When I’m wandering junkyards and looking for interesting stuff, I don’t pay much attention to Audis of our current century. No, I want to photograph old Audis, preferably ones from the 1970s. I make exceptions for discarded members of the Audi S family, however, because these cars do such a great job of demonstrating the ruthlessly quick depreciation of German luxury machinery that didn’t get the maintenance it deserved. Here’s an ’07 S6 that didn’t even see 15 years of use, found in a Denver-area yard last week.
In the last edition of Buy/Drive/Burn, we discussed three large European wagons with a $65,000 price point. The Buy vote was a toss-up between the E-Class and the A6 allroad.
Today we cover the sedan variants of the same three cars, at the exact same price point. Think you’ll choose differently?
It’s an occasion worthy of a future “Rare Rides” label when the North American market is graced with a new large wagon. Only a few of the breed are for sale presently, and that quantity has remained largely unchanged since the late 1990s.
Audi is selling two new ones this year, but they don’t seem to be on anyone’s mind. Not even the wagon-loving car journalists.
Once upon a time, if you were shopping for a luxury vehicle that drove like a sports car, you’d get a BMW or, in some cases, a Jaguar. If you wanted one strictly for its comfort and opulence, you’d get a Mercedes-Benz or a Lexus. If you wanted a sort of ‘tweener, then you’d consider an Audi, particularly since it was one of the few in its segment to offer all-wheel drive. But these days, the German (and Japanese, and British) luxury giants have become so competitive with each other, they’re no longer separated by the unique characteristics that once defined them.
When it comes to the midsize-luxury-sedan trifecta, this trend couldn’t have been any more apparent. The BMW 5 Series seemingly gave up some of its enthusiast-minded “ultimate driving machine” superiority to focus on technology innovation while the Mercedes-Benz E-Class lost its allure for over-engineered excellence during its mix-up with the DaimlerChrysler merger of equals. Meanwhile, Audi took the lead with the A6, dethroning its direct competitors from their winning pedestals in numerous class comparisons over the years just by ticking all of the boxes incredibly well.
Does the story remain the same with the new fifth-generation model, which recently launched in our market?
If the realm of bad — or at least confusing — model naming, no one hits it out of the park quite like Cadillac and Audi. Both automakers, already fond of foisting alphanumeric nameplates on their respective lineups, recently introduced new naming schemes drawn from a model’s individual power output.
Cadillac’s gambit sees a rounded-up three-figure number sourced from a model’s torque figure (in Newton-Meters, amazingly) placed after the model name. Audi, on the other hand, will use double-digit figures pertaining to the range of horsepower output. In other Audi name news, the brand opted to place the “e-tron” label only on fully electric cars, scrapping their use on plug-in hybrids.
And so it became that the new plug-in hybrid A6 does not carry the e-tron name. Instead, people will know it as the Audi A6 55 TFSI e quattro — just not here.
We examined part of the endgame of the Audi 5000 debacle in the United States with a junked 1990 Audi 100 Quattro sedan in Denver. Having banished the toxic Audi 5000 name, Audi called these cars Audi 100s until everyone was thoroughly confused, then renamed it the A6, which they still use today.
Here’s a sort of unusual example I saw at a Denver yard a month ago: the final year of the Audi 100 name in the United States, and it’s a wagon.
I was driving along the other day, and I found myself behind an Audi A6. A new Audi A6. A brand-new, midsize, luxurious Audi A6 sedan. And I thought to myself: When was the last time I saw one of these things?
This wasn’t always the case. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, you saw the Audi A6 everywhere. They had that cool rounded design, and they were the dream of anyone who had an A4, or a 3-Series, or a C-Class. The Audi A6: The car that says you’ve made it — and that you need all-wheel drive.
So what the hell happened after that?
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 car companies say that those little “donut” spares shouldn’t be driven at highway speed, and that they shouldn’t be driven for long distances… but they also say that you shouldn’t use a Vise-Grip as a steering wheel! Just the other day, I watched a Mazda 323 with two space-saver spares (on the left side, of course) dicing with a tippy-looking Wrangler at 105 MPH on I-25 in Denver, and I remembered this A6 with three not-so-high-speed-rated wheels, spotted during the coldest Half Price Junkyard Day I’ve ever experienced. Let’s admire it!
There is an interesting analysis on Chinacarforums: China-produced Western cars tend to come out bigger than their Western siblings. Especially at the higher end. A made-in-China Cadillac STS is 124mm longer than the U.S. sister model. The wheelbase grew by 100mm. A Chinese Audi A6 L has gained 97 mm in length over the Made-in-Ingolstadt relative. A BMW 5-series, made at the Chinese joint venture with Brilliance, has gained a whopping 140 mm in length and wheelbase over the Bavarian model.