Versus the competiton:
All too often at an old car show, spectators will shake their heads while looking at an outlandish sheet metal creation, and wonder, “What were they thinking?”
Tail fins, continental tire kits, vinyl roofs, AMC Pacers — the list goes on and on.
Certainly, the same charge could be leveled today at the blob-mobiles that pass for fashionable sedans or the outlandish, cartoony trucks that dealers can’t sell enough of.
With people paying upwards of $40k for the safety of an all-wheel-drive vehicle, why don’t more people buy an Audi Quattro?
Certainly, the price of the car is right up there with those of many sport utilities. And few of them have the stunning, artful shape this car has. Take a look at the hood seam. It’s part of a single visual line that goes up the windshield, becoming a rain gutter as it arches across the roof, and transforms into a trunk seam as it trails into the back. This penchant for artful simplicity with an elegant twist is all over this car.
The general shape filters down into the A4 and the VW Passat, albeit somewhat less successfully. Photos don’t give the full impact this car has in person.
Inside, the eloquence continues with three distinct looks or ‘environments’: ‘Ambition,’ ‘Ambiente’ or ‘Advance.’ ‘Ambition’ features dark wood and muted colors on the upholstery. ‘Ambiente’ features lighter woods and bolder colors. ‘Advance’ goes for earth tones and more natural wood.
No matter which environment you choose, the driver will find a thoroughly modern German car, with a warmer feel than is traditional.
Ergonomics are in the modern idiom, which means a center console housing an excellent sound system just above the automatic climate controls.
The front bucket seats are extremely firm — some might find them too much so. I certainly did. But they’re leather, heated and can be adjusted 12 ways.
The five-speed Porsche Tiptronic transmission falls readily to hand and is the best of the automatic-manuals. Simply slide the shifter to the right hand side of the H-shaped gate. Tip it forward to upshift, backward to downshift. It allows some degree of control, meaning you can redline it, or start from second if desired. Certainly it helps make this car even quicker because, although the engine has good power, there’s not a ton of it at initial launch. The 2.8-liter 30-valve V6 is good for 200 horsepower and 207 foot-pounds of torque.
Power is fed through either front-wheel-drive or quattro all-wheel-drive. Note that the front-drive A6 has a torsion-beam rear suspension, while Quattro versions, like the test vehicle, get a more sophisticated double-wishbone suspension.
The test vehicle was an A6 Quattro and the handling was excellent with little body lean and a firm ride — expansion joints, though well-absorbed, can still be felt and noted.
This is definitely a sports sedan, with a bit of luxury, rather than the reverse. If you have a bad back, drive it down a rotten road first. Needless to say, this is one car that can be hustled down a twisting road with gusto. Braking was outstanding thanks to 11.34-inch disc brakes front and rear.
The trunk is nicely finished, with more than 17 cubic feet of trunk space, large for a European car.
Artful, quick and fun, the shapely new Audi A6 sedan is a rebuttal of the same ol’ thing from automakers and a good answer to those looking at an all-wheel-drive truck, but still wanting a sedan.
And when the truck fad fades, you won’t look out of date.
1998 Audi A6
Standard: 2.8-liter double overhead-cam V6, five-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, anti-lock brakes, alloy wheels, speed-sensitive power steering, dual front air bags, anti-theft system, headlamp washers, dual power mirrors with defogger, dual zone automatic climate control, one-touch power windows, 12-way power front bucket seats, cruise control, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, wood inlays, key less entry, cupholder s, 60/40 split folding rear seat, AM/FM cassette radio, carpet mats, pre-wiring for telephone and CD changer.
Options: 16-inch alloy wheels and 205/55 tires, audio package (Bose premium sound system with sub-woofer and six-CD changer), Cold Weather package (expandable ski/storage sack, heatable front seats and steering wheel), Convenience package (glass power sunroof, memory driver’s seat and outside mirrors, auto-dimming rear-view mirror), Quattro all-wheel-drive system, leather seat upholstery.
Base price: $33,750
As tested: $41,225
EPA rating: 17 mpg city, 26 mpg highway