2009 Audi A6 3.0T Quattro Review


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2009 Audi A6 3.0T

SEE ALSO: Audi Specs, Comparisons, Reviews - Audi Buyers Guide

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2009 Audi A6 3.0T quattro

Need an example of excellence in a mid-sized luxury sedan? Look no further than the Audi A6. And in particular, look at the 2009 Audi A6 3.0T quattro.

The 3.0T quattro is a new addition to the A6 sedan lineup this year, fitting between the front-wheel drive 3.2 FSI and the V8-powered 4.2 FSI quattro models, "quattro" being Audi's performance-oriented full-time all-wheel drive system. The numeric designator denotes the engine capacity in liters, and why would a 3.0 be above a 3.2?

Notice that "T" after... which has meant "turbo", for Audi performance enhancement since the original Quattro rally car homologation special of the early 1980s. The smaller A3 and A4 have 2.0T models with 200-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged and intercooled four-cylinder engines, so one might be thinking "misprint" when reading 3.0T. After all, a decade ago, the A6 used a 2.8-liter V6 with essentially the same horsepower as the current 2.0T.

One would be wrong. The 3.0-liter V6 engine uses forced induction, but in place of the twin turbos found in the 2.7-liter V6 used in the S6, allroad, and other models earlier in the decade is found a single supercharger. It's simpler, with much more efficient packaging than twin turbos, and allied with a high compression ratio made possible by Audi's FSI direct fuel injection system gives an even 300 horsepower -- instantly, without turbo lag and without the fuel consumption expected from a high-output engine. A 22-mpg average for a week of spirited driving is nothing to be ashamed of for a car of the A6's size and performance capability.

External appearance and the interior environment are also important to the luxury experience, and Audi shines in both areas. Seemingly small changes to the front end integrate the large "single frame" Audi grille into the bodywork better than ever. New headlights feature what is quickly becoming an Audi specialty, a row of small, bright LED daytime running lights as an option. Greater use of aluminum accents inside improves the already-benchmark interior. Revisions to the suspension improve comfort, especially on poorly-surfaced roads, with no detriment to handling.

In an industry in turmoil, Audi is gaining market share. No surprise there, especially after my week with a well-equipped A6 3.0T. The $5000 "Prestige" package adds nearly all of the high-tech features expected in a contemporary luxury car -- navigation system with voice recognition, self-leveling adaptive bi-xenon headlights, cornering lights, backup camera, and more -- and a radar-based side-assistance system is also available. In some luxury cars, the gadgets are the stars, adding flash to an otherwise humdrum vehicle. The A6 really doesn't need any of that. Here, the car is the star, thanks to its elegantly understated style, fine chassis tuning, benchmark interior design and execution, and the fine 3.0T engine. And, as good as each individual piece is, the overall result is still greater than the sum of the parts. Depending on the driver's desire at the moment, it can be a first-class luxury sedan with a great amount of reserve power or it can be a fine all-wheel drive sport-touring sedan.

APPEARANCE: The massive grille that makes an Audi instantly recognizable is a tribute to the ancestral Auto Union Grand Prix cars of the 1930s. That grille design has been developing toward the new style, as seen at the front of the 2009 A6, for a few years now. First there was a dual-level grille, bisected by the front bumper. Then there was the original "single frame" grille, with the bumper mostly integrated in its center. Now the bumper is hidden behind the grille, and revisions to the foglamps, faux brake ducts, and headlights blend well to create a distinctive look. The shape of the lower bumper fascia hints at the splitters at the front of a race car, like Audi's R15 TDI endurance racer. The optional LED running lights, under the main headlights, are the finishing touch. At the rear, the sedan gets LED taillights. The rest of the elegantly neo-Bauhaus lines are mostly untouched, and no complaint there.

COMFORT: For the past decade, the A6 has set standards in the mid-luxury class for interior styling and materials that have been emulated but not equalled by many other manufacturers. The old saying about imitation and flattery comes to mind... but Audi still does it the best. Interior colors and trim materials depend on exterior color, but count on elegance in design and high levels of driver and passenger comfort. Power operation of windows, mirrors, and front seats is expected, and done, with all windows one-touch up and down. Seats are leather, with the fronts heated, and comfort is first-rate, even in the rear. The two outboard rear positions offer very good head and leg room, and width; the high central tunnel makes the rear center a short-term proposition. The rear seat can fold down with a 60/40 split for those times when cargo needs exceed trunk capacity, but those times will likely be few. The trunk is large enough -- even with a full-size spare tire and the battery under its floor. LEDs in the outside mirrors light the area around the front doors at night. Inside, instruments are easily visible, with higher-resolution graphics. Audio includes AM, FM, and Sirius satellite radio, plus a CD changer and MP3/iPod interface in the locking glove box. The audio and optional navigation system are controlled through the MMI (Multi Media Interface) button-based system; the dual-zone climate-control system is operated with standard rotary controls.

