2016 Audi A6 3.0T Review (With Video)
2016 Audi A6 3.0T Prestige
Audi is a brand associated with all-wheel drive, well-fitted interiors and design evolution that requires you to park a new model next to an old one to tell what has been changed. The 2016 A6 doesn’t diverge much from this formula despite being a thorough refresh of the outgoing A6.
This Audi plays in the crowded midsize luxury pool with competition coming from every angle. The big boys are, of course, the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, but 2016 also brings an all-new and all-aluminum Jaguar XF. We also have Cadillac’s latest CTS, a Maserati Ghibli for those that want something less reliable than a Jag, the Lexus GS and Infiniti Q70 from the land of the rising sun and the Koreans have the Genesis — and that’s before we start including the more distant competition from Volvo, Acura, Lincoln, etc. The last A6 was a midsized luxury unicorn, because not even Nissan thought they could sell a front-wheel drive luxury car in America with a CVT. As it turns out, not even Audi could defend the CVT in a luxury entry, so 2016 sees the end of Audi’s dalliance with the cogless tranny. Fear not folks, the A6 is still the odd German out since the base model is still front-wheel drive.
The A6 is the farm girl in this segment with simple, wholesome lines that look refined and restrained. In a sea of aggressive and distinctive vehicle styles, the simple lines on the A6 are refreshing. Sure, Audi’s enormous grille has become a little meaner and the headlamps have gained a touch of “Angry Birds,” but the sheetmetal doesn’t seem to create same kind of polarizing reactions as Lexus’ F-Sport models.
Since 2016 is just a refresh, the A6 hasn’t gained any ground dimensionally compared to its predecessor. For Audi that’s not a problem since the A6 is already one of the larger entries in this category. Folks looking to upgrade from their CamCord should know that although the A6 is only a hair larger than Honda and Toyota’s midsize sedans, Audi’s long hood means you’ll find less room on the inside than the plebeian people haulers.
Fit and finish in our tester was generally excellent, however the optional heads-up display looks distinctly out of place. Unlike most luxury cars that use a slightly different dashboard design when HUD is equipped, Audi tacks on a very large “donut” on top of the gauge binnacle to house the projection unit. The result is a look that is less polished than the Cadillac or BMW. Since the HUD doesn’t provide quite as much information as the 5-Series’ display, it’s a $900 option I’d skip. The other area where you can see the A6’s age is in the overall design that doesn’t mimic the new A4 or A8. You also won’t find the latest in luxury interior options at any price such as a stitched leather dash like you find in the 5-Series (or even the Volvo.)
The front seats are among the best in the category, and leather upholstery is standard unlike many luxury brands that are equipping more and more cars with pleather. Rear seat headroom is generous thanks to the upright exterior profile and you’ll find two inches more legroom in the back than the E or 5. Of course, if rear passenger accommodations are your thing, the larger Genesis offers yet more room and the drivetrain packaging of the RLX expands things even further.
Audi’s MMI infotainment system has received a major overhaul for 2016 with new hardware and a faster graphics processor. The new hardware allows for smoother animation and screen changes, but we still don’t find expanded voice commands for USB/iDevice media library control like you find in the Lexus, Cadillac and Acura. The refreshed software adds support for a few new Internet-connected features such as INRIX traffic information as well as Apple Siri Eyes Free support. Sadly CarPlay and Android Auto were not along for the ride. On the hardware level, there’s a new LTE cell modem for faster downloads and an integrated WiFi hotspot.
The 8-inch LCD that is the heart of the system remains unchanged, and is still sporting a standard aspect ratio rather than the widescreen format preferred by BMW. Nestled between the speedometer and tachometer is an optional 7-inch LCD with an expanded feature set that includes a full navigation display with moving 3-D map and topographical information. Perhaps the most important change for 2016 may be the simplest: Audi finally ditched their proprietary media interface cable. Lifting the center armrest reveals two regular USB ports and you can now connect your device with any old cable you have lying around.
Base models get a revised 2-liter turbocharged four cylinder engine bumping power from 220 to 252 horsepower and torque from 258 to 273 pounds-feet. In addition to the increase in oomph, the fun-sucking CVT has been replaced with a 7-speed dual clutch transmission (related to 7-speed DCT in the S6) that sends power to the front wheels. If you want AWD, Audi swaps the DCT for a ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic. This strikes me as an odd choice when obviously the DCT in the S6 is Quattro compatible. The model we tested uses a refreshed 3-liter, supercharged V-6 that now cranks out 333 horsepower and 325 pounds-feet of torque. If you feel the need for speed, the S6’s 4-liter, turbocharged V-8 has been tweaked as well, now making 450 horsepower and 406 pounds-feet of torque, and it’s still mated to a 7-speed DCT. The only engine left untouched is the 3-liter V-6 turbocharged diesel that is still rated for 240 horsepower and 428 pounds-feet. As of this review, this diesel is untouched by the VW/Audi dieselgate drama.
