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2019 Audi A6 Test Drive Review
One of three redesigned cars in Audi's lineup, the new 2019 A6 is, in many respects, a new standard-bearer among midsize luxury sedans.
One of Audi’s four Russian-doll sedans, the redesigned 2019 A6 is both instantly familiar and radically different from its predecessor. Initially available with a single drivetrain choice, and in Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige trim, the new Audi A6 is clearly similar to the vehicle it replaces. But major differences include a completely new approach to the company’s Multi-Media Interface (MMI), a light-electrified hybrid powertrain, and more sophisticated driver-assistance technologies.
Look and Feel
Despite adopting subtle—yet effective—design cues from the automaker’s sensational Prologue Concept, you'll know the all-new 2019 A6 is an Audi with no more than a glance.
Featuring a crisply creased and more tailored appearance, the 2019 A6 adds a wider single-frame grille design, subtle fender swells inspired by the original Audi Quattro, and new LED lighting with animated illumination and turn-signal sequences that give the car a distinctive visual flair after dark.
Combine these changes with a short front overhang, a rakish roofline, and horizontal themes for the taillights and exhaust outlets, and the bloodlines of past A6 models are clear. The end result is a technical and modern-looking Audi that remains comfortably similar to those that came before it.
At launch, every version of the A6 includes S-line styling details to give the car a sportier look. Prices start at $58,900 for the A6 3.0T Premium and rise to as high as $85,245 for a loaded 3.0T Prestige with all the extras. Note that these values do not include the $995 destination charge.
My test vehicle had Prestige trim, Daytona Gray Pearl paint, the Driver Assistance Package, the Cold Weather Package, the Sport Package, and 21-inch wheels with 255/35 summer performance tires. All in, including destination, the price tag came to $75,140.
If you’re looking for a recommendation, though, CarGurus suggests the Premium Plus trim. It gives you all the features you’re likely to really want, without having to pay more for extras that you don’t really need.
Premium Plus trim includes Audi Virtual Cockpit instrumentation, a great-sounding Bang & Olufsen audio system, a navigation system with a larger 10.1-inch display screen, and a surround-view camera with Audi’s Virtual 360 technology. Add a Cold Weather Package, a Sport Package, and all the driver-assistance and collision-avoidance systems, and you’ll spend less than $70,000.
Regardless of the A6 you choose, when you step into this Audi, there is no questioning that you’ve entered a luxury car. High-quality materials are the rule in any Audi, along with sophisticated patterns and surfaces, refined color schemes, and close attention to detail.
I have two criticisms of the A6’s cabin. First, when the chassis flexes, the cabin creaks. Second, there are pieces of plastic on the outer bottom corners of the front seat backs. When exiting the car, I scraped the heck out of the top of a pair of shoes.
While considering how to summarize the car’s dynamic performance, the words “sublime” and “ethereal” kept coming to mind. Obviously, I loved driving the redesigned Audi A6. It encourages the driver to explore roads less traveled, and on those twisty stretches of blacktop that are most familiar to you, this Audi covers ground at an incredible pace.
A key contributor to driving satisfaction, the creamy smooth turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine makes 335 horsepower from 5,000 to 6,400 rpm and 369 pound-feet of torque between 1,370 and 4,500 rpm. This means the A6 delivers robust acceleration no matter the driving situation and runs to 60 mph in just 5.1 seconds by Audi’s stopwatch.
Audi pairs this engine with a 7-speed S tronic automated manual transmission and a Quattro Ultra all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. “Ultra” refers to this version of Quattro’s rear-axle disconnect system. To conserve fuel, the car operates as a front-wheel-drive (FWD) vehicle until weather conditions or enthusiastic driving dictate the need for AWD.
The new A6 is also what’s considered to be a mild hybrid or a light-electrified vehicle. Every A6 3.0T is equipped with a standard 48-volt main electrical system, powered by a battery mounted in the car’s trunk. A belt-driven alternator starter captures 12 kilowatts of energy that would otherwise be lost while coasting and braking, thereby continually recharging the battery through recuperation.
