This week: 2014 Audi A6 Quattro TDI
Price: $67,295 as tested ($57,500 base price, and as low as $43,100 for real A6 cheapskates)
Marketer’s pitch: “The Audi A6 redefines success.”
Conventional wisdom: Consumer Reports calls it “an impressive car and a joy to drive.”
Reality: I’d have to agree with CR and Audi.
Performance: Sure, being bathed in Equus Ultimate luxury was great last week, but maybe you should really pay top dollar for a vehicle that will move you in every way.
And yet it seems like a turbodiesel just wouldn’t do it, right?
Wrong. This car can blur the scenery in a real hurry. The speedometer goes up to 180, and I have no doubt the Audi A6 TDI does as well. Heavy traffic? One quickly learns just what this car is capable of.
Economy: And all this head snapping happens while the car gets about 33 mpg in the usual array of Mr. Driver’s Seat’s country lanes, highways and suburbs.
Handling: This was my first test of an Audi, and I expected it to be much more ... German. Think Volkswagen. Something that really zipped through curves.
The A6 was quite competent and a delight to drive, but it never had that little bit of ... feel. It reminded me less of a sporty Acura and more of a slightly caffeinated Lexus.
Shifty: The eight-speed automatic transmission comes with Tiptronic shift capability. But after a car goes above six gears, I just give up and drive it like an automatic. Too much clicking, especially if you’re in top gear and want to get to third or fourth now.
Real comfort? The leather seats contoured to Mr. Driver’s Seat and the Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat quite nicely. But a long trip to see Mama Driver’s Seat about 90 minutes north ended up being a little hard on the posterior. Good leather seats often soften up over the long haul, but this is worth noting.
Keeping cool and warm: One real test for me on the value of luxury is how quickly a car will make me forget about the weather outside. Here, the test model probably exceeded all expectations.
Comparisons can be difficult, but I left the sunroof shade open on a May day and the temperature hit 78 in the afternoon, so the interior felt quite stuffy. But I set the temperature to 72 and had only traveled about 100 yards when it felt ... really fine.
Interface this: Everything is on the screen. Everything.
A pair of knobs controls the temperature. The same pair of knobs controls the fan speed. Press a button to toggle. And watch the screen tell you which mode you’re in. Drivers, watch for swerving Audis.
Keeping entertained: The infotainment system, of course, is accessed through the screen as well. A dial and buttons in the console operate it, and the steering wheel controls raise and lower volume and change songs well.
One less-than-delightful feature comes in the AM station list. Fire up the A6 in a new location, and it refreshes the station list. It takes only a few seconds, but I’m an American, not some patient European, and I want it all and I want it now.
Also, upon startup the whole system takes more than a few seconds to become operational as well. It’ll start to play whatever has been playing, be it CD, XM, radio.
So if your teenager left Blades of Death’s latest hit “Die, #$%^&*, Die!” blaring after driving it late last night, it’s going to be a rude awakening come the morning.
And yet the stereo sound is only OK. I’m not hearing parts of songs that I hear on our Kia Soul’s basic stereo. And the Audi has only treble and bass control — no midrange, although an equalizer helps.
Point A to Point Awesome: Forget maps; the A6 features Google Earth. Occupants get a nice bird’s-eye view of the world they’re passing through, which is so cool as to almost be distracting.
Night shift: The interior lighting is beautiful, stunning, elegant, everything you’d expect. It comes on slowly, and shines a bright but focused light without interfering with driving.
The headlights are beautiful, elegant and ... a little too dim. Audi made a real statement with its LED headlamps that twist and turn in creative and lovely new ways. But if I paid this much and could only see this well at night on low beams, I’d be mighty peeved.
Friends and stuff: The rear has a center seatbelt, but it is a cruel position to all but tiny, prelingual car seat occupants. The AWD hump is huge and the front console intrudes even more than most.
While the Equus bathes back-seat passengers in roominess for occupants, A6 riders will suffer from close headquarters. But though the seat doesn’t adjust, the angle is quite comfortable.
Beautiful touches: So this is what Edmunds was referring to when they called the Hyundai material “not equal” to other luxury brands. Audi’s touches are very sharp.
Stalking: This may be a nit because I’ve driven so many Toyotas and no other Audis, but I see it as a serious drawback. Like Toyota, Audi has a small extra stalk on the steering column to operate the cruise control.
Unlike Toyota, Audi’s stalk is on the left side. The same side as the turn signal/high beam switch. Turning off the cruise is always as easy as tapping the brake pedal, but this seems needlessly confusing.
Where it’s built: Neckarsulm, Germany
How it’s built: Consumer Reports gives it middling reliability ratings.
In the end: I’m Mr. Driver’s Seat, not Mr. Chaffeured Rear Seat. Audi all the way, baby. And with torque like this, I’ll even pay for the diesel fuel.
Scott Sturgis, a freelance auto writer, can be reached at email@example.com.