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First drive: Audi confirms engine line-up for Aussie A6

Super sipper: The new Audi A6’s bahn-storming supercharged 3.0-litre V6 requires just 0.2l/100km more than the naturally-aspirated 2.8-litre base engine to produce an extra 70kW and 130Nm.

Efficient petrol and diesel engines to help Audi’s all-new A6 sip from 6.0l/100km

4 Feb 2011

AUDI has confirmed a three engine line-up for when its A6 luxury sedan arrives in local showrooms after its launch at the Australian International Motor Show in Melbourne this July.

The A6 has just been launched in Europe with five engine variants but for now, the Australian entry-level engine will be a naturally-aspirated petrol V6 although four-cylinder petrol and diesel variants may eventually be added.

This 2.8-litre V6 uses direct injection and dual overhead camshafts with variable intake valve timing to produce 150kW and 280Nm. It returns an average fuel economy figure of eight litres per 100km and has an emissions rating of 187g/km.

Next up is Audi’s supercharged 3.0-litre V6, which pumps out 220kW and 440Nm. This potent engine can sling the A6 from 0-100km/h in just 5.5 seconds. Its fuel economy is equally impressive given its power, coming in at 8.2l/100km while emissions stand at 190g/km.

One diesel will be offered initially, a 3.0-litre V6 with direct injection, dual overhead camshafts and a variable geometry turbocharger. It produces 180kW and 500Nm of torque while using an average of just 6.0l/100km and emitting 158g/km of CO2.

All engines include idle-stop technology that switches off the engine when the car comes to rest and restarts it when the driver applies the throttle.

While a petrol-electric hybrid version of the A6 will be available overseas, there is no plan to build that vehicle in right-hand drive at this stage.

7 center imageAll three engines use a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission that feeds the Quattro constant all-wheel drive system that will be standard on all Australian A6 models. The revised AWD system has a crown-gear centre differential, which Audi says is especially compact and 2.5kg lighter than the existing Torsen-type centre diff. Most of the time it sends 60 per cent of power to the rear, but this can change from 30 per cent to 80 per cent depending on the conditions.

There is an optional sport rear differential which actively distributes power across the rear axle for improved traction.

The A6 takes on many design cues from the A8 luxury flagship that was introduced last year while adopting much of its technology.

More than 20 per cent of the new A6’s body is aluminium and the material is also used for much of the suspension architecture, contributing to a weight saving of roughly 80kg over the previous model.

The dimensions of the new A6 are similar, if slightly smaller to the last, although there is a little more interior space.

Audi says it delivers 13mm more front headroom, between 8mm and 10mm more shoulder room and has 25 per cent more storage areas. The boot has a capacity of 530 litres and the opening has been enlarged.

The interior has been upgraded, adopting the same style as the A8, including its wrap around belt line that runs from the top of the doors and around underneath the windscreen.

A centre screen, displaying various information including the satellite navigation map, automatically pops up out of the dashboard.

There is an MMI (multi media interface) control dial mounted just behind the gear-shifter, while a keypad that allows occupants to enter various letters and numbers sits to the left of the shifter.

Audi has also decided to adopt head-up display technology, which projects the speed and other information such as satellite navigation directions on the windscreen, which in this sector, has previously only been available in BMWs.

The A6 also adopts the latest radar adaptive cruise control system that can now stop the car completely without any input from the driver if a car slows or stops in front.

Another system uses a range of sensors to prepare the car for a potential impact, alerting the driver, applying the brakes, engaging safety devices such as the pre-tensioning seatbelts, activating the hazard lights, closing the windows and stiffening the dampers (in models with optional air suspension).

Night vision technology that senses pedestrians that pose a danger and highlights them in red to alert the driver trickles down from the A8 flagship.

The A6 is also available with a system that uses cameras to monitor if the car is wandering out of its lane (at speeds above 60km/h) and intervening with the steering to get it back on course. An automatic parking system is on the options list.

The A6 runs double wishbone front suspension with control arms at the front and a trapezoidal link independent rear suspension system. Electronically controlled air suspension that uses steel springs at the front and air springs and dampers at the rear is available as an option.

Audi has re-jigged the steering and it is now electrically assisted. Dynamic steering, which changes the ratio in accordance with vehicle speed will soon be added to the options list.

In Europe, the A6 models sit on 16-inch or 17-inch alloys as standard, depending on the model, although it is not yet clear whether larger wheels will be made standard on Australian cars.

Audi has moved the styling of the A6 forward, but not done anything too adventurous. The shape has a lot in common with the larger A8 including the wide and low stance, the large grille and narrow lights which Audi says have been shaped to emphasize the car’s width.

LED daytime running lights and regular halogen bulbs feature in the base models, but Xenon lights are also available. For the first time, the A6 can also be fitted with full LED headlights.

Designers have given the A6 a bulging bonnet and a crisp shoulder line that runs all the way from the edge of the headlight through to the tail of the car. The LED tail-lights are quite narrow to help give the rear of the vehicle a low-slung look and a built in lip on the rear of the boot-lid acts as a spoiler.

