Fresh off a comparison-test victory in beautiful Palm Springs, California--versus such strong competitors as the Mercedes-Benz E-class and the BMW 5-series--the Audi A6 enters our fleet just as summer begins. We want to find out how this German beauty will weather a full year of Michigan's extreme seasons, not to mention the extreme driving styles of certain staff members.
Dressed in a subtle color that Audi calls oyster gray and complemented by a platinum leather interior, our 3.2 Quattro model has pretty much all the boxes checked on the options list--except heated seats. We're already imagining complaints about cold buttocks in January. Despite the lack of seat heaters, the A6 is equipped with a vast array of techno-intensive features, such as Advance Key, a keyless entry and starting system; xenon adaptive headlights; and a DVD-based navigation system operated through Audi's Multi Media Interface (MMI).
A 255-hp, direct-injection V-6 mated to a six-speed manu-matic puts the power down through Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system. It should prove extremely popular with the staff when the white stuff blesses our cratered Midwestern roads this winter. We are also hoping for good fuel economy, given Audi's claims regarding the reduced fuel consumption of its FSI direct-injection system. We'll see whether our real-world data support those claims. Finally, given Audi's less than perfect quality ratings of late, we hope the A6 can provide twelve months of trouble-free driving.
785 miles Various short comments fill the logbook: "The engine is like buttah! So smooth, and accelerates to speed effortlessly." "Already an annoying rattle from somewhere in the dash area." "The volume knob is perfectly placed near the MMI knob. Every car should learn from the A6."
1180 miles Senior editor Joe Lorio delivers the first full punch: "It's a good thing BMW's iDrive system is around to make Audi"s MMI system look good, otherwise people would be talking about what a pain in the neck MMI is. The additional buttons help, but it's still difficult to perform simple functions."
1825 miles Assistant editor Erik Johnson writes: "The V-6 engine is delightful on the freeway, with tons of passing power, yet returns 27 mpg."
3701 miles Road test coordinator Marc Noordeloos finds that the Audi's keyless-start system works only occasionally for starting the car. Luckily, it has an integrated traditional key for backup. Also, he notes that the ride quality is harsh over some bumps yet floaty on others: "What engineer tuned these dampers?"
12,655 miles Michigan's cold and slippery winter roads prove little match for our Audi--the car is driven by Quattro all-wheel drive and wears a wicked set of Michelin X-Ice snowshoes. Unfortunately, the keyless-start system continues to act up despite service visits. We're not totally left out in the cold, however: the dealership replaced a window switch, successfully sorting a moody driver's-side window that refused to go up.
16,125 miles Managing editor Amy Skogstrom uses the Audi A6 for an airport pickup. The sedan is perfect for the job: the trunk easily swallows two large suitcases and two sets of golf clubs, and the rear seat has plenty of space for a six-foot-plus passenger. Later, however, the fuel filler door won't release when it comes time to gas up. We take the car to the local Audi dealer, who finds that the factory filled the fuel door's release mechanism with too much grease.