Audi A6 takes a new styling direction

November 13, 2004|by MALCOLM GUNN/Wheelbase Communications

Luxury and innovation go hand in hand and Audi's forthcoming A6 sedan is loaded with both.

The luxury part of the equation is clear enough. The A6 competes in the middle range of the upscale pecking order, a fiercely competitive and profitable piece of real estate where other German combatants as well as numerous entries from Sweden, England, Japan and North America all vie for attention and sales. Of course, over in Europe, Audi also has Italian and French makes to worry about.

Yes, the skies are full at mid-luxury altitude, but it's a smart place to be flying since an increasing number of folks - including near-retirement-age baby boomers who have survived Parenthood 101 - are now diving into this class of car. It's a sizzling hot category and all the key players know it.

There to tempt the boomers, as well as other well-heeled buyers, is Audi's fresh-faced A6. Available this fall in all-wheel-drive sedan format only (an Avant wagon might follow later), the car has shed its conservative appearance in favor of a more imaginative shape, which is a positive move if you're trying to get attention in a garage full of up-market machinery.


Other than the multi-ringed logo prominently displayed on its nose, there's virtually nothing to compare the new A6 with last year's version. The grille, which was formerly split by a body-colored bumper, now extends, uninterrupted, from the chin spoiler to a point above the hood. It's the focal point for a design that now includes an enticing blend of curves, angles and folds. It might be a metal worker's nightmare, but the A6 now looks athletic and robust, with nary an ounce of flab to be found anywhere, even though the car's critical dimensions - length, width, height and wheelbase - have all modestly increased and both the front and rear track widened for improved stability.

For 2005, base A6 models come with a 255-horsepower 3.2-liter DOHC V-6 (up 35 over the previous 3.0-liter engine). More power comes into play with the optional 335-horsepower 4.2-liter V-8 that, according to Audi, thrusts the A6 to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, a full second quicker than the V6.

Matched to both powerplants is a six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic manual control. Arriving later in the model year will be a V-6 front-wheel-drive A6 with a continuously variable transmission.

The considerably stiffened platform of the new A6 houses a redesigned climate-controlled and leather-clad cabin that has been given additional insulation in key areas to reduce noise levels.

Among the car's unique appointments is a single knob located on the console that operates in conjunction with a dash-mounted seven-inch video screen to control the cabin temperature, central locking system, vehicle diagnostics, audio controls, navigation system, cellular phone and gauge cluster. The parking brake is even controlled by an on/off switch rather than the usual pull lever.

In addition, buyers opting for the V-8 receive a genuine wood-trimmed interior, adaptive Xenon headlamps (that swivel in the direction of a turn) and a louvered rear-window sun shade that automatically lowers when reverse gear is engaged.

With performance, style and attitude on its side, the newest A6 looks to increase its presence in the marketplace and bring new customers into the Audi camp. It also places renewed urgency among its peers to keep up or be left eating the A6's dust.

Copyright 2004, Wheelbase Communications

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