Review: 2009 Audi A6 3.0T Quattro

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

The process of writing a car review often feels like creating a “Mad Lib.” TTAC readers old enough to have taken a long road trip in the pre-GameBoy era may remember Mad Libs; they are little booklets with blanks for nouns, verbs, proper names and so on. One person comes up with the nouns and verbs, another person writes them into the blanks, and hilarity ensues. Car and Driver appears to be almost entirely written by Mad Lib nowadays, but those oh-so-seductive English big-format car rags aren’t above doing a little fill-in-the-blank action themselves.

One of the most common English tropes is the “(proper noun) package (verb)s this car.” Eager to demonstrate their Princess-and-the-pea powers of discrimination, EVO or CAR will solemnly swear that, although the BMW 514d xDrive six-speed estate wagon with M Package is an unspeakably horrible car, the addition of the Dynamic Badge Coloring option group “completely transforms the on-road experience.” A variation on the theme: the recommendation of a Byzantine equipment choice, with the solemn assurance that only this particular example fails to offend the reviewer’s selective palate. “The Cayman is only truly enjoyed as a 2.7 litre non-PASM car with sport springs, 18″ wheels, adaptive seats, embossed floormats, and short-throw shifter.”

With this in mind, then, I’m almost embarrassed to explain why I’m only going to assign three stars to the Audi A6 3.0T Quattro. Car and Driver, Mad-Libbing their way through another low-speed Hocking Hills crawl retold to readers as an impossible series of derring-do accomplishments, gave this Audi the top spot above the 535i, Jag XF, Infiniti M45, and Mercedes-Benz E350. It wasn’t this A6 3.0T, however. C/D’s test car had the “Prestige” equipment level, Sport package, and rang the register to the tune of $59K. Ours was a “Premium Plus” with standard suspension, more than six grand cheaper.

What do you get with “Premium Plus”? Well, you get a button on the console that says “Navigation.” Press it, and you’ll be told that “Navigation system is not installed.” Hmm. The screen between the tach and speedometer, which displays a full selection of colorful information in the “Prestige,” is recast as a Space Invaders-style monochrome readout more fitting to a base-model Rabbit. There’s no backup camera, no high-end sound system, and the car is started with the turn of a switchblade key. A Ford Taurus Limited is considerably better-equipped, and it’s twenty grand cheaper.

Some of that price difference is eloquently explained in the driving experience. I ran the car around Nelson Ledges Road Course for a day. I was well pleased at the Audi A6 3.0T Quattro’s absolutely trustworthy handling, even on the all-season tires fitted to our tester. It’s possible to do some very stupid things, like trail-braking the “Kink” at 110 mph to point the big trapezoid grille at the inside curb, without upsetting the Audi’s fundamental nose-heavy composure. The brakes are acceptable. Even if they aren’t quite up to the challenge of repeatedly stopping the car from triple-digit speeds, they’re better than what you’d find on the equivalent Bimmer.

The supercharged V6, denoted by the “3.0T” badge on the trunk and the nifty little faux-carbon-fiber “Supercharged” insignia on each fender, is merely okay. On the road, it feels characterless. The powerplant never quite as strong as Audi’s rambunctious direct-injection V8, which it’s meant to replace. Over the course of ten laps of Nelson Ledges, heat-soak makes its presence known. Each successive exit onto the front straight feels softer. If you’re in the market for an A6, or for the S5 coupe, do yourself a favor. Get the V8 while you still can. It’s infinitely superior to this blown six, in sound, power, feel and feedback.

Alternately, you might consider saving up another ten grand past the price of an A6 4.2 and picking up a base A8. The difference between the A6 and A8 isn’t readily apparent on paper, so I’ll try to explain it here. The A6 is a very good “regular car,” while the A8 is a German D-class sedan. There is an extra layer of liquid-feeling insulation in every one of the A8’s controls, from the steering wheel to the shifter.

