometimes seems confused by the 3.0T's added muscle.
The EPA rates the 2.0T with front-wheel drive at 25 mpg city/33 mpg highway; adding the 8-speed automatic and quattro results in a 20/30 mpg rating. Those aren't stellar numbers for a modest 4-cylinder engine. Given the 3.0T's huge power advantage, its 18/27 mpg rating is quite respectable, though the EPA gave it a slightly better 19/28 mpg rating last year.
The A6 comes with standard stability control and 4-wheel antilock disc brakes. The 3.0T models get ventilated rear disc brakes, while the 2.0T has solid rear discs. Eight airbags are standard (front, front side, front knee, full-length side-curtain), and rear side airbags are optional.
The A6 had yet to be crash-tested by the government as of this writing, but the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the A6 its top rating of "Good" in every category.
Although the current A6 continues to utilize a front-wheel-drive platform, its weight distribution has never been more balanced, and the quattro all-wheel-drive system can send up to 60 percent of the engine's power to the rear wheels for improved driver control. The result is a car that drives smaller and lighter than it really is, especially with one of the Sport packages in place. The ride isn't as buttery-smooth as in some other fancy luxury sedans, however, so we suggest staying away from the gorgeous 20-in wheels, tempting as they may be. Notably, we prefer the A6's standard steering without the expensive Drive Select technology suite, as the latter adds an artificial feel to the former's quick, intuitive responses.
Other Cars to Consider
BMW 5 Series: The 4-cylinder 528i easily outpaces the A6 2.0T, albeit at a higher price, while the V8-powered 550i eclipses even the 3.0T. We'd rather be driving the Audi, though.
Infiniti M: Infiniti's midsize luxury sedan has an exquisite interior, including a wonderfully supportive back seat, and it also packs a serious punch under the hood in either V6 (M37) or V8 (M56) spec.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class: The E-Class's driving dynamics are conservative relative to the A6's, but we love the way the E barrels down the highway, and the E550's new twin-turbocharged V8 is intoxicatingly strong.
Enthusiastic drivers now have two legitimate choices: the 2.0T quattro or the 3.0T quattro. We naturally prefer the pricey 3.0T for its supercharged wallop and still-respectable fuel economy, and yes, we'd spring for the Premium Plus trim, because having Google Earth along for the ride is too cool to pass up.