SAFETY: The current A6 has been named an IIHS "Top Safety Pick" for the past three years for its performance in crash testing. It meets or exceeds worldwide standards. For 2009, a no-maintenance passive tire-pressure monitoring system is standard, and a radar-based side monitoring system available.

RIDE AND HANDLING: It's not quite a "sports sedan", as it's too comfort-oriented and may seem a bit soft, but the A6 is perfect for the everyday world, even it that should involve high-speed travel on tight, twisting mountain roads and open highways. Call it "sport-touring", in the manner of motorcycles that are too large, heavy, and comfortable for track days but excel in German-type road conditions. Although the basic design of the four-link front, trapezoidal-link rear suspension is unchanged, ride height has been lowered a little less than an inch and the springs and shocks have been revised. The result is a fine combination of quiet luxury comfort, even on less than optimally-surfaced roads, with the kind of tenacious cornering that only a well set-up chassis and quattro all-wheel drive traction can provide. It's no rally car replica, but the A6 has plenty of rally and race heritage.

PERFORMANCE: Supercharging was first used by Audi progenitor Auto Union in its Grand Prix cars of the 1930s, but turbochargers have been the norm for forced induction from Ingolstadt in recent years. Audi returns to supercharging in the A6 3.0-liter V6 3.0T, with excellent results. 300 horsepower, between 5100 and 6800 rpm, with 310 lb-ft of torque between 2500 and 5100 rpm, matched to a six-speed multi-mode automatic transmission means smooth, instantaneous power just about anywhere, any time, with plenty of reserve in "D", for a proper luxury car experience. In "S", the torque-converter automatic holds gears longer, usually stays in a lower gear to keep the engine in the power sweet spot, and downshifts during deceleration -- it does a very credible job of emulating a performance-oriented human. Full manual control is available in "Tiptronic" manual shift mode, using either the shift lever on the console or the paddles behind the steering wheel. The American-spec is electronically governed to a 130-mph top speed, no problem here. More importantly, it can go from a standstill to 60 mph in well under six seconds, for peace of mind on short, vicious highway on-ramps. EPA fuel economy ratings are 18 mpg city, 26 highway, and 21 overall. I got 22 during my week, mostly in D as that suited the drivertrain just fine. Direct fuel injection, like Audi's FSI, allows a high compression ratio, for increased efficiency. And increased power output, with forced or natural induction. Good deal!

CONCLUSIONS: Audi has another gem in the A6 3.0T

SPECIFICATIONS
2009 Audi A6 3.0T

Base Price			$ 50,100
Price As Tested			$ 56,025
Engine Type			dohc 24-valve aluminum alloy supercharge
                                and intercooled V6
Engine Size			3.0 liters / 183 cu. in.
Horsepower			300 @ 5100-6800 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			310 @ 2500-5100 rpm 
Transmission                    6-speed multi-mode automatic with
                                manual-shift mode
Wheelbase / Length		111.9 in. / 193.5 in.
Curb Weight			4123 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		13.7
Fuel Capacity			21.1 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane premium unleaded gasoline
Tires				P245/45 R18 97H Continental Conti Pro Contact
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc, ABS, ESP standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent 4-link /
				 independent trapezoidal link
Drivetrain			longitudinal front engine,
				 permanent all-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		18 / 26 / 22
0 to 60 mph				5.9  sec


OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Prestige model - includes:
  Audi navigation system, Bose sound system, 
  18-inch wheels, all-season tires, bi-xenon plus
  headlights, LED daytime running lights, 
  adaptive self-leveling headlights, cornering lights,
  Audi Advanced Key, rearview parking camera,
  shift paddles, voice recognition, power-adjustable
  steering column, driver's-side seat memory,
  auto-dimming interior mirror with compass,
  heated auto-dimming exterior mirrors with memory,
  aluminum window trim and door sills, trip 
  computer in color					$ 5,100
Destination charge					$   825

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