The front-wheel drive A6 is unique — more than usual — since it still uses a longitudinal engine layout rather than the transverse design more common in FWD cars. This orientation is a byproduct of Audi’s Quattro design and their desire to reduce curb weight since the FWD 2.0T should be a little lighter than a RWD variant of the same model.
But we’re here to talk about the 3.0T, which has standard AWD. Audi’s Quattro integrates the center and front differentials into the case of the ZF 8-speed transmission, and places the entire engine in front of the front axle. This engine placement means that the A6 carries a greater percentage of its weight on the front wheels than essentially every RWD competitor. However, don’t confuse a front-heavy weight distribution with a front wheel drive power bias. The A6 may be “nose heavy” but the majority of the power is actually sent to the rear wheels. This is what separates the A6 from Lincoln or Volvo AWD systems that can never send more than 50 percent of the power to the rear axle unless there is wheel slip.
The A6 may carry more weight up front than a 535i xDrive or a Mercedes E400 4Matic, but in reality it doesn’t handle that differently until 9/10ths. Let’s be honest, the average buyer of a $65,000 luxury sedan will rarely find themselves at 9/10ths. However, should you end up there, the A6’s front end will display a reluctance to turn that you won’t find in the more neutrally balanced rear wheel drive competition. On the flip side, the A6 won’t handle that different from the increasingly popular AWD competition.
At 4,178 pounds, the A6 is about 400 pounds heavier than the Jaguar XF, 200 pounds heavier than a CTS VSport, but is actually a hair lighter than the BMW 535i xDrive. Curb weight is critical when it comes to handling, so it should be no surprise that the well-tuned suspensions and lighter curb weights in the Jaguar and Cadillac give them the edge when it comes to handling ability and feel (when equipped comparably.) What may be a surprise is just how close the A6 3.0T and 535i xDrive really are in terms of ability and feel. That’s due as much to Audi’s constant refinement of their steering and suspension systems (and the addition of wide tires) as BMW’s 5-Series getting heavier and more isolated with every revision.
The 2016 power bump is appreciated and noticeable and allows the A6 3.0T Quattro to scoot to 60 just 8/100ths slower than the last two wheel drive 535i I tested and the Audi actually clocked 1 mph better in the 1/4 mile. Interestingly, the 0-30 time of 2.14 seconds was notably slower than the 1.9 seconds I clocked in the 535 despite the fact that generally superchargers improve low-end torque. The steering is numb, but accurate, and slightly heavy in corners. Despite the curb weight, our 60-0 braking test measured an impressive 112 feet thanks to the optional 255 width rubber.
Audi’s final sales proposition has long been its price. Starting at $46,200, the A6 is one of the least-expensive sedans in this category — actually undercutting the GS 350 by $2,400 and the RLX by an eye-watering $8,250. Indeed, just the Cadillac CTS and Volvo S80 are less expensive. That said, the A6 2.0T isn’t the best deal anymore. The base CTS may have an old 6-speed automatic, but it’s heaps more fun than the FWD Audi. The Volvo’s dynamics aren’t any worse than the Audi in FWD form and Volvo tosses in more goodies for the same price with a dollop of increased fuel economy.
Jump to our 3.0T tester and things improve. At $57,400, the A6 undercuts a comparable 535i by $1,000, the E400 by nearly $6,000 and it’s just a few hundred more than a comparably equipped (but slower) CTS 3.6 AWD. Unfortunately for Audi, Jaguar’s new XF has been priced very aggressively and not only out-handles and out-accelerates the A6, but it undercuts the Audi by nearly $3,000 even when equipped with AWD. Jag’s new midsized sedan also beats Audi at the simple good looks game as well.
The A6’s 2016 refresh keeps the Audi in the lead of the German pack, slotting above the 535i xDrive and E400 4Matic where it counts. The Audi is less expensive, feels more fun to drive on your daily commute and flies just under the radar. The A6 is also attractive alternative to the well-priced GS 350 delivering a more premium experience and better performance than the Lexus. It goes without saying that you’d have to be insane to buy an Acura RLX over the Audi. Where the A6 stumbles however is when it is pitted against the less mainstream competition. The XF is a better deal, it’s faster and it handles better. The Genesis gives you V8 power, RWD dynamics and a longer warranty for less and Cadillac’s CTS is the naturally aspirated 5-series you have fond memories about. If my cash was on the line, I’d probably gamble on that new XF, but Audi’s second place isn’t a bad place to be.
Audi provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review
Specifications as tested
0-30: 2.14 Seconds
0-60: 5.38 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 13.9 Seconds @ 102 MPH
More by Alex L. Dykes
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