Not-so-middling midsize sedan. If there has ever been a car where there's more to it than meets the eye, it's the 2021 Audi A6. The A6 is a mid-size luxury sedan in the vein of the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, but don't be quick to write it off as just another German sausage.
It might look demure, but underneath the familiar Audi sheetmetal lies a sedan that's quick, composed, and impressively high quality.
Did we mention there's also a wagon – nay, two wagons – available? The A6 allroad again returns to give fans of the body style a high-class option in which to tackle dirt roads and mountain passes.
The bigger news surrounds the all-new RS 6 Avant: 2021 marks the first time this high-performance model will be available on our shores. This barnstormer of a station wagon makes nearly 600 horsepower and has the cargo space of an Audi Q8. We'll be covering this model in a separate article.
Performance aplenty. Most A6 models are powered by a pleasant but tepid 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 248 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque.
This engine isn't the fastest, nor the most refined. The EPA rates it for 27 miles per gallon combined, earning it the title of most efficient engine in the lineup. For those who aren't keen on spending a lot of money, this turbo-four will be perfectly adequate.
A better option, though, is the 3.0-liter turbo V6. The power output here is a very respectable 335 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. This matches the six-cylinder BMW 540i to a tee for horsepower, but both fall shy of the 362-hp Mercedes E 450.
Comparisons aside, the V6 is the best match for the A6. The car never feels weak-chested, the fuel economy is rated for a decent 24 mpg in the combined cycle, and the $4,900 upcharge won't break the break. If you can afford to finance another $5,000, this engine is worth it.
Out on the road, the A6 is largely unflappable. There's stability for days, which can at least be partially credited to the standard quattro all-wheel-drive system. Cornering behavior is composed, but you'll need an Audi S6 if you want to get excited about running along twisty roads.
Adaptive dampers are available that smother bumps and can firm up the base suspension, which might be perfectly tuned for some but a bit too soft for others. There are wheels available that are up to 21 inches in diameter, but they don't much affect the quality of the ride even at that size.
Restrained opulence. The big three German luxury automakers have each staked out their own corner when it comes to design: Mercedes is flash, BMW is minimalist, and Audi sits somewhere in the middle ground, eschewing opulence but not to the point of being spartan. It's a subtle, restrained sort of luxury that marks the Audi ethos.
This is the most apparent from the styling of the A6. On first glance, it's almost too conservative; look a little longer, and the details begin to surface, such as the taut body sides, tastefully bulging fenders, and the heavily creased character lines over the front and rear fenders.
If there's anything holding the A6 back stylistically, it's the roofline, which is a tragically dull swoop from the front side mirror to the trunklid. The more formal Mercedes and the BMW with its famous Hofmiester kink do a better job of distinguishing themselves in profile view.
Smart, techy interior. Unlike the modest exterior, the cabin of the A6 doesn't struggle to impress. While it might not match the Mercedes for glamour, the Audi is more effortlessly cool in how it uses wood, metal trim, and leather to decorate the interior. Only a cursory glance is needed to know it's hip, functional, and high-quality.
What might leave some shoppers cold is the dual-touchscreen affair. The smaller, 8.6-inch lower screen handles climate control duty, while the top 8.8-inch screen does infotainment. There's a learning curve associated with the system, and fiddling with the touchscreens while driving might not be the safest or most intuitive thing to do. Compared to some other luxury cars, though, the system is decent, especially if you limit usage to when the sedan is stationary.
The list of tech doesn't end with the two touchscreens. There's standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, navigation, and numerous active safety features like automatic emergency braking. Optional equipment includes an all-digital instrument cluster, a 10.1-inch upper touchscreen, a surround-view camera, and matrix LED headlights.
The front seats in the A6 are all-day comfortable, and they come standard with heating, leather upholstery, and power adjustment. Quilted leather is available that provides a luxurious look.
The back seat is also a fine place to spend time in. Its 37 inches of leg room trumps both the E-Class and 5-Series, but falls a bit short of the new Cadillac CT5.
The biggest demerit against the A6 is its small trunk, which can fit just 13.7 cubic feet of cargo. The A6 allroad remedies this, however, with its 30 cubic feet of space behind the second row.
Final thoughts. Few cars are as well-rounded as the 2021 Audi A6. There's four- and six-cylinder engine options, two different body styles, and multiple trim levels. It rivals the E-Class for breadth of choice, and also for its overall excellence. Outside a few small quibbles, the A6 gives us hardly anything to complain about.
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