What It Is
A midsize luxury sedan with a fuel-efficient diesel engine
Opulent yet functional interior
Somewhat rougher ride on the highway
While not perfect, the Audi A6 TDI is compelling enough to make people consider diesel.
It may seem like an extremely limited market, but according to Audi, the demand for luxury diesel cars is rising. Audi is banking big on diesels for the U.S., hoping to make TDI variants on most of its lineup by 2015. And despite their price premium, diesels offer 30 percent better fuel economy than most gasoline models and offer more torque for better handling.
For 2014, the Audi A6 TDI is completely new to the market. And if it wasn't for the giant "TDI Clean Diesel" label on the side of our test model, you may have never even known it was a diesel car. Its quiet nature, enjoyable drive, and excellent fuel economy make for a great modern diesel driver. In many ways, it reminds us of the rest of the stellar A6 lineup while offering its own unique combination of power and fuel efficiency. But is there enough of a business case to buy this model over all the other cars on the market?
What We DroveThe diesel A6 is available only with all-wheel drive in two trim levels: the mid-level Premium Plus and the top-of-the-line Prestige. Our model was the Prestige, which came with extras such as four-zone climate control, LEDs and ambient lighting, Bose sound system, ventilated front seats, and memory power adjustable steering wheel. We also opted for the $2,800 Driver Assistance Package, an $800 sport package with souped-up 20-inch wheels, and a $500 Glacier White exterior color. When adding in a destination fee, the cost of our model totaled $66,795.
But just how safe is the A6? The government gave the 2014 model five stars in crash tests. The car has plenty of safety features, including front and rear three-point safety belts, automatic seatbelt pretensioners, as well as advanced driver and front passenger airbags and side curtain airbags. Ours tacked on auto braking as well as a number of convenience safety systems.
The CommuteThe comfortable steering, quiet engine, and insulated cabin are the first things you notice about this diesel car. So, it's a bit surprising when you feel a kick of power from the engine as soon as you take off. Soon enough, you start to feel that extra torque and are able to handle highway maneuvers with ease. Drivers will enjoy the impeccable grip this car has on quick turns. Overall, the car feels confident and capable on the road, but we noticed it struggles with bumps and dips in the road. We think it's not as smooth of a drive as you might expect from a luxury sedan.
Certain interior accommodations make the morning commute in traffic rather enjoyable overall. Supportive heated/cooled seats, a power adjustable steering wheel, and an easy-to-work radio make life more comfortable. An optional lane assist takes the stress out of changing lanes, and an intelligent cruise control system automatically controls the distance between you and other vehicles.
The Grocery RunMost families will find enough room in the trunk for a week's worth of groceries. Extending deep into the back of the car, the trunk can even fit longer objects with relative ease. Those who need more room can easily fold down the back seats.
If you opt for Audi's top view rear camera system, you'll no longer need to step out of the car to make sure you fit in that tight parking space. An optional assistance package provides an aerial view of the car pulling into the space, offering a detailed perspective around all sides. It also provides close ups of the distance there is from the curb.
The Weekend FunYes, the Audi A6 is a good distance traveler. It achieves commendable fuel economy while managing to deliver a rewarding drive experience. But despite how solid it is, the drive quality isn't anywhere near as notable as its interior.
The characteristic that sets the Audi A6 above its competitors is its interior technology. It all starts out with a thin, 7-inch display screen that pops up out of the center console when you start the car and stows neatly away when the vehicle isn't in operation. Everything on the screen is controlled by a knob and a simple set of buttons near the gearshift. Audi offers navigation with Google Earth that provides the added detail of satellite imagery and critical information about a given destination. And with a standard handwriting recognition feature for the A6 diesel, drivers can input radio controls and navigation commands by sliding their finger on a touchpad.
While it may sound complicated, we found the overall infotainment experience much easier than competing vehicles from BMW, which have too many menus. It is not the system for those who want just the basic set of controls, but technophiles will love it. And since the screen and navigation are standard on the mid-level trim, many A6 buyers will get to enjoy these advanced features.
SummarySuperior technology, a highly refined interior, and a solid array of standard features make the Audi A6 a winner in its segment.
If you couldn't tell, we love the Audi A6. But which is the one to get? We'd say the diesel model or the four-cylinder turbo are the most compelling options for most buyers. The turbo four is by far the most economical choice, but the diesel model has the unique position as the most fuel efficient model in the lineup. And buyers will save enough at the gas pump to make up for the $2,400 price premium the diesel version has over the inefficient gas V-6 model. Along with its high fuel economy, the A6 TDI delivers a powerful, nimble ride that most buyers should enjoy. But it also wouldn't hurt to look at the BMW 535d, andalthough it doesn't provide as many trim levels as the Audi diesel, it offers a similar amount of power and performance.
Spec BoxPrice-as-tested: $66,795
EPA City: 24
EPA Highway: 38
EPA Combined: 29
Cargo Space: enough groceries for the whole family
Estimated Combined Range: 574 miles
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Above Average (Premium Plus TDI)