Finessed 2016 Audi A6 remains a class leader

Powertrain, infotainment, and styling tweaks fine-tune a desirable luxury sedan

Published: July 17, 2015 09:00 AM

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The Audi A6 has been our Top Pick among mid-sized luxury sedans for a couple of years now. With its well-mannered ride, supremely quiet cabin, athletic handling, punchy performance, all-wheel-drive and decent fuel economy, it’s no wonder. And a 2016 freshening brings some welcome updates, ensuring the A6 remains a leader in the tough luxury sedan class.

Chief among the notable changes, the supercharged 3.0-liter V6 makes 333 horsepower now, and the new 2.0-liter turbo four is good for 252 ponies. The infotainment system got an update, and thicker window glass makes this executive express even quieter. The front-drive version, available only with the 2.0-liter, sheds its CVT in favor of a seven-speed dual-clutch automated unit. 

Audis’ interiors have always been top-drawer, elegant but not gaudy, as exemplified here by matte-finish walnut, brushed-chrome trim, and supple leather upholstery. As before, the A6 offers plenty of space—and very comfortable seats—front and rear.

We recently sampled an updated 2016 A6 Quattro (all-wheel drive), equipped with the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, which routes its power through a smooth, responsive eight-speed automatic.

If we had misgivings about a smallish four-cylinder engine taking responsibility for a good-sized luxury car, this powerplant quickly set our collective mind at ease. It packs plenty of grunt, and someone would need a keen ear to discern this Four from a V6. One feature we found subpar was the gas-saving automatic engine stop/start system, which doesn’t operate very smoothly. Thankfully, you can shut it off. If excellent fuel economy tops your wish list, consider the diesel version, called TDI in Audi parlance. A while back we tested a V6 diesel in an Audi A7, and averaged 28 mpg overall. Though the diesel was plenty strong, it wouldn’t match the effortless and velvety thrust of the supercharged V6.

Refinement is impressive, with a super-quiet cabin and bump-smothering suspension that produces a composed ride on even the most ravaged roads. While the A6 is responsive and rewarding to drive, with athletic handling and well-judged steering, it doesn’t stack up to a BMW or Mercedes-Benz when pushed to the hairy edge.

As if to compensate, Audi tries to beat its German rivals in the infotainment department. That’s just as well, because we suspect that many customers care more about their car’s audio and communications infrastructure than its race-track behavior anyway. Connectivity is comprehensive, and the vivid map graphics on the dash display screen are even clearer than those of the impressive Tesla Model S. The built-in Wi-Fi hotspot is a cinch to use, as well.

At first glance, Audi's MMI infotainment system has a lot going on, but the system’s logic is easy to comprehend. A good-sized screen emerges from the dash in a well-choreographed way, while a big, easy-to-grasp center-console knob manages audio, phone, navigation and other functions. There’s also a touchpad for tracing out letters for entering destination addresses with your finger. It all works rather well especially when you learn to use the steering wheel controls and convenient, simple-to-operate instrument-cluster display for scrolling through and choosing radio presets or phone contacts.

Conventional touches are also appreciated. The climate controls are separated from other systems, making them easier to use while driving than the setups in rival luxury sedans. The instrument cluster display screen shows trip-computer info, such as fuel use, or, when using the navigation system, and Google Earth map images and information.

It’s nice to see that Audi has finally gotten with the program, supplying simple USB ports for connecting smartphones and such, rather than relying on fussy proprietary interface cables.

No one ever said that high quality and a gourmet palate come cheap. This A6 2.0T Quattro, in typical mid-level Premium Plus trim, brings the uplevel infotainment system, a warm-weather package with side and rear sunshades, stylish 19-inch wheels, and walnut inlays. All in, this car stickers for $55,775. Considering all the boxes this car ticks off, though, that’s not outrageous. And more importantly, this pampering package exhibits why the Audi A6 has become a class leader.

Gabe Shenhar

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