By Kris Hansen
We have always had a strong love for the Audi A6, and the current version – the C7 - is truly exceptional. Outwardly it presents as a buttoned up sedan, with taut creases and elegant lines, and just a hint of edginess in S-line trim. Inside it is luxurious and comfortable, with an attention to detail that is unrivaled in the industry. This is an awesome place to spend long hours on the highway.
Interestingly, our A6 was fitted with what appeared to be a set of S6 wheels (20 inch) with some meaty snow tires. The build sheet for this specific car indicated that it would have had the Titanium finish Rotor wheels, which we happen to like very much on the A6, but we were very happy to have snow tires regardless of what wheels they were wrapped around, and the S6 wheels are very nice on this car.
One other thing to note, the TDI logos on the front doors of the cars are added by Audi for their press cars, you won’t see them on the cars at the dealer. Truth be told, we like them as they tend to encourage curious motorists to ask questions about the diesel engines. As enthusiasts and unofficial ambassadors of the brand, of course we’re more than happy to tell anyone who will listen (especially hybrid owners) about the great benefits of Audi’s TDI engines.
Our Glacier White Prestige trim level model was optioned with the 19” sport package, which consists of 19” split spoke wheels with all-season tires, sport tuned suspension, and what we consider one of the nicest steering wheels in the world – the 3 spoke “sport” steering wheel. Added to that was the Black Optic package, which accounts for the black chrome trim, and would have included the 5 spoke Rotor wheels. It also was fitted with the Driver Assistance package, which includes many nice to have things, such as adaptive cruise control, to name one. This car also had the Bose audio system, which is very good. Compared to the B&O system it is slightly less “crisp” sounding, but to our ears has better low end push. It’s also a lot less expensive.
All A6 TDI models come standard with the Audi Advanced keyless entry system, which we love. Grab the meaty chrome topped door handle, and the car unlocks. Slide into the comfortable and supportive climate controlled driver’s seat, put a foot on the brake, tap the Engine Start Stop button, and after the briefest of glow plug cycle time, the 3 liter V6 springs to life in the most un-diesel of ways. Yes it does sound like a diesel if you really listen closely. But this should not be a surprise, since it is a diesel. However, it does NOT sound like a truck engine, or even like a 4 cylinder diesel, such as the VW TDI or the Audi A3 TDI. Inside the cabin the sound of the engine is actually reminiscent of Audi’s R18 Le Mans racer, with just a hint of turbo whistle for good measure.
Underway, the immense torque that this engine is touted for (428 lb/ft from 1750 to 2250 rpm) makes itself known almost instantly. The low end grunt that the 3.0 TDI engine produces is addictive, and incredibly fun to have at your disposal. This engine is the opposite of a top end screamer, and even though it can rev to over 4k, the best shift range for performance was around 2500 to 3k. Once you leave the fat part of the torque, you’re back down to relatively low hp (240hp at 3500 to 3750), and more fuel consumption. We found ourselves using the steering wheel shift paddles in rapid fire clicks during hard acceleration, just to keep up with the close gear spacing. The 8 speed transmission does seem to be a little bit of overkill mated with an engine producing this much torque. Once you get up to cruising speed, it hardly ever shifts down. Need to pass? Just press the pedal. No drama, just speed. It’s awesome.
According to Audi, the A6 TDI should run from 0 to 60 in around 5.5 seconds. We generally know most of these numbers to be on the conservative side, but have no way to confirm, or deny those times, so suffice it to say that the A6 TDI has absolutely NO problem getting itself up to speed, and is very discreet about it. That happens to be one of our favorite characteristics of this platform by the way – it’s very stealthy. You can hammer away from stops without letting everyone know you opened the taps, and generally speaking you won’t wake up the entire town if you happen to have a little fun on the way home at night. We also found the deeper voice of the TDI engine to be very pleasing. Not that the 3.oTFSI engine is coarse, but the TDI sounds big and powerful, and very smooth.
One of the things that many people we spoke with were concerned about was cold weather. Diesels have a reputation for being temperamental in cold weather. Because diesel fuel is thicker than gasoline, it does have the tendency to gel up a little in very cold weather, which can cause significant problems. We were blessed with some extremely cold weather during our TDI test car visits, and we are happy to report that even at -10f, the glow time was very brief, 5 seconds at the most, and the engines started with no drama at all. As with most modern Audis, the ECU will reduce the engine’s redline, and the LED revcounter will adjust itself accordingly as the engine warms up.
We did find one slight not so nice thing about diesels in the extreme cold, and that is they take seemingly forever to warm up. On one particularly cold morning (-11f), it took almost an hour of warmup, drive, idling, and more driving before the temperature gauge reached the normal mark. And even then, it was constantly teetering on not fully warm.
We believe that if we owned one of these cars, we’d look into some kind of cover for the nose of the car, which would block some if not most of the air coming through the grille, like you see on big trucks in winter. As it turns out, because these modern diesels use so little fuel when they aren’t under load, and they need their own heat just to run, most of the idling and coasting you do while driving actually doesn’t get the block warm enough to heat the coolant. In fact, we saw a few instances where the temperature gauge actually went all the way down on some long downhills. It wasn’t till we were able to apply consistent power that we were able to get some good heat going.
During our test cycle with the A6 TDI, we didn’t have the chance to take any extended trips, but we were amazed that we were able to average over 28mpg in mixed rural driving – even with the Thule Hyper XL on the roof – without even trying. Quite the opposite really, as we did take the time to truly enjoy the thrust from the burly TDI engine as often as possible.
One thing we always find when driving the C7 A6 is that it is a marvelous car to drive. If so inclined, it’s possible to drive the A6 very fast. This is a stable and confidence inspiring chassis, with firm enough springs and anti roll bars for sporty driving, yet doesn’t beat you senseless on rough roads. The TDI’s tremendous grunt allows for great fun on tight twisty roads, blasting from turn to turn.
The TDI was a blast to drive in the snow as well. It was very easy and fun to use the engine’s substantial twist to drift the car around corners on snowy roads, so easy in fact that it became routine to steer with the pedal instead of the steering wheel. It became so routine that we found the car tended to want to swing the rear out too easily at times. This is not to say the car is in any way a handful, in fact it is very easy to drive, even when you switch off the traction control and have some fun. But you need to be ready for some sideways driving if you ask the engine for too much thrust mid corner. Most unlike diesels of old, this one is actually incredibly responsive and very fun to drive.
And that to us is the beauty of the A6 TDI. You get massive power without the drama of a high revving engine, and you get incredible economy wrapped in an uncompromisingly beautiful and luxurious car.