2014 Audi A6

The A6 is the volume model in Audi's mid-size luxury sedan range, which also includes the performance-focused S6. Now in its fourth generation, the A6 provides an appealing blend of luxury, technology and responsive handling dynamics.

Recent Changes
The A6 gains a highly efficient diesel engine, a slightly more powerful entry-level motor and several new high-tech safety systems for the latest model year.

Overview
Outside, the A6 looks much like a downsized version of Audi's full-size A8 sedan, with a similarly large corporate grille flanked by narrow headlights. The A6 features a large greenhouse, which helps outward visibility, as well as a more formal roofline than the mechanically identical but more arrestingly styled A7 hatchback.

The A6 includes a paneled underfloor to direct airflow beneath the vehicle, resulting in a very low 0.26 Cd despite an upright front fascia designed to meet European pedestrian safety standards. The latest A6 is also about 100 pounds lighter than its predecessor, thanks in part to more extensive use of aluminum components.

As per Audi tradition, the A6 features a well-finished cabin complete with real metal trim and substantial use of aching beautiful matte-finish wood inlays in certain models. A wrap-around dashboard is canted toward the driver, and the latest generation of Audi's intuitive MMI system (think iDrive) is fitted as standard.

A highlight from the list of tech options is Audi Connect, which brings brings in-car internet connectivity and industry-first Google Earth integration - complete with panoramic views and high-resolution 3D satellite and aerial imagery.

Powertrain Choices
Entry-level Audi A6 models are powered by Volkswagen Group's ubiquitous 2.0-liter direct-injected turbo four, which makes 220 horsepower (up nine ponies for the latest model year) and 258 lb-ft of torque in this application. The engine sends power to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission and returns fuel economy figures of 25 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.

For an extra cost, the four-cylinder can be spec'd with Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system. When paired with Quattro, the four uses an eight-speed automatic gearbox and returns 20/30 mpg.

The up-market motor is 3.0-liter supercharged V6 that puts out 310 horsepower and a healthy 325 lb-ft of twist. It comes only with Quattro and the eight-speed automatic and carries a 18/27 mpg.

Those looking to maximize mpgs can now opt for a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6, which is good for 240 horsepower, 428 lb-ft of torque and a econobox-like 24/38 mpg.

Trim Level Breakdown
The A6 is offered in five different flavors: the A6 Premium 2.0, the A6 Premium Plus 2.0, the A6 Premium 3.0, the A6 Premium Plus 3.0 and the A6 Prestige 3.0.

As suggested by its name, the A6 Premium 2.0 is fitted with the 2.0-liter turbo four, as well as standard equipment including eight-way power adjustable leather seats with memory functionality, a premium audio system with an iPod input jack, a four-spoke multifunction steering wheel, keyless start, Bluetooth smartphone integration, triple-zone automatic climate control, 17-inch alloy whels and Audi drive select, which offers drivers the ability to configure vehicle steering, transmission shift characteristics and engine response exactly to their liking with the choice of Comfort, Auto, Dynamic or Individual settings.

To those features, the A6 Premium Plus adds a voice-activated navigation system with a 40-GB hard drive, xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, Audi MMI touch handwriting recognition (which interprets handwritten inputs), Audi connect (which turns the A6 into a mobile WiFi hotspot) and a parking assistance system with front and rear sensors.

The 2.0 Premium and Premium Plus trim levels can be had with either the FWD/CVT or AWD/8-speed auto drivetrain combinations.

The A6 Premium 3.0 and A6 Premium Plus 3.0 mirror the features of their four-cylinder Premium and Premium Plus counterparts but add the more powerful supercharged V6 motor.

The range-topping A6 Prestige 3.0 builds on the features of the Premium Plus with ventilated seats, a 630-watt Bose sound system, Audi advanced key, four-zone automatic climate control and S-Line exterior accents, which include a sportier front fascia and grille. Newly standard for the latest model year is Audi side assist - which monitors the blind spot areas and fast-approaching vehicles - as well as Audi pre sense rear, which helps mitigates the consequences of a rear-end collision by closing the windows and sunroof, tightening safety belts and applying partial braking power.

Optional Features
A6 buyers can deck their cars out with a plethora of cosseting optional features.

The Cold Weather Package includes heated front and rear seats as well as a heated steering wheel.

A new Black Optic package brings black exterior accents along with 20-inch titanium finish 5-arm rotor design wheels with summer tires.

An optional Sport Package includes a lower and firmer suspension, a three-spoke steering wheel with flappy paddle shifters and, depending on the trim level, special 18-, 19- or 20-inch wheels.

The Side Assist Package adds a blind spot monitoring system, power-folding mirrors and a pre safe system that adjusts the front and rear head restraints for maximum support when an imminent collision is detected.

The Driver Assistance Plus Package bundles together adaptive cruise control, power folding and heated exterior side mirrors with memory and a Topview camera that displays a 360-degree bird's-eye image of the A6's surroundings. Also included is Audi pre sense plus, which builds on the first-stage pre sense system by applying full braking power in the event of an unavoidable collision.

The Innovation Package includes a heads-up display, night vision assist and full LED headlights in addition to adaptive cruise control and pre sense plus.

Finally, Audiophiles will be hard pressed to find a better sound system than the A6's available 1,300-watt, 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen setup.

Occupant Safety
All A6 models come equipped with dual front airbags, driver and passenger head airbags, "Sideguard" head curtain airbags for both rows of seats, driver and front passenger knee air bags and side thorax airbags. Rear-passenger thorax side airbags are optional.

Other standard safety features include traction and stability control systems, ABS with electronic brake-pressure distribution and a tire-monitoring system.

Key Competitors
The Audi A6's main rivals include the traditional, luxurious Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the distinctive and sporty Jaguar XF as well as the BMW 5-Series, which courts enthusiasts with a class-exclusive manual transmission option. The Infiniti M37 and Lexus GS 350 are also worth a look for those seeking a balance of performance and technology.