Drive impressions:

If you have just bought an A8 it might be best to look away now.

You see, Audi has just launched the smaller A6 and it looks very similar indeed.

That’s a big positive for potential A6 customers and means the new model looks expensive. As a package, the new A6 is closer to the A8 than its smaller A4 sibling and is a vast improvement over the ageing previous model.

Like most new Audis, the front of the new A6 is dominated by the LED daytime running lights that underscore those narrow wavy headlights. If you feel like shelling out some extra cash you can even order full LED head lights and impress your friends (and rivals) with their futuristic look.

The A6 is a handsome car with a low, wide stance and it generated a lot of lingering glances as it eased through narrow streets of small towns in Sicily during the international launch.

It has a strong presence thanks to its proportions, that big and bold grille, the daytime running light jewelry and the narrow tail-lights.

Of course, all the cars we drove had larger than standard wheels filling their arches, including one which had 20-inch rims (the standard wheel was 17-inches).

The positive impression is just as strong on the inside with a confident understated design that values simplicity over flair.

Attractive wood-grain combines with polished metal trim outlines to create a stylish feel, while there are plenty of electronic components, including the large pop-up screen, MMI roller ball controller and number key pad to keep the geeks happy.

They will also appreciate all the advanced technical features, some of which have just moved down from the A8, that have been added to the A6 or at least to its option list.

Probably the best new technical feature is the head-up display, which makes it much easier to keep your eyes on the road, by casting relevant data such as the speed and satellite navigation onto the bottom of the windscreen and the lower edge of the line of sight.

Other high-end features, such as the upgraded night vision that alerts the driver to pedestrians who are potentially in danger by highlighting them in red and lane assistance which actually steers you gently back into a lane if it calculates you are drifting off the road or into another lane, are likely to please owners.

Whether they are worth however much Audi will charge is another question, but it is important that such features are available because people who buy cars like the A6 are typically very interested in the latest and greatest gizmos.

Unfortunately, Australian customers will be unable to use the Google Earth-enhanced satellite navigation that is available in Europe and was present in the A6 test cars.

This technology uses Google Earth satellite images instead of a standard map, so you are able to see what is around you. It isn’t perfect, especially if the map image is a bit old, but it is fascinating. There is no word of when this feature might become available in Australia, but it is not expected in the short term.

When it comes to driving, the A6 is competent machine that impresses with its comfort and refinement.

Our initial test on the bumpy, twisty roads of Sicily revealed that wile the A6 is a capable car, it still falls short of the segment’s dynamic leader, the BMW 5 Series.

Especially, with the air suspension that was fitted to most of the cars on the launch, the A6 is simply not sharp enough to provide an inspiring drive. It’s on the soft side, even in its firmest setting, and the suspension and body movement is unpredictable.

Luckily, we were able to test one car with regular steel springs and it proved to be far better. The handling was much improved and the body moved as expected.

While the air suspension fails the sporting driver, Audi has at least taken on board criticism that its last A6 was far too firm and picked up any little bump or crease in the road. Both air and standard steel-sprung suspension options provide a comfortable ride.

The electric steering doesn’t help, giving the driver very little feel at all, making it rather off-putting for an enthusiastic driver faced with a twisty road.

As for the overall balance of the A6, it pushed on a little in the turns on the wet and slippery roads of Sicily. The Quattro system worked well enough in the very slippery conditions, in which a rear-drive might get a bit untidy, but was not perfect and exhibited some understeer during acceleration.

All three engines bound for Australia – including the base 2.8-litre V6 which was better than expected – are impressive.

The supercharged 3.0-litre V6 is a terrific engine and has oodles of torque from low in the rev range. It is also smooth and gets the A6 moving rapidly with very little fuss.

Naturally, this engine doesn’t come with the evocative soundtrack of the 4.2-litre V8 it replaces. Audi says it has tuned the supercharged powerplant for refinement in the A6 (as opposed to the sporty S4 and S5 Cabrio/Sportback that it also serves in) and that is a fair point, but we missed the pleasant hint of V8 burble from the outgoing model.

The 3.0-litre diesel is a quality engine that is remarkably efficient and very strong. It is by no means the quietest diesel around and could never be confused for a petrol unit, but the sound is never too intrusive.

It is able to propel the A6 along at a considerable pace without raising a sweat and the consumption stayed well below 7 litres per 100km during our test.

We also tested the 2.0-litre diesel – which is not coming to Australia initially – and it was a surprisingly decent engine that hid its size well with ample torque delivery.

All Australian cars will get the competent seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. It makes fairly quick changes that are generally very smooth although very rarely, there is a thump as it makes a change.

Apart from some tyre noise on the odd section of road, the A6’s cabin is quiet. There is ample head and legroom in the front and rear and the seats are comfortable and supportive.

It is pleasant to drive and up there with any in the class, if not better, when it comes to comfort and refinement.

Good technological features and strong engines also appeal, but the A6 starts to lose some ground to its BMW rival when the roads start to get twisty.

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