Audi uses this system to reduce the power draw upon the engine, allowing it to shut off earlier as you coast down to a stop. It also means the car can remain off for longer when sitting still in traffic or at an intersection, which further conserves fuel. The trunk-mounted battery powers the car’s various electronics, ranging from the digital instrument displays and infotainment systems to the driver-assistance technologies.
Does this light-electrified approach work? I got 22.9 mpg on my test loop, at an average speed of 36 mph. The EPA thinks I should have gotten 25 mpg. But the EPA isn’t inspired to switch the Drive Mode Select settings to Dynamic from Comfort, Automatic, or Individual, nor to use the paddle shifters to hold revs as the car races toward the next kink in the road, so cut the A6 a little slack here.
If it sounds like the new Audi A6 might endanger your license to drive... yes, it will. And the steering, brakes, and suspension are the drivetrain’s partners in crime.
Progressive steering is standard, along with ventilated front and rear brakes. The steering is terrific, but I’m not crazy about how the brake pedal feels in urban and suburban settings. Under normal driving conditions, it feels a little numb, but when you’re driving hard or you need maximum braking power immediately, the pedal feels exactly right.
My A6 Prestige test car included a standard adaptive damping suspension, and it’s impressive. Normally, a set of 21-inch wheels wrapped in 35-series performance tires would destroy a car’s ride quality, but thanks to the suspension, that’s not the case with this A6.
On a day without any deadlines, I headed out for a drive without a destination in mind. Taking roads less traveled, the A6 ripped down every twisty 2-lane between my L.A. suburb and Santa Barbara, and I especially enjoyed a romp down California 150 from Ojai to Carpenteria without catching a single vehicle that would restrict the fun. (This is a rare occurrence, as any reader familiar with this road will know.)
I couldn't see the head-up display while wearing polarized sunglasses, but on more than one occasion, I glanced down at the digital gauges and was surprised by how fast I was going.
Form and Function
Audi’s midsize sedan is comfy, especially if you opt for the 18-way multi-contour front seats with several different massage programs. At the same time, this interior definitely feels like a tailored fit. There isn’t much room for spreading out.
My test car had the standard front seats upgraded with ventilation, and all they really lacked were adjustable side bolsters to qualify as perfect. Equipped with the Sport Package, optional 21-inch wheels with sticky tires, and an adaptive damping suspension, my A6 Prestige supplied more grip in corners than the standard seats could combat. Audi might want to consider an optional sport-seat upgrade for this car.
Rear-seat passengers are similarly confined yet comfortable, and my Prestige-trimmed test car had 4-zone automatic climate control along with heated rear seats. For sunny days, rear-window shades helped combat solar rays, and the Prestige trim’s dual-pane acoustic window glass provides a quieter cabin no matter the weather conditions.
Interior storage space is nearly non-existent. People who carry lots of things with them are going to run out of places to put stuff, and fast.
The trunk isn’t what I’d call roomy, either. It measures just 13.7 cubic feet because it also houses the 48-volt electrical system’s lithium-ion battery. Nevertheless, with creative packing, a family of four could make it work for a road trip.
While the A6’s interior is constructed of quality materials and is comfortable (if snug), it absolutely shines when it comes to technology.
Featuring the latest version of Audi’s Multi-Media Interface (MMI), the A6 uses two touchscreen displays in place of traditional knobs and buttons. They look and work similarly to a smartphone or tablet computer, featuring quick loading and response time, haptic feedback to confirm inputs, and lush graphics.
Highlights include a sensational navigation system using detailed Google Earth imagery, an outstanding handwriting recognition system, a surround-view camera with 360 Virtual View technology, and one of the best natural-voice-recognition systems I’ve ever used. It is so good, in fact, that pushing the “Talk” button on the steering wheel replaces interaction with the screens while you drive. I don’t even care that there aren’t any physical buttons or knobs on the dashboard—something I've never claimed in my life.
