A little more than a year ago, an oyster gray metallic Audi A6 nosed its way into our Four Seasons fleet. And we don't use the word nose loosely, because the first thing we noticed about the A6 was its front end and the gaping maw of its grille. We've applauded every successive chapter of Audi's mellifluous design language, exemplified by vehicles such as the iconic TT and the ultraluxurious A8, but this new corporate grille, which first appeared in the 2005 model year, seemed incongruous--a little bit too large and a little bit too showy for an automaker renowned for the well-proportioned, tasteful styling of its vehicles.
But after twelve months and 25,673 miles with our A6, like Professor Henry Higgins with Eliza Doolittle, we've grown accustomed to its face. In fact, the exterior styling of the redesigned A6 is one of the car's strong suits. From the trapezoidal grille to the low-slung windows, from the gracious curve of the roofline to the LED taillights, the A6 has a classy and refined look.
As with all Audis, the impeccable styling extended to the interior. A couple of people thought that the cabin didn't quite meet the bar set by previous Audis, but most of us appreciated the quality of the interior materials and the placement of the controls. Fit and finish are flawless, and there is an aura of refined elegance throughout. It's not surprising that we liked the glossy wood trim and the sumptuous leather on the steering wheel and seats (we chose the $1000 premium leather option). What was surprising, however, was that a simple item such as the volume control knob, located on the center console to the right of the MMI controller, got so much attention. "The location of the volume knob is absolutely perfect. It's strange how natural it feels. Every carmaker should learn from this Audi," wrote assistant art director Nicole Lazarus just a few days after the A6 arrived in Ann Arbor. During the year, many others echoed that sentiment, one going so far as to say it "deserves an award for Best Automotive Secondary Control of 2005."
Which brings us to a subject we can't avoid when writing about any German luxury car--its computerized control system. We've always found Audi's MMI more intuitive and easier to use than BMW's iDrive and Mercedes-Benz's Comand, so it wasn't particularly surprising that the MMI in the A6 was only lightly criticized.
"MMI is far superior to iDrive, and I had it figured out quickly," wrote road test coordinator Marc Noordeloos, "but [and there's always a but--Ed.] I still have moments of frustration." "MMI is pretty easy to navigate," echoed copy editor Rusty Blackwell, who nevertheless was perplexed that he couldn't figure out how to put the display screen into day mode with the headlights on.