With the current edition of the Audi A6 into its fourth year, Audi is releasing a revised version of its premium sports sedan that the automaker is dubbing "the new generation" A6.
The cars will arrive in Canada during the first quarter of 2009, with minimal price increases according to Audi brass.
Though Audi wasn't releasing price information, the 2009 A6 3.0T Quattro will replace the current Audi A6 3.2 FSI quattro sedan, which has a base price of $59,900.
Externally, the most apparent change is the incorporation of Audi's trademark row of crystalline LED daytime running lights that trace the lower edge of the headlight cluster. First seen on the R8 and slowly making its way through the lineup, Audi's new bling-thing is a simple, clever and extremely effective visual signature that, along with the Clydesdale-sized horse collar grille, leaves no doubt there's an Audi comin" atcha.
Said grille is set in a smoother fascia, and is flanked by low set, aggressive air intakes that house a single fog lamp. Fine trim strips along the lower flanks lead to a revised derriere with a small lip on the trunk lid, deeper diffuser and fresh LED taillights. New-look aluminum wheels complete the picture.
All in all, a pretty subtle makeover that gives the all-ready sleek A6 a more refined look.
The interior gets a few tweaks too – notably a new brushed aluminum surround in the instrument panel, higher-resolution graphics, more intuitive second-gen MMI (Multi Media Interface), softer seating surfaces and some very fetching optional open-grained wood veneers. Otherwise, all the goodness of the previous A6's interior carries forward: great seats, roomy cabin, elegant design and unassailable build quality.
Of course, Audi didn't fly us to Germany to squint at the A6's facelift. The big news is an all-new 290 hp supercharged 3.0 L TFSI V6 that will be paired with Quattro all-wheel-drive in the sedan and Avant wagon. The 350 hp 4.2 L V8 sedan continues unchanged mechanically, while the previous 255 hp 3.2 L FSI V6 engine will be found only in front-wheel-drive A6 sedans.
Audi considers the Root-type supercharger that nestles within the 90-degree vee of this all-aluminum direct-injection six a comeback technology of sorts, as the Auto Union Grand Prix cars of the "30s were supercharged.
Maximum torque of 309 lb.-ft. is available from 2500-4850 rpm, and it makes a difference in the way this Audi goes down the road. Passing power is instant and robust – something you couldn't say for the previous V6 A6. Audi claims a 0-to-100 km/h dash of 5.9 seconds.
Fuel efficiency improves marginally over the old engine too, thanks in part to some tweaks to the six-speed Tiptronic auto-box. With the torquier engine, taller gearing is possible, and the lock-up clutch stays engaged for longer periods, further improving efficiency. Additionally, when the car is at a standstill, the V6 disconnects from the torque converter, even when in drive, reducing drag on the engine. When the driver releases the brakes, it reconnects.
Factor in the A6's slippery 0.29 drag coefficient, and the 2009 A6 3.0 TSFI manages a decent 9.4 L/100 km on the EU cycle.
The A6 platform is a carryover, so unlike the A4/A5 where the front wheels have been pushed forward to improve weight distribution, the A6's powerplants still teeter over the front wheels. As such, it is dynamically similar to the old car – that is to say silky smooth, very capable, but not overly sporting.
The suspension has been massaged to increase comfort and reduce noise, and the Quattro system now shows a slight rear bias.
The cars I piloted on the autobahns and country roads that surrounded the moated Schloss Dyck Castle featured the S-Line sport package that added 18-inch wheels, a 30 mm lowered ride height, sports seats and special interior trim.
I've always liked the way the A6 drove. It may not be as involving as the BMW 5 Series, but it eats up the road with a liquid, serpentine smoothness that melts away the kilometres like gelato in the August sun. Low stress is a good thing.
My only gripe would be the electronic variable assisted steering, which is unnaturally light and vague below 25 km/h. Granted, it firms up as speed increases, but it ultimately offers little feedback.
Along with the usual barrage of passive and active safety features, 2009 A6's electronic stability control has a few new tricks: it applies the brakes to keep the discs dry in wet weather and activates the hazard flashers during emergency braking. New features include blind-spot monitoring/warning, lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control.
An interesting A6 variant I drove that we won't get was the 2.0 TDI — a six-speed manual 170 hp, 258 lb.-ft. diesel that returns 5.7 L/100 km on the EU cycle. Was it noisy? No. Was it slow? No. Has it been engineered to meet North American emission regulations? Sadly, no.
With the revised 2009 A6, Audi has wisely used a gentle touch with the upgrades, building on the car's strengths and addressing the power issue with the new supercharged engine.