April 30, 2002

Road Test: 2002 Audi A6 3.0 quattro
Article and Photos By: Mike Levine

Will Smith likes to get jiggy hitting Miami's South Beach party scene but when you are a family guy with a wife and eighteen month old daughter, it's Audi's A6 and its all new 3.0-liter powerplant that will have to do for making a little excitement on a trip to Florida.

The A6's curvilinear Bauhaus looks have been subtly refined and improved for '02. Most notable is the larger grille that eliminates the baby fat from around the bottom and clear glass headlamps that further clean up the front end. Rear taillamps sport distinctive amber accented turn signals. With some decent horsepower to finally provide some scoot, Audi wisely chooses to accent the A6's improved performance numbers with twin chromed exhaust tips.

While it's a still a little tough to outright call it handsome, the Audi A6 is still the most unique looking of the German sedans, even when compared with Mercedes' new E-class. Set in contrast against the flamboyant backdrop of shapes and colors found in Miami's art deco historical district, it's a testament to the A6's distinctive design character that it still draws attention four years after its introduction.

Forget the exterior stuff though; most of the changes for 2002 are happening under the skin.

Audi's well-executed new 3.0-liter finally provides entry-level A6 owners with the power and low end torque the discontinued 2.8-liter engine failed to deliver. It boosts horsepower to 220hp and torque to 221ft-lbs., an increase of 21 horses and 14ft-lbs over the 2.8-liter, while saving weight by using an all aluminum engine block. This is the engine the A6 should have been born with.

Audi claims the new engine's 0 to 60 times are now almost a second faster over a similarly equipped 2001 model and indeed there is an immediately noticeable and welcome difference when accelerating over last year's car. Merging onto the fast and frenetic Florida freeways was a pleasure in the Tiptronic equipped A6.

The biggest nit about the new engine was a torque dead zone encountered while accelerating almost every time in second gear between 25 and 30mph. And the 3.0-liter still fails to stand up in comparison to archrival BMW's best in class I6 found in the comparable 530i sedan, which I drove a week later in Arizona. The I6 accelerates quicker than the Audi powerplant and its overall performance is noticeably smoother. Not a surprise really since the A6 I drove suffered from a near 300 pound weight penalty mainly imposed by the addition of quattro.

quattro equipped 3.0-liter A6 owners also miss out on Audi's critically acclaimed new continuously variable transmission, available only on front-drive models.

A first in the luxury car segment, the multitronic CVT uses a steel belt and system of pulleys to totally eliminate internal gears and provide an infinitely sloping curve of gear ratios. This allows for faster and smoother accelerations and better fuel economy. See our 2002 Audi A4 3.0-liter CVT Road Test for more info.

I am not a big Tiptronic fan. I find it awkward to use because I prefer the shifting patterns found in my manually equipped 2.8-liter A4. When it comes to automatics I tend to let them manage themselves. What I did really like about the 2002 Tiptronic A6 though is the new "Sport" shifting mode. Simply shift down to "S" and the A6 automatically revs to much higher RPMs before shifting so you can brainlessly get the most torque available during acceleration. It's a little worse on the fuel economy but instantly addictive especially when exploring the limits of the 3.0-liter engine.

During mostly highway driving I averaged pretty good fuel economy of around 22mpg. Audi claims 17mpg around town and 25mpg on the highway.

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