The A6 is shaken by bumps which fail to trouble the larger car. The A6 is quiet; the A8 is relaxing. The A6 tracks down the freeway very well, but the A8 feels as if it could follow the dotted-white line by itself. Open and close the door on both cars, and you will know immediately which one you prefer.

To make the A6 the victor of their mid-size sedan test, C/D had to ratchet-up the “Gotta Have It” score. It’s ironic. The Audi mid-sizer fails to exude any sense of “Gotta Have It” whatsoever. It’s a pleasant, handsome, somewhat anodyne automobile, nearly completely devoid of passion. With a V8 and the Prestige equipment, it has a powerful sort of techno-presence. As a mid-liner V6, let’s just say that “the (noun) fails to stir the (noun).”

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • UrS4red UrS4red on Sep 02, 2009

    "Audi is way overpriced, unreliable, ugly exterior designed garbage." My God, James Joyce could learn from you.

  • Roosterman Roosterman on Jan 10, 2010

    Uh, I'm not sure how many different cars and makes the reviewer of the article has driven, but C&D has it fairly accurate on their assesment. MotorTrend put the Audi #2 and the BMW 535i first. C&D put the Audi first, BMW second. I have personally driven ALL the competitors cars- with the exception of the Jaguar- mainly because it doesn't have an all wheel drive option. We only drove AWD cars and I think it really only fair to compare AWD variants of each make. So, lets compare apples to apples here- IMHO you CAN'T compare the AWD 2009 A6 3.0T to ANY rear wheel drive competitor- they are completely different cars. I know all the magazines and reviewers do, but its simply ridiculous. Drive different versions of the same car back to back and you will see what I mean. Almost all of the competition offers AWD versions of their cars- HOWEVER, when you add this option- the price ratches up even more, cornering, gas mileage, braking and straight line performance all go down compared with their RWD variants. This is fact! So, having driven a 2009 MB C350 RWD, C300 AWD, E350 RWD, 2009 Lexus GS350AWD, 2008 BMW 535xi, 2009 335xi, Infiniti G35XS, M35XS, 2009 Audi A4 3.2, A4 2.0, A6 3.0T, 2007 S6, and finally 2008 A6 3.2, here is the assessment: The new Audi A6 3.0T, for the money, is the most complete car in its category. It is NOT the best car in any one category, but when you factor in cost, AWD, performance, mileage, warranty, and luxury accessories it is a VERY good all around car. (AND it has one of the largest trunks in any these cars listed) one thing I'm not sure about yet is reliability- the jury is still out on that. I'm a 3 series BMW guy, never owned an Audi before- 328i, 325i, 325iT and recently 330i. For the most part these have all been reliable cars, good mileage, very good handling, and pretty good performance. I am hoping that the Audi doesn't turn into an unreliable POS like I fear. I like BMW, don't get me wrong. But when you get into the 5 series territory, the pricing and styling (or lack thereof) is a SERIOUS turnoff. for instance, a comparably equipped 2009 BMW535xi fully loaded, like our prestige package A6 would be well over $60,000- probably close to $65,000. A fully loaded A6 prestige (if purchased new AND at FULL retail) is $56,500. Now, of course, we purchased ours used with 4000 miles from a dealer (it was their car) for mid 40's- A substantial savings. All the comments about handling, power, comfort and noise- its all crap. Look, I've driven all thes cars. Yes, the mercedes is very quiet, very composed, but also feels like a tank. The BMW handles very well, is extremely quick and very comfortable inside, but is very lacking in outer styling- and its user controls leave much to be desired- even worse than our Audi- IMHO. I've heard so many comments about the lack of power of the V6 3.0T. I feel I have to comment on this too. Having driven an AWD 335xi, 535xi, M35x, G35x, and GS350, performance in every day driving you won't notice much of a difference. In fact, I would challenge any of you in a drag race with any of these cars mentioned (well, maybe not the 335xi- its much lighter)- it would come down to reaction time and thats it!!!! I've seen numbers for the A6 from 0-60 from 5.5 seconds all the way up to 6.0(there's no way its only 6 seconds) I've seen numbers for the 535i at 5.3 seconds, G350AWD at 5.5 seconds, the G35x at 5.6, etc. When you are talking tenths of seconds, it comes down to reaction time. the point is... the the fact that the A6 at a hefty 4200 pounds with a little 3.1 L engine puts out 300 hp, 310 ft lbs of torque at 2500 rpm and manages sub 6 second 0-60 and 14 second quarter mile is amazing. I've driven all the other competitors- there were only two other cars that felt just as fast and handled just as good (or perhaps better) the G35xs and the 535xi- both very fast, very agile cars. The M35x was not as fast as the A6- the M45x "might' be as fast, but VERY rare, and VERY expensive. We REALLY considered a used 2007 S6 with low miles (say less than 30K), for about the same price as a new/used 2009 A6. Ultimately we chose the A6 for two reasons- one- we could get a new or "slightly" used 2009 A6 for the same money as a used 3 year old (only 1 year left on warranty) S6 AND I was concerned about long term maintenance costs of owning a basically an exotic car with a V-10, 15.2 inch 6 piston brakes, and 265 series 19 inch rubber- I would imagine both routine maintenance as well as larger jobs on the S6 would be quite a bit more expensive than the A6. I'm used to pricing for work done on 3 series BMW's, which BTW is no more costly than owning a camry or accord- trust me I know. So, I hope this car works out- so far so good. I like the power and the sound personally- there is NO WAY this car only does 0-60 in 6 seconds, I know 6 second cars- this is much faster AND it handles fine for what it is- a very large 4000 lb luxury car. Besides, once we upgrade the ECU, lower it with H&R springs, add thicker sway bars and put lightweight forged 19's on it- the handling and power department will be handled no problem. Right now MTM has a chip and power pulley upgrade putting the new S4 to 435 hp and 400 lbs of torque- this is the same engine in the A6. That will probably put this car into S6 territory and for MUCH less money. I'm sure that soon APT and other Audi tuners will also have upgrades available. I hope my evaluation has been helpful to some of you... I just don't like reading reviews that give a car bad marks for things that aren't a problem. If you want to be picky- the controls are hard to learn, and some of the ergonomics are funky... BUT ALL german cars are that way- ALL of them- get into any BMW or Mercedes and you will quickly see this- German Engineers may be good at making quick, good handling solid built cars, but that doesn't mean they are alway easy to use- this is NOT just an Audi thing. Cheers, Niels.

