November 22, 2004

North American Press Launch: 2005 Audi A6
Article & Photos by: Jason Teller

The obvious upside of web based publishing is the ability to disseminate information very quickly, whereas the unfortunate flip side of that reality is that all to often there is quite literally a race to address the public. So was the case with the short lead press launch of the new Audi A6 in San Francisco. Scanning major publications within a week of the event I saw noteworthy coverage in nearly all cases.

This both helps prove my point - news is a competitive place after all - but I think there's something more fundamental going on here. Many times a new car at its launch will be nice but not spectacular, improved but not revolutionary and pressworthy but not crucial. This gives the writer some additional time to contemplate the driving experience, and quite possibly some additional driving experiences (in other models) which might be compared. In the case of the 2005 Audi A6, though, my take is that the car emerged with such positive momentum that writers were actually rushing to sing its praises.

So with that setup I'll come right out and say that Audi's new A6 clearly deserves the favorable press it has been receiving. With the exception of the D2 to D3 platform upgrade it is the single most significant positive re-tooling of a recent Audi model, and unlike the A8 redesign it is a mainstream model which will account for more than a quarter of all Audi vehicles sold in North America during the next year. This is a car which immediately causes any mildly-aware, current generation A6 owner to make a trip down to the dealership to find out what all the fuss is about. It is also capable of creating robust repeat sales among that group of current owners.

Unlike your local newspaper or a more general automobile magazine, I'm going to assume that the AudiWorld reader already has a pretty comprehensive understanding of the new A6. Back in February we reported that Audi had started building it, we saw it in person in Geneva, followed that with a comprehensive Audi press release and finally there was a test-drive from our UK correspondent. This review is quite noticeably not our first coverage of the new A6.

What it is, however, is a chance for me to tell you what I found exceptional or exceptionally interesting about the car, particularly in comparison to the last generation model. I'd like to help you understand why as a sports luxury sedan buyer you should give the A6 generous space to compete against the BMW 5-series, Mercedes-Benz E-class and anything Japan Inc. has to offer.

Undeniably, everything starts at the front of the car with the new Audi face (which is of course eventually to been seen on all Audi models with the exception of the TT). Time and time again I have asserted that the large front grille looks better in person than in photographs, a claim generally borne out by first time viewers. The "V" face is the power center of the car from a design perspective and yields an undeniably unique look. In A6 Design Project Team Manager Achim Badstübner's words, "a car needs a face since it is very important for premium brands to have high recognition."

Some early reviews of the A6 have argued that the grille, while distinctive, does not get enough support from the rest of the design to call the new A6 truly progressive. This may explain why Badstübner, poised in front of an opaque projector and sketching the new A6's design elements while talking to journalists, went to some lengths to explain the redesigned rear end which "drags" the rear down towards the ground in a "powerful" manner. The truth is that I find both the nose of the car as seen approaching in a rear view mirror and the rear of the car as seen while following in traffic to be sporty and purposeful. The vehicle carries itself well.

Of my earlier promise to recognize the exceptional, I'm required to mention how much better the new A6 rear looks relative to the outgoing model, which Badstübner referred to as "brutal looking." With a nod to the current Audi trunk line bevel as opposed to the roundness of the previous model, the rear is relatively low and combines a large horizontal element to induce a very grounded look. The A6's symmetrical dual exhaust pipes will now be found on all cars.

Clearly not trying to take the easy way out, I will say that that exterior car design remains firmly in the eye of the beholder. With this new A6 I believe that Audi has successfully introduced the single frame grille to the mainstream vehicles in its lineup and put together an automobile which is not revolutionary design, but indicative of the brand and distinctive nonetheless.

From a drivetrain perspective, the A6 also makes great strides with the introduction of its new engine options. I am obligated to tell you that if you can afford it ($52,500 US / $72,500 Cdn base) and want the power and prestige of a V8 engine then get in the 4.2 first at the dealer and don't bother driving the V6. Far from being a knock on the new 3.2-liter V6 FSI with technology borrowed directly from unparalleled Audi racecars, the V8 is simply the superior powerplant from a horsepower, torque, acceleration, sound and most importantly driving experience perspective. Having said that, Audi officially forecasts only 20% of its A6 sales to be 4.2 V8's.

If fuel economy and price ($40,900 US / $59,500 Cdn base) steer you towards the 3.2 V6 FSI then you'll be considerably better off than you were in the old 3.0-liter A6. With 35 more horsepower and an increase of 30 lb. ft. of torque over the previous model, FSI technology contributes to a broader torque curve and improved gas mileage (19/26 for new A6 versus 18/25 for the outgoing A6). The V6 has some giddy up and for the first time in the A6's history the driver is not left wishing for more (think original 2.8 variant) or just happy to have adequate power (more recent 3.0). This same 3.2 V6 FSI will cascade down to North American A4 models.

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