_____Audi makes an impressive challenge in the heart of the luxury market with its totally redesigned A6 sedan.
_____As evidence of the splash Audi is making with its A6, it finished second in the voting for 1998 North American Car of the Year. Forty-eight automotive journalists from a variety of media vote on the award. The Chevrolet Corvette finished first, and the Lexus GS 400 finished third. Twenty-four car models from all price ranges were eligible to compete for the award.
_____For our test, Audi provided a green metallic A6. Based on its luxury car's performance during our week-long test, Audi deserves a glowing report card.
_____The test car, based priced at $33,750, came with the optional quattro all-wheel-drive system. Audi and 4-wheel drive are virtually synonymous. The German manufacturer introduced the Audi quattro in 1982, and it proved to be an immediate hit with automotive enthusiasts. More than 60 percent of all the Audi's sold in America in 1997 contain the quattro system.
_____Audi refined the technology over the years. The Audi A6 quattro provides electronic sensing to each wheel to see where traction control is best. The system applies power selectively to take advantage of available traction, while avoiding wheel spin. In situations where just one wheel has sufficient traction, the system recognizes the wheel and sends power to extract the car from an otherwise sure-tow situation.
_____Delivering its passengers from unfriendly terrain, however, isn't the A6's primary function in life. Delivering comfort, convenience and performance is.
_____A 2.8-liter, 200-horsepower, double-overhead-cam V-6 powers the A6. A high-tech five-valve-per-cylinder system enables this engine to provide maximum power and fuel efficiency. The engine delivers maximum torque of 207 ft-lbs. at only 3,200 rpm at least 650 rpm lower than the nearest competitor for better off-the-line acceleration. Maximum horsepower doesn't come until the tachometer hits 6,000 rpm, providing the perfect balance between power and cruising ability.
_____A 5-speed automatic transmission comes as standard equipment on the A6. Equipped with a feature called Tiptronic that Audi has licensed from Porsche, the gearbox permits the convenience of an automatic with the enjoyment of a stick shift. Drivers can use it as a standard automatic, or, can move the control lever into a special shift gate where they can then upshift and downshift manually without a clutch.
_____Combining the power of the engine with a multiple function transmission and 4-wheel drive engagement puts the A6 in a performance class by itself.
_____Of course, in a luxury car, sophisticated power must be matched by excellent riding and handling characteristics. Audi has achieved this with the A6 by further refining its multi-link front suspension to reduce weight and add strength. The AG system virtually eliminates torque steer the tendency of front-wheel-drive cars to pull slightly in one direction under heavy acceleration. The A6 gives the driver the feeling of rear-drive performance while maintaining the safety and traction benefits of front-wheel drive.
_____A double wishbone suspension handles chores out back. It provides excellent ride characteristics for rear seat passengers. The system also takes up less space than previous suspension versions; this allowed Audi designers to enlarge the A6's trunk. Trunk volume is 17.2 cubic feet , tops in its class, according to Audi.
_____Other design characteristics also contribute to a roomier, more comfortable cabin. An arcing roof line not only adds beauty to the redesigned A6 body, but also increases interior volume by 6.6 cubic feet and headroom by 1.2 inches up front. Rear leg room has grown by 2.1 inches. Rear taillights sport a three-dimensional treatment, giving the A6 a distinctive look.
_____Audi engineers are proud of their increased rigidity standards and seam-gap reduction achievements, but few buyers will notice. What they will recognize is a solid, cleanly sculpted body that speaks luxury, even from a distance.
_____Inside, Audi offers three distinctive interior packages. Called "Atmospheres," the packages allow buyers to select a complete interior design that fits their personalities. The test car came with the "Advance" interior package. It features open-pore wood trim, earth tone finish and Jacquard cloth seat upholstery.
_____Of the other two atmospheres, the "Ambition" evokes memories of classic touring sedans with a rich, dark wood and classic, muted colors. "Ambiente" feels more Mediterranean, with its fine supple materials, lighter wood and bolder colors.
_____While other manufacturers offer different interior colors and materials, the A6 provides a whole interior package that gives each sedan a distinctive appearance.
_____An interesting feature with the Cold Weather package on the Audi is a heated steering wheel. Now, not only can you keep your posterior warm with seat heaters, but your pinkies can also avoid the cold chill of a steering wheel first thing in the morning.
_____Twelve-way power seats with electric lumbar adjustment for both front occupants is standard, regardless of the trim atmosphere selected. A new, 140-watt, 8-speaker sound system with a trunk-mounted sub woofer and new Concert radio provides excellent quality audio.
_____Add the usual power accessories and you have a sedan that is ready to tackle all environments in style and comfort.
_____Complete with quattro, Cold and Warm Weather packages and the Convenience package which includes a glass sunroof, the sticker price of the test car totaled $41,175.