Audi’s handsome, understated midsized sedan gets an awesome diesel engine. The 2014 Audi A6 TDI is an amazing car, and for good reason: Audi desperately needs diesels to work in the US, in order to meet mounting federal fuel-economy requirements. Unfortunately, America has long reacted tepidly to the prospect of compression-ignition passenger cars. Maybe we associate them with the slow, noisy and smokey GM oil-burners of the 1980s, maybe we think of hippies puttering around in veggie-oil converted old ‘Benzes. We suspect many Americans just think “diesel” is a synonym for truck. Nail the throttle in the Audi A6 TDI, however, and all notions of trucks and puttering disappear as fast as the scenery you just left behind. Of course, in the cities and suburbs where most of these cars will live, all that acceleration really does is to bring you to the next traffic jam that much faster, but for those brief seconds (about 5 before you reach 60 mph) in which you can use all 428 lb ft of the Audi’s torque, it’s a transcendent experience, a rush of acceleration so all-at-once as to seem science-fictional, as though you’ve been transported: not just to another street, another stoplight, but another life.
Such is the power of the A6 TDI quattro. Whereas in similarly quick petrol-powered cars, you can feel the thrust build progressively as the tach needle swings upward and around, in the diesel A6, there’s an uncanny sensation that all the power comes instantly. You don’t have to wait for the revs to build. Floor it at idle and you’re gone.
The 2014 Audi A6 TDI, with its 5.4 second 0-60 time and 29 mpg overall, is not even remotely like a truck. Thanks to the TDI V6’s immense torque, and the quattro all-wheel-drive system’s ability to use it, acceleration from a rolling start is prodigious and near-instantaneous. Subjectively, the A6 TDI feels much faster than its track numbers suggest. Its responses are quick and sure, the 8-speed tiptronic generally always keeping the engine in its ideal range.
When it comes to handling and chassis dynamics, the A6 quattro is so close to excellent that its shortcomings really stand out, though without ultimately detracting much from the car’s charm. Turn-in is eager and crisp, though even on the sport setting the electric power steering provides a little too much power. Though there’s plenty of grip (about .9 G on a skidpad) the body-roll can make transitional response feel a little sloppy. Too often in chicanes, you find yourself having to catch up to the car as it pitches one way and then the other. There’s a trend among auto-makers nowadays: in trying to appease customers who want a soft, cushy ride but who also read magazines’ “track test” reports, they’ve been equipping new models with very soft suspensions and very grippy, wide tires. This equates to lots of cars that can stop short and corner hard, right from the factory, but that never feel willing or eager to do so. That said, the A6 TDI has one of the better ride/handling balances among current luxury sedans.
What about the rest of the car? Once you reach that traffic jam you can at least take comfort in the aesthetic value of your surroundings. The wood accents around the dash and door panels are textured like fine, old furniture, the leather is rich and soft, and the design of the console says “art world” more than any modern car’s has a right to. Our Glacier White Metallic press vehicle came with the premium, driver assistance and sport packages, meaning that it came packed with all the modern connectivity and convenience features as well. Audi’s MMI infotainment system remains one of the best on the market, enabling drivers to easily switch between navigation, media, and car-info functionalities. The driver assistance package added Audi’s top-view camera, park assist, adaptive cruise control and active lane assist. The suite of cameras and clear, easy-to-see screen help guide the big sedan in parking maneuvers.