Something else I love about the new A6 is the Audi Virtual Cockpit digital instrumentation. In my opinion, from the design and integration to the colors and resolution, Audi does a better job with this type of technology than any other car company.
Audi’s Bang & Olufsen premium sound systems are also terrific, and while my test car had the lesser of the two B&O choices, it still sounded good enough to make spending $4,900 on the 19-speaker Advanced Sound System seem foolhardy.
Audi offers a long list of driver-assistance and collision-avoidance systems for the 2019 A6, the more unusual and sophisticated of them reserved for Premium Plus and Prestige trim levels.
Among the highlights, Pre Sense systems are standard up front and available for the back of the car. They can sense when a collision is about to occur, take steps to prevent the collision, and prepare the cabin and occupants for an impact.
Opt for the Driver Assistance Package with Premium Plus or Prestige trim, and Audi will add adaptive cruise control with traffic-jam assist and turn assist, active lane assist with emergency assist, intersection assistant, and traffic-sign recognition to the A6.
Turn assist can detect when a driver is making an unsafe left turn across traffic and bring the A6 to a stop. Emergency assist can detect an unresponsive driver who might be asleep or suffering a medical problem, and brings the A6 safely to a stop with the hazard lights flashing. Intersection assistant can help a driver to see cross-traffic hazards in front of the car in situations where visibility is blocked by buildings or parked vehicles.
Prestige trim adds HD Matrix LED headlights with automatic high-beam activation, and they are astonishingly good. My test car did not, however, have the optional night-vision assistant with pedestrian detection, which is exclusively available with Prestige trim.
Obviously, since many of these features are designed to work in the background and only when necessary, I did not experience many of them. Of those I could actively try and test, I found them to work with uncanny subtlety.
When warnings are issued, they don’t blare and startle you into having a heart attack and activating the emergency assist feature. In turn, this more natural integration of the technology into your daily driving routine means you’re more likely to keep the systems engaged at all times.
Regardless of the model, from the basic A3 and Q3 to the delightfully decadent R8, Audi’s lineup never fails to impress me. That’s true of the redesigned 2019 A6, and if I were shopping for a midsize luxury car between $50,000 and $75,000, this is what I’d buy.
If you’ve watched the video review for this car, you’ll see me recommend the Audi A7 in the closing commentary. The Audi A7 is an A6 with sleeker bodywork and extra utility thanks to its 5-door hatchback body style.
In retrospect, I must retract that off-the-cuff remark, because at the time I did not realize the A7 commands a $9,100 price premium over the A6. Sure, the A7 looks sportier and has a rear liftgate, a bigger 24.7-cubic-foot cargo area, and folding rear seats that supply even greater utility, but these upgrades cannot justify the price premium.
Compared to other midsize luxury sedans, the A6 shines brightly for its ageless aesthetics, high-tech and high-quality interior, and sophisticated drivetrain. Especially with its optional 20- or 21-inch wheels, the A6 looks terrific. And in Prestige trim with the adaptive damping suspension and Sport Package, it is an absolute dream to drive.
There are a few flaws here, but aside from a complete and utter lack of useful interior storage, none should be a deal-breaker. So put your smartphone in your pocket (or the wireless charging tray under the center armrest), stick the key fob in your other pocket, secure your daily caffeinated beverage in the cup holder, and drive to your heart’s content, because you’ll enjoy every minute of it.
Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience reviewing cars and has served in editorial leadership roles with Edmunds, J.D. Power, the New York Daily News, Autobytel, and Vehix. Chris prefers to focus on the cars people actually buy rather than the cars about which people dream, and emphasizes the importance of fuel economy and safety as much as how much fun a car is to drive. Chris is married to an automotive journalist, is the father of four daughters, and lives in Southern California.
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