It’s likely that we all have been asked the most dreaded question at parties: “what’s your favorite car?”. I prefer to put a different spin on it: what car would I most like to take a cross-country road trip in? There is always a compromise of comfort, cabin space, trunk space, speed, cost, and/or fuel economy. After spending a weekend with this car, I can say that my answer to that question undoubtedly is the Audi A6 TDI.
From the side it is uniquely Audi, offering perfect proportions when compared to the shrunken down A4 and the elongated A8. The once bizarre corporate grill has faded into normalcy over time, as have the often duplicated fancy headlights, which, by the way, are amazing. The rear is reminiscent of the original A8. Overall the exterior design is clean, modern, but conservative at the same time. The S-line treatment of the pictured vehicle hints of its sporty aspirations without being obnoxious about it. Bystanders will like this car when they see it but forget about it few minutes later.
The interior looks great, too. Every surface is pleasing to the senses; the soft leather smells great, the wood grain is intentionally left uneven, and the minimalist layout is pleasing to the eye. What’s important on a long trip, however, is comfort. The vehicle is very quiet at all speeds and the suspension does a fantastic job of keeping the unpleasantness of the outside world, outside. With plenty of room for four passengers, very comfortable seats, those complaining about these accommodations should have just stayed home.
The infotainment screen hides into the dash to further underscore that clean layout, which is especially nice for night driving. Vital information such as Sirius XM channel or navigational directions are displayed in the gauge cluster. Audi’s MMI Navigation interface is one of the best and easiest to use in the business. The main, iDrive-like, knob is positioned right where your hand is when your arm is resting on the armrest. It is surrounded by hard and soft keys, operation of which is reflected on the screen. All basic controls are easy to access, and once your presets, iPhone and gadget-de-jour, are synced and set to your liking, there is really no need do anything there.
Nobody with an ounce of oil in their blood wants to drive a boring car, which many so-called luxury cars, tend to be. The beauty of the A6 TDI is that, despite the aforementioned refined ride and isolated comforts, it is simply fun to drive. The steering is quick, if a little over-boosted, the adjustable suspension is set just right, allowing plenty of highway ramp fun. The three suspension settings do not change vehicle dynamics drastically, and with sincere respect to Audi chassis engineers, I really question the need for those settings.
The real story here isn’t the ride, or the interior, or the looks. Rather, it is the 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel engine and its 428 lb-ft of torque at 1750 rpm. Numbers themselves are never impressive; it’s translating those numbers into real world driving characteristics that make so many of us lust after compression–ignition engines. This engine turns this car into a beast. The power is instantaneous; no lag, no delay, no nothing. It. Just. Goes. Off the line, highway passing, the A6 TDI doesn’t care. It just goes, pressing you deeper into the seat. It goes smoothly, it goes evenly, it goes without any drama, and it goes while getting 38mpg on the highway.
But nothing is perfect, and neither is this vehicle. For instance the two front cup holders are simply too small. And there is no USB or auxiliary audio input ports (you need to use Bluetooth). Its price, which starts at $57,500 ($67,295 as pictured), does not do it any favors, either. Furthermore, any potential buyer would be a fool to ignore Audi’s reputation for long-term reliability. And yet, if anyone asked me what I would want to drive from New York City, around the Great Lakes and over Rocky Mountains, to San Francisco, this would be my answer.
In my lifetime of automotive obsession, two decades of driving, dozens of personal cars, and years of reviewing cars, I have never been more impressed. As a reviewer, this frustrates me because in my mind I sound like some kind of wobbler.
Audi provided the car for the purpose of this review.