Unveiled at the 2004 New York International Auto Show, the redesigned Audi A6 sport sedan resembles its predecessor but now leads off with a bold, squarish grille. Available with a choice of V-6 or V-8 power, this is the first Audi with optional adaptive headlight technology. These bi-xenon headlights swivel to improve night views on twisting pavement.
Quattro all-wheel drive is standard in both models. The sedan's wheelbase has grown by 3.3 inches, to 112 inches, increasing the amount of front legroom and rear knee room. You also get an additional inch of shoulder room, front and rear. Torsional stiffness has increased by 34 percent.
Inside, the driver uses an electrohydraulic parking brake. The Multi Media Interface system features a 7-inch color display screen. Audi's multitronic continuously variable transmission, introduced on the 2002 model, is no longer available but is likely to reappear later on a front-wheel-drive A6.
Optional keyless entry provides electronic access, unlocking the door as it's pulled. With this system, the engine starts using a push-button on the console. Light and rain sensors and a tire-pressure monitor are standard.
Sales began in November 2004. An A6 Avant wagon joins the sedan for the 2006 model year.
Eyes are likely to focus first on the A6's new large trapezoidal grille. The sedan has an upswept shoulder line and what Audi calls a "curved dome" in the middle of the hood. Wraparound taillights and a horizontal chrome trunk strip are installed at the rear. Rear fog lights are included. Alloy wheels hold 16-inch tires on V-6 models and 17-inchers on cars with the V-8 engine.
Built on a 112-inch wheelbase, the A6 is 193 inches long overall, 73 inches wide and 57.4 inches tall. All A6 sedans have Servotronic steering.
Like earlier A6 models, the 2005 sedan holds five occupants on leather seating surfaces. Controls on the wide center console face slightly toward the driver. A large tachometer and speedometer are installed, and the new four-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel features a trapezoidal center design that mimics the new grille's styling.
Automatic climate control and power heated mirrors are standard. The A6 4.2 includes adaptive headlights, a three-position driver's memory and leather upholstery. Trunk volume totals 19.2 cubic feet. Options include a DVD-based navigation system and Bose Surround Sound.
Under the Hood
Two engines are available. The 4.2-liter V-8 produces 335 horsepower and 310 pounds-feet of torque, versus 255 hp and 243 pounds-feet of torque for the new 3.1-liter V-6. Both engines team with a six-speed-automatic transmission that incorporates Tiptronic for manually selected gear changes. Permanent quattro all-wheel drive is standard.
Sideguard head-curtain airbags, side-impact airbags and active front head restraints are installed. Audi's Electronic Stability Program is standard. Antilock brakes include electronic brake-force distribution and Brake Assist. New daytime running lights are coupled with active cornering lights.
Confident handling and sure-footed all-wheel drive are the A6's strongest attributes. The car doesn't qualify as a powerhouse, but acceleration is quite satisfying with the V-6 engine. Only if you crave the sensation of full-bore takeoffs and the richer sound of its exhaust note is the V-8 really worth the extra dollars. The A6 is quiet, but not eerily silent.
The automatic transmission responds promptly and effectively with either engine, and it delivers a civilized experience. The taut suspension reacts promptly but not excessively. It can cope with most road roughness, but the ride can become bouncy through harsher stretches.
The seats are supportive and firm — they're actually on the hard side. Riders might consider this appealing or a bit bothersome for long-term touring. The driver's visibility over the left shoulder is limited. The new electronic dashboard button for the glove box doesn't make access to the storage area any easier.
Most controls are satisfactory, but Audi's MMI setup is still too complicated. The display screen isn't in the driver's line of sight and requires a downward glance; its complexity means more than a glance is often needed.