Rounding out the goodies, the new A6 is replete with unmatched technological innovation which helps differentiate it from the old A6 and the rest of the competitive pack.

The braking system, for instance, is considerably larger than the previous generation A6 and includes an electronic handbrake and parking brake. An all new ESP "squeegee" function helps keep brake discs dry on wet roads even when the driver does not apply the brakes for a relatively long period of time by pressing the brake linings against the discs under low hydraulic pressure at regular intervals.

Audi's acclaimed MMI is replicated from the high end A8 into the A6 yielding a scaleable entry point into the electronics system. This means that the A6 driver has not only unprecedented control and information, but will get a plug-and-play next generation DVD-based navigation system option ($1,500), voice activation option and standard Bluetooth connectivity in the interior. Audi's advanced key system (also an option) will interface with the MMI system and imbedded proximity sensors, unlocking selected doors and allowing the driver to start the car at the touch of the starter button so long as the key is on his/her person.

From a technology-driving-safety perspective the all new adaptive bi-xenon light option gives the owner headlights which literally "look ahead" by moving to follow bends in the road and can be combined with LED taillights for significantly faster brake light response. The A6 also includes rain and light sensors.

Climb into the A6 and get the superlatives ready. Audi simply does not follow anybody - even themselves - when it comes to automobile interiors. Most striking is the much more cockpit-like driver's layout, exaggerated by the dash wrapped around the MMI display and enormous center console. The previously both bland and obnoxiously large and open dash area of the previous A6 is gone, replaced by a sleek passenger compartment.

Materials are absolutely stunning, and I particularly liked the new diamond waffle weave headliner material which looks elegant yet progressive. There is ample room to stretch out in the front, and in fact with the driver's seat moved all the way back it was too far back for my 6'6" frame. Even with the front seats moved fairly far back there is reasonable space in the backseat and head room is never an issue be it front or back seats.

With all of this descriptive information it may be time to talk about how the car actually drives, although it should be no surprise that everything comes together once you get behind the wheel and set off.

As previously stated I preferred the luxury of the V8 engine, but both variants handle equally well at speed and at the limit be it on the highway or the backroad twisties. Whereas the older A6, save for the 2.7T with its ferocious amount of power, always feels like a bit of a subdued personality, this new A6 benefits from better rigidity, lower overall weight and much-improved steering response. It would be hard to say that it matches the BMW's in this latest category, but the gap is closing at least.

The car does not exhibit much body roll, nor does it dive in hard braking or hunker back when the throttle is punched; the quattro four wheel drive also adds to the feeling of stability no matter what the situation.

Another exceptional feature of the new A6 is just how quiet it is on the road. This is due in part to the exterior design and resulting aerodynamics, as well as completely new climate controls. The fresh air fan has actually been moved outside the cabin to reduce climate control system noise, and in addition massive reserve capacity has been built into the system. The outcome is that the system is rarely working at full blast when it would be its nosiest.

With all of these improvements and new features the redesigned A6 becomes a compelling package for anybody in the market for a new C-segment automobile. Audi presented some interesting research concerning the average buyer in this market, including that 72% for Audi were male (compared to 80% for all brands), 88% married (compared to 80%), average age of 51 years old (compared to 56), average income $162k per year (compared to $118k) and fully 80% would be college graduates (compared to 64%). Audi appears to appeal to a very well educated, affluent and slightly younger subset of the C-segment buyer than other brands.

Axel Mees during his fateful presentation said that Audi expects to sell around 22,500 A6's in the US and 1,200 in Canada in the first year, numbers which seem relatively conservative considering it sold above this annual clip with the previous generation A6. Mees commented at the time, "We would rather commit low and deliver better than expected results."

During the press launch Audi also gave public guidance on future vehicle rollouts in North American including the new Audi A4 in March 2005, the new S4 approximately one month later, the A3 in May 2005 and the A6 Avant in the fall of 2006. With around 20 models for sale today, Mees said that 30-40 models would be available in the future. This would of course include the Q7 SUV, as well as a two-seat super coupe inspired by the Le Mans quattro concept and potentially a smaller SUV offering.

Pages: [1] [2] [Gallery]