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Audi A6 4.2 quattro (2001)

SEE ALSO: Audi Buyer's Guide

by John Heilig


MODEL:  Audi A6 4.2 quattro 
ENGINE:  4.2-liter DOHC V8 
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 300 hp @ 6200 rpm/295 lb-ft @ 3000-4000 rpm 
TRANSMISSION:  5-speed automatic with Tiptronic 
WHEELBASE: 108.6 in. 
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 193.4 x 76.1 x 57.0 in. 
STICKER PRICE:  $52,225 

For many years, Audi has produced some of the finest cars available. The company was sorely wounded by the "unintended acceleration" farce, and has recovered to the level where it is now selling as many cars in the United States as it did before television decided to perform a hatchet job. There are several Audis available with a variety of equipment and sizes, ranging from the VW-like A4 to the ultra-luxurious A8. The A6 4.2 quattro lies in the middle, but nearer the top than the bottom. The A6 designation identifies it as the mid-range Audi. It's sort of the Audi equivalent to the BMW 5-Series, both in size, features and price. But the A6 has one feature that BMW doesn't offer -- the quattro permanent all-wheel drive system.

Powered by a 4.2-liter V8 engine that develops 300 horsepower, the A6 4.2 quattro (they have to think of a shorter name) has the power to do anything you want it to do. With a five-speed automatic transmission and Tiptronic, you have the flexibility to put the A6 through its paces anywhere. Tiptronic is Audi's version of a stick shift that allows you to shift the gearbox like a sequential manual gearbox without having to use a clutch pedal. Shifts are, therefore, a lot smoother, at least for me.

We drove the A6 both with the automatic and using the Tiptronic on some winding roads we like to use. The automatic probably did the job as well as anything, but when we wanted the gearbox to kick in at a lower gear more quickly, it was beneficial to use the Tiptronic.

The A6 handled the bends in the road graciously. The car doesn't have a stiff suspension, which one would normally associate with a great handling car. It is a more compliant suspension with a four-link structure up front and double A arms in the rear. On rough roads it tended to smooth out the bumps. But on the winding roads, it let the A6 take the corners with glee. This car also had the $1,750 sport package, which included sport front seats, 17-inch sport alloy wheels and a sport suspension with stiffer shocks. The front brakes in the four-wheel disc brake package were HP2 four-pad high performance brakes that were tacky. You got the feeling that they could stop the car on a dime if necessary. It gives a driver a comfortable feeling knowing that good brakes are under him.

You can feel safe in the A6 as well. It has the standard complement of dual front airbags matched to seat-mounted side airbags. But it also had inflatable SIDEGUARD curtain airbags that are an important feature. When my daughter's car was hit by one driven by a driver running a red light, the only injury she sustained was a cut head where she hit the B-pillar. With the inflatable curtain, she would not have had that injury.

Being an Audi, all the luxury features were there as well, including a power adjustable steering column, Symphony radio with a cassette and CD player, dual zone automatic climate control system that my wife adored because we never agree on what temperature the heater should be, power front seats, cruise control and remote keyless locking.

Fuel economy was listed as 17 mpg city, 24 mg highway.

There's no doubt that the Audi A6 4.7 quattro would be an excellent vehicle in any climate, but in the northeast, with its weather that often turns icy and sleety, it's perfect. You can drive it as a sports sedan in the sun and dry weather, and also drive it as a sports sedan when the weather turns nasty. The quattro four-wheel drive system under you is almost worth the price of admission.