The Audi A6 had emblazoned on its front doors in a font that myopics could read: “TDI Clean Diesel.” Which, for a number of reasons, is a good thing. For one, anyone who’d look at this handsome sedan would probably never imagine that it would be powered by a diesel engine, as diesels, at least in the minds of many Americans, are still those clattering, noisy, smelly things that contractors have in pickup trucks (the big rig implementation goes without saying). In Germany, you’d be hard pressed to find a car like the A6 that doesn’t come with a diesel. Perhaps things will change in the U.S., at least to the extent that the German OEMs continue to offer compression ignition options for their cars, not just trucks. (Quick: name the U.S. domestic car that’s available with a diesel? Chevy Cruze. That’s it. And if you want to buy a light-duty truck with a diesel, again the choice is singular: Ram 1500. Utility? Jeep Grand Cherokee. That leaves two more fingers to count on. Clearly, U.S. OEMs are not sold on diesels. And the Japan-based brands are pretty much hybrid-centric when it comes to their powertrain alternatives, as you can buy a Lexus, Acura or Infiniti with a hybrid, no problem.)
The second reason why that labeling (which, by the way, you’re not going to see offered in the Audi spec sheet as an optional graphic—thankfully) was helpful is because it reminded me that it was a diesel. There was no other cue. No clattering of the high-pressure injectors. No smell of diesel exhaust. Nothing. One might argue that the performance, as in good low-end torque, should have been a cue, but I figured that it was a German sedan built for the Autobahn, so performance low, medium and high should be notable across the board. One might argue that the general miles per gallon in the high 20s range should have been a giveaway, but again I figured that with contemporary spark-ignition engines being as good as they are, that was nothing of real particular note.
There was one giveaway, however, which is that on the gauge cluster in the top left-hand corner, there was a range estimation. When I first got in the car, it read “560 miles.” Here’s the thing: yes, diesels are more expensive, both to buy straight up and to refuel (diesel fuel, at least around southeastern Michigan, tends to have a hefty premium on the price of premium). But the amount of refueling that you’ll do with a diesel is going to be significantly less than if the car was powered by gasoline, so saving yourself time visiting your local gas station is probably a benefit that is sometimes overlooked.
As the A6 is an Audi, and as Audi is to interior design what Apple is to consumer electronic design, it is well executed in terms of the quality of the materials deployed and the way that the edges come together thoughtfully and cleanly. Yes, the navigation system does have Google Earth, but frankly, after the novelty wore off, I found myself going back to a more ordinary navigation screen, as glancing at a map strikes me as being more informational than trying to suss out things on a screen (e.g., at some point you really don’t need to see trees and parking lots and what not in pictorial representation). And while on the subject of interfaces, it did seem to me that the guys in the Audi lab in Silicon Valley ought to spend a little more time working on the ergonomics of the system, as in some ways it seemed like this was essentially knob-and-button based tech wrapped in high-tech packaging: mind you, I am all for knobs and buttons, but it seems that there could be better graphic execution, even for doing simple things like setting presets for your favorite radio stations.
Credit must be given to Audi for paying attention to the fact that when drivers are doing something like backing up, paying attention is an important thing for the driver to be doing: not only is there the rear camera with the relevant lines about where the car is maneuvering and an array of sensors, but the audio is muted. Nice touch that.
And overall, a nice car. Of course, it should be noted that nice in this case comes at a price, as the base is $57,500, there’s $895 for destination, and throw in a couple packages, and before you know it you’re above $66K. But this A6 seems like a car that will have plenty of years ahead of it.
Engine: 3.0-liter, DOHC, turbocharged V6 diesel
Horsepower: 240 @ 3,500 to 3,750 rpm
Torque: 428 lb-ft @ 1,750 to 2,250
Materials: Cast iron block, aluminum heads
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, Tiptronic
Wheelbase: 114.7 in.
Length: 193.9 in.
Width: 73.8 in.
Height: 57.8 in.
Curb weight: 4,178 lb.
Trunk volume: 14.1 cu. ft.
EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 24/38/29 mpg