Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor
There are things that automotive journalists say or write with regular frequency. "Secure handling," is one. "Quick acceleration," is another. So is "supple materials" and "Hey, who took my sandwich?" Or, "Yeah, boss, I'll be out of the office tomorrow evaluating the new Daewoo Nubira." (Flash forward to tomorrow; Hawaiian shirt-clad journalist sits on beach, frosty Coors in hand.)
There is one thing, however, that no journalist has ever said. And that is, "This thing has too much horsepower." I'm dead serious that phrase has never, ever escaped the mouth of a moto-weenie. The opposite "This thing could use an extra 50 horsepower" has been uttered in just about every road test ever written. Ferrari 550 Maranello? More horsepower, please. Dodge Viper? Slap a turbo on that puppy. Caesar's chariot? Another big horse would be nice. Audi A6? Yes please.
Since its introduction in the fall of 1997, the A6 has used a 2.8-liter V6 for motivation. Or, more aptly, unmotivated motivation. A current-generation A6 2.8 Quattro, equipped with a five-speed automatic, will run from zero to 60 in approximately 9.2 seconds. For perspective, a current Accord V6 will do the same feat in less than 8 seconds and a Jeep Grand Cherokee V8 in about 7.3 seconds. Thoroughly beaten by a plebian Honda and a truck? A Teutonic injustice, to be sure.
So here we are in 2000 and the folks at Audi have made some big changes to restore the proper world order. There are two new models complementing the existing A6 2.8 and A6 2.8 Avant. The first is the A6 2.7T with a 250-horsepower, twin-turbo V6 engine. The second is the A6 4.2 with a 300-horsepower V8. Are the horsepower increases enough to satisfy even the most velocity-addicted auto journalist? Of course not. But they are considerable improvements, and a potential buyer of a luxury sedan should take serious note.
First the A6 2.7T. Its engine is new to North American shores. Displacing 2.7 liters, this V6 is a modified version of the 2.8-liter V6 found in the A6 2.8. The 2.7T engine is fitted with two small turbos and twin intercoolers. The small size of the turbos facilitates a quicker turbo boost response. This is evident in the torque curve the maximum output of 258 foot-pounds is available at a super-low 1,850 rpm.
This twin-turbo engine is connected to either a six-speed manual or five-speed Tiptronic automanual transmission. The six-speed is standard and the automanual is a no-cost option. Both are connected to Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system. In the six-speed equipped A6 2.7T that we drove briefly, acceleration was quick. Speedy, even. Not your typical A6 at all. We didn't have access to testing equipment, but Audi claims the manual version burns a zero-to-60 time of 6 seconds flat. With the automatic, Audi says 6.6 seconds. Even if these numbers are optimistic, they still indicate that there's now an A6 version that can actually get you speeding tickets.
If for some reason 250 horsepower isn't enough, there's the A6 4.2. Here you have the modern version of a hot rodder's engine swap. Audi has taken the 4.2-liter V8 out of its flagship A8 Sedan and plopped it into the smaller A6. The engine is loaded with all sorts of high-tech goodies like five valves per cylinder, dual-overhead cams, variable valve timing for the intake camshaft, and a three-stage intake manifold made of magnesium. These goodies result in 300 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 295 foot-pounds of torque at 3,000 rpm. A five-speed Tiptronic automanual is standard, as is the quattro system.
Compared to the manual transmission 2.7T, the 4.2 accelerates in a much more regal fashion. The V8 engine is very quiet and states its presence only in the higher revs. But it ultimately doesn't seem to be in as much of a hurry as the V6 turbo. In fact, Audi lists a zero-to-60 time of 6.7 seconds for the 4.2. While this is certainly quick enough to embarrass many a performance coupe, it can't match the time posted by the 2.7T with the manual transmission. Even more interesting, Audi lists a time of 6.6 seconds for the 2.7T automatic. So yes, that means that despite a 50-horsepower advantage, the 4.2 is slightly slower than the 2.7T automatic. Our best guess on the culprit: the extra weight (the 4.2 weighs 288 pounds more) and taller transmission gearing.
But don't quite dismiss the 4.2 yet. Besides the V8 engine, the 4.2 also contains a number of features and abilities not found on any other A6. To spot a 4.2, look for the flared fenders, unique wheels, and widened side skirts. And though you probably won't notice it, the hood and fenders are slightly longer to accommodate the V8. The final effect is understated, but the 4.2 is definitely the most aggressive looking of the A6 bunch.
Those flared fenders house widened tracks at the front and rear, as well as bigger 235/60R16s tires (205/55R16s on an A6 2.8). Audi also offers a set of optional 255/40R17 tires. Because of the widened tracks and bigger tires, the 4.2 seemed to be the most stable A6 during our short test drives. This secure all-wheel-drive handling, combined with the taller transmission gearing, smooth V8, and bigger fuel tank, make the 4.2 a sweet high-speed freeway runner.
Both the 2.7T and the 4.2 use the same interior design found in the 2.8. This is one of the top interiors found in the luxury-sedan market. Audi gives drivers a generous amount of supple materials and features. Audi A6 2.7T and 4.2 buyers can order a distinct interior atmosphere. Audi currently offers three at no cost: Ambition, Ambiente and Advance. The 2.7T can be ordered with any of the three, while the 4.2 gets either Ambition or Ambiente. The different atmospheres are distinguished by the texture and appearance of the seat upholstery, and the color and type of genuine wood and aluminum trim. Each atmosphere is available in at least two color choices and can be specified in leatherette, leather or, in the advance atmosphere, a Jacquard cloth.
To further the 4.2's value, Audi has given it a contoured rear seat, standard head and side airbags, leather seat upholstery, a sunroof, three memory positions for the driver's seat, a Bose audio system, and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. The exact purpose of the 4.2's contoured rear seat eludes us. While it adds lateral support for two passengers, it also effectively eliminates a comfortable seating position for the third passenger in the middle (there are still three seatbelts for the rear). Other notable options on both the 4.2 and 2.7T include high-intensity discharge xenon headlights, a navigation system, and rear side airbags.
The 2.7T and the 4.2 Sedans are a major improvement to the A6 lineup. Audi's recent emphasis on technology, design, performance, and emotion is evident. For pricing, the 2.7T starts at $38,500 and the 4.2 starts at $48,900. Compared to the BMW 5 Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, both of the new A6s are relative bargains. They are also much more appealing than the A6 2.8. From the Edmunds.com point of view, the best buy here is the 2.7T. While we applaud Audi for going to the lengths that it did in creating the 4.2, its only truly unique feature is the engine. The 2.7T costs about $10,000 less than the 4.2 and offers near-equal or better performance. And if buyers like the extra equipment found on the 4.2, they can still get almost all of it as optional equipment on the 2.7T. Now, where's my sandwich?
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