  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X As much problems as I had with my '96 Chevy Impala SS.....I would love to try one again. I've seen a Dark Cherry Metallic one today and it looked great.
  • Susan O’Neil There is a good reason to keep the Chevrolet Malibu and other 4 door family sedans! You can transport your parents and other somewhat handicapped people comfortably and safety! If someone can stand and pivot you can put them in your car. An armrest in the back seat is appreciated and a handle above the door! Oh…and leather seats so your passenger can slide across the seat! 😊Plus, you can place a full sized wheelchair or walker in the trunk! The car sits a little lower…so it’s doable! I currently have a Ford Fusion and we have a Honda Accord. Our previous cars were Mercury Sables-excellent for transporting handicapped people and equipment! As the population ages-sedans are a very practical choice! POV from a retired handicapped advocate and daughter! 😊
  • Freddie Remember those ads that say "Call your doctor if you still have...after four hours"?You don't need to call your doctor, just get behind the wheel of a CUV. In fact, just look at one.I'm a car guy with finite resources; I can't afford a practical car during the week plus a fun car on the weekend. My solution is my Honda Civic Si 4 door sedan. Maybe yours is a Dodge Charger (a lot of new Chargers are still on dealer lots).
  • Daniel J Interesting in that we have several weeks where the temperature stays below 45 but all weather tires can't be found in a shop anywhere. I guess all seasons are "good enough".
  • Steve Biro For all the talk about sedans vs CUVs and SUVs, I simply can’t bring myself to buy any modern vehicle. And I know it’s only going to get worse.