2009 Audi A6 | road test

Posted on Jan 27, 2009 by


Following in the RS’ tyre tracks and hot on its tail around the Losail circuit, is the new, face-lifted A6. This is the supercharged, 3-litre, V6 quattro model; the very top of the A6 range, and even with exactly half the power of the RS6; ‘just’ 290bhp compared to 580, it still feels nicely quick. Acceleration through the 6-speed tiptronic gearbox is brisk, especially when into a constant surge. You’ll notice the back-to-back power-loss to the RS when the A6 gets caught in too high a gear and cannot depend on the mountains of torque that its big brother can. Nonetheless, for a big, comfortable car, that returns respectable fuel efficiency figures (9.4l / 100km; EU cycle), the A6 can get an impressive move on, and in some ways, dare I say it; it was even a little more fun to drive than the beastly and hence, over-governed, RS.

The A6 ESP is, to be blunt, less intelligent than the ‘auto pilot’ found in the RS model, and as such, lets you get away with a little more before it cuts in and theoretically, saves the day. It’s not down to skimping on the odd computer chip, it’s more down to the fact that the A6 needs less computerised control than the RS 6 – if you let the RS 6 get away with even a little of the wild stuff, in inexperienced hands, things could get serious. In short, the A6 has less potential bad behaviour to keep in check – it’s like a smaller tiger with blunter claws, that’s in a much better mood.

So, you can actually get the A6 fairly out-of-shape through the narrow twists and turns of the Losail motorcycle circuit, laying on plenty of tyre squeal and a dab of rear-end over steer, for good-grins-measure, too. Everything feels a little ‘looser’ than the RS, in that, as a less focused model, you will experience slightly more body-roll and slightly less mechanical grip in the A6, but in many respects it can make for a more ‘lively’ drive. In the right hands, the mighty RS 6 would trounce almost all competition, including the A6, but for some wilder fun, without fear of bite-back-reprisals, the A6 is a good bit of Audi kit.

Whilst Audi’s research and development track time is clearly evident in every one of their models, the A6 was never designed as a track day weapon, and it’s its comfort, character and, in some ways, charisma that are really on test here. Does the A6 deliver everything the other top German brands do? In terms of driving dynamics its proven itself well on the track today, but what about the other important tick-boxes: Executive style, smooth operation, relaxing interior and badge cache?

Executive style has never really be a problem for the Audis of late; their mature design, technological leading edge and general refinement has afforded them a strong and loyal following for those who see themselves as less brash than BMW and not old enough for Mercedes. The revised A6 takes this mature and modern design to a natural, higher evolution over the previous incarnation, thanks mainly to a sharpening of edges, aggressive LED-enhanced head-lighting, and simple, but very pleasingly proportioned taillights, again utilising spacey-looking LEDs. Understatement is the key, as with all Audis, but the new A6 misses the blandness boat with clever use of subliminal styling.

There is actually rather a lot of detail in the A6 front end. The front splitter that kinks-up in the middle, just under the trademark trapezoid grille and fog light pods that feature black inserts and detailed ‘fins.’ All of this helps to break-up the nose of the car, and offers-up the kind of attention to detail that exudes design heritage and high production values. With the latest in xenon headlights and LEDs, an underlined and sharpened stare from the A6 now meets your eye. It looks purposeful, without the threat that its about to bite.



From the back, again, it’s all about the clean and the detailed. Rear light styling, as ridiculous as it may seem, is a huge part of a car’s, and a manufacturer’s identity. Get it right and you have an instant attraction that people can’t quite put their finger on, get it wrong and you have an instant and illuminated turn-off. Straightforward as they are, Audi have got the rear lights right. A simple taper towards the numberplate recess is all it’s taken to modernise the A6 rear end, and again they’ve employed LEDs to increase the dramatic effect. Add in the cleanly curving rear bumper, a meshed-out rear diffuser (only seen in more sporty models) flanked by twin circular, slash-cut tailpipes, and you’ve got a refreshed look that’s ready for 2009 and beyond.

Once inside the A6, it’s again evident that the Audi plan was one of evolution, not revolution. The previous A6 sold well for Audi, with many of the units delivered to customers with higher specification engines and interiors. So, give the customers what they want: More (and 15% leaner) engine choices, thanks to three power plants (ranging through 170, 220 and 290bhp) and many more interior choices, thanks to the S line sports enhancements package and the Audi exclusive program.

The Audi exclusive program offers customers a free range over many interior styling aspects of their new Audi. It will take Audi around an extra two months to complete a car to your heart’s desire, but, as it’s turned out, many customers find the satisfaction of designing their own interior space more than a sufficient payback for the extra wait.  You can pick out many different leather and Alcantara colours, as you can with many different inlay materials and colours. In fact, using the in-dealership, virtual specification builder, you can design an Audi that is all your own, and hopefully, totally individual. However, if you are colour blind, it might be an idea to take a friend along, too. Build quality is, unlike taste, always assured.

Audi makes much press from its high technology standpoint, and with the A6 models nearly reaching the top of the Audi range you’d be right to expect a decent stack of the latest gizmos and gadgets.  Interesting new assistance systems, such as the optional Audi side assist works at speeds above 30 km/h, as the driver changes lanes. Its radar sensors spot vehicles up to 50 meters behind and if a lane change shows dangerous potential, a yellow LED in the side mirror lights up. Other high-tech assistance systems include the Audi parking system plus and the optional Audi parking system advanced, with a rear-view camera.

With all the major and desirable boxes well ticked, the revised A6 looks set to continue Audi’s success in the hotly contested executive sedan segment. As for badge cache, cars like the A6, RS 6, A5 and R8 can only bolster Audi’s strong and strengthening brand image in this region.

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