What's New for 1999
The A6 continues basically unchanged after last year's redesign.
Remember Audi a decade ago? Of course not. Nobody does. Back then, Audi was changing numerical model names almost daily, and some half-assed reporting by 60 Minutes had almost killed the marque. Claiming to drive an Audi negatively branded you, and the old 80, 90, 100 and 200 model designations registered nothing on the social acceptability meter at the country club. Audi? Isn't that a fancy Volkswagen?
Audis are still fancy Volkswagens, but who cares? The A4 and A8 are simply superb examples of automotive engineering. This A6 is more of the same, adding new corporate styling themes from recent show cars to the mix.
Under the hood is a 2.8-liter V6 engine making 200 horsepower. The five-speed automatic transmission features Tiptronic shifting controls. This powertrain will get the A6 from rest to 60 mph in a somewhat leisurely 8.8 seconds. Opt for the $1,600 quattro all-wheel drive system, and it will take an extra half-second to get to freeway merging velocity. Not stellar, but the old A6 was no speed demon either. Want to go fast? Get the A4 2.8 or A8 4.2.
While a manual transmission is definitely missing from the equipment roster, plenty of other standard goodies are included for the $34,000 tariff. You've got your alloy wheels, heated windshield washer nozzles, headlight washers, puddle lamps on each door, dual-zone climate control system with air filter, heated exterior mirrors, retained accessory power, power front seats, real wood trim, trip computer, 140-watt sound system with 10 speakers and side airbags. You've also got quite a suspension holding it all in place.
A four-link front suspension lifted from the A4 virtually eliminates torque steer under hard acceleration. The new A6 provides a smooth, well-damped ride, without filtering out vital information from the underpinnings. Steering effort is light, maybe even a tad too much so, but communicates effectively what's happening with the front tires.
The new styling is unmistakably Audi, with a swept greenhouse and muscular fenders. However, this new A6 isn't a stunner like the A4. The rounded sheetmetal and sharply creased trim detail don't blend well to our eye, and the taillights on the sedan appear to have been lifted from Chevrolet's lowly S-10 pickup. From someangles, the car looks great. From others, it appears somewhat dumpy and jumbled. Front overhang can appear especially out of balance. Fortunately, the gracefully swept greenhouse on both the sedan and wagon lends a touch of class and elegance to an otherwise characterless profile.
Despite nitpicks, we believe the new A6 will prove enticing in the hotly contested entry-level luxury class. But there's plenty to choose from at this price point, and a heavy load of options can quickly boost the A6's MSRP higher than is reasonable. Select carefully.