From the April 1995 issue of Car and Driver.
If you crave a refined German sedan but have prayed for a price cut as deep as the Mariana Trench, salvation may be yours. Audi calls it the A6. Ours had Audi’s famed Quattro four-wheel-drive system, now attractively packaged as a stand-alone feature costing only $1500 over front drive. All told, our test car wore a base price of less than $33,000 delivered—a savings of $12,000 compared with the 100CS Quattro it replaces.
The A6 badge tells us this is Audi’s “big” (okay, upper mid-size) sedan with the “small” engine. The 2.8-liter V-6 offers only single overhead cams, two valves per cylinder, and a modest 172 hp. For landed gentry requiring a substantially larger and more excitable herd of ponies, Audi’s aluminum A8 with a 295-hp 4.2-liter V-8 may soon thunder over with a top speed of 155 mph and a price of, oooh, $70,000.
More A6 Reviews From the Archive
In the early 1980s, the forebear of the A6 arrived as the slick 5000. The first digit stood for its five-cylinder engine, though the car was revered for its primary innovation, which was adding “aero” to the dynamics of a sedan. (Alas, in the late ’80s, Audis with automatic transmissions were wrongly accused of “unintended acceleration” by addled folk who just could not seem to drive and push pedals at the same time, hitting throttle instead of brake.)
Audi, facing rivals with newer and less pricey models, has polished its products and pared prices. It’s done that with increased productivity and by juggling features. Along with standard power steering, air conditioning, and cruise control, base A6s get dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes, an adjustable steering wheel, power for the locks, windows, sunroof, and driver’s seat, plus rear defroster and wiper. So the A6 is substantially less expensive than the old 100CS Quattro, which admittedly came with more standard luxury features.
HIGHS: Handsomized aero envelope, blissful controls and manners, and added comforts despite a reduced price.
Audi’s improvements look and feel more than sheetmetal deep. Sort of like liposuction and aerobics that zing the body electric but never buzz your bones. Beginning with the wedgy hood, fresh fold-over nose, aero lights, blended trim and bumpers in body color, and subtle fender flares, the body wears a brawnier yet slicker look—tricky to pull off.
The ellipsoid headlights show Audi’s enlightenment. To cut drag, fog lights are fitted in the sleek headlight housings. The headlights are uniformly white. The low-beams have a crisp upper cutoff. High-beam coverage is now so vast and vivid that drivers coming up to pass often slow sharply when you switch to dim as they go on by, an eye-opening reminder that they’re probably overdriving their lights.
For drivers who want a hand in the power delivery, Audi offers a choice between a four-speed automatic or the five-speed manual gearbox that we tested—and loved. Its feathery clutch and shifter make it as effortless as a deft automatic, just as good at flowing away from stoplights and slipping through city traffic and along interstates. Its buttery heel-and-toe action for matching revs while simultaneously braking and downshifting makes it just as good for swooping along sinuous byways.
To look at the V-6, you’d think it was a big-block V-8. It wears blocky cosmetic trim of the sort BMW popularized on its motorcycle and sports-sedan engines. If the V-6 ran as big as it looks, Audi wouldn’t need the V-8. But Audi promotes its smooth V-6 for fuel economy. It averaged 20 mpg despite our throttle abuse, and even then provided a comfortable 400-mile range from the 21.1-gallon tank.
LOWS: Unadventurous engine output, somber interior decor, lackluster stereo.
The A6 Quattro, partly burdened by its extra driveline components, weighed 3627 pounds. Hampered by its innate reluctance to break the tires loose—its best feature on slithery roads—it turned in a modest 0-to-60-mph run of 8.3 seconds. Yet we blasted to a governor-limited peak of 127 mph (enough to make us wonder what it would do with two little turbos).
Audi’s four-wheel discs and ABS produce good braking feel, but all-out stops from 70 mph required a mediocre 191 feet. The A6’s all-independent suspension handles almost everything well, and the all-weather treads of the smallish Goodyear Eagle GAs produce a reasonable 0.79 g on the skidpad. This sizable sedan can also turn in a circle of less than 35 feet, and its longish tail provides a 17-cubic-foot trunk that also contains a pass-through to the rear seat with a watertight ski bootie.
The cabin looks surprisingly darker than we’ve come to expect from the warmer, lighter colors glowing within most recent Audis. Then again, maybe the more somber leather and wood suit the deep metallic green of its shell, which shows the best part of its reflective spectrum in soft sunlight. The sweeping dashboard and sizable console are triumphs of efficiency, and the seats are fine for cruising and supportive enough for brisk romps. Footroom in the rear cabin, however, is still cut short by the front buckets’ low-hanging position-adjustment motors.
The A6’s optional sound system is a cooperative effort between Audi and Bose, which may not live up to much fanfare once you’ve heard it through the speakers. Because it costs $620 and the CD changer in the trunk adds another $790, you may want to listen before you leap at bumping the bottom line that much. Optional leather seats added another $1460, and a $1000 package of comfort and convenience items (see specs) plus associated luxury tax helped bloat the total to just under $37,000. That’s considerably more than the relatively low base price. But at this level of sophistication, the A6 Quattro’s talents qualify it as blissfully cost-effective.
The Quattro issues a year-around invite to propel yourself almost anywhere far away because it’s prone to keeping its feet planted—a help to drivers who know what they’re doing, and a godsend for those who don’t but would like to hang around long enough to learn.
VERDICT: To pronounce it benign is not to label it a vitamin, but its V-6 could use a few.
If the beefy A6 looks less, um, “B9” than its predecessor, it is very benign in the way it drives. That’s a high compliment for a sleek sedan that, presuming you have a feel for subtle dynamics, is also a real sweetie to drive.
Arrow pointing downArrow pointing down
1995 Audi A6 Quattro
Vehicle Type: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
Base/As Tested: $32,545/$36,802
Options: leather seats, $1460; comfort and convenience package (power passenger’s seat, memory driver’s seat, remote locking, glass sunroof), $1000; CD changer, $790; Bose sound system, $620; luxury tax on options, $387
DOHC 24-valve V-6, iron block and aluminum heads, port fuel injection
Displacement: 169 in3, 2771 cm3
Power: 172 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 184 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
Suspension, F/R: multilink/control arm
Brakes, F/R: 11.3-in vented disc/9.6-in disc
Tires: Goodyear Eagle GA
Wheelbase: 105.8 in
Length: 192.6 in
Width: 70.2 in
Height: 56.6 in
Passenger Volume, F/R: 51/43 ft3
Trunk Volume: 17 ft3
Curb Weight: 3627 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 8.3 sec
1/4-Mile: XX.X sec @ XXX mph
100 mph: 24.0 sec
120 mph: 43.1 sec
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 8.9 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 11.1 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 10.2 sec
Top Speed (gov ltd): 127 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 191 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.79 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 20 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
City/Highway: 18/24 mpg
C/D TESTING EXPLAINED