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Test Drive: 2016 Audi A6 3.0 TDI Technik

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By Kevin Harrison

Believe it or not, I actually don’t like writing negative reviews. Luckily, since no manufacturer really makes ‘bad’ cars anymore, a negative review is of course relative to the segment and is a bit of a rarity.

This was supposed to be a glowing review.

From the moment the refreshed 2016 Audi A6 was delivered to my driveway from Audi Canada I thought I knew I was going to love it.

But then something happened.

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Before I get to that though, let’s take a look at the love-at-first-sight design. In typical German fashion the A6 dons conservative styling yet it still catches the eye of many. In my tester’s Floret Silver Metallic colour the A6 was especially attractive to all the rubberneckers, not to mention the optional S-line package which includes, among other things, gorgeous 20-inch rims. While I think Audi has taken the corporate design theme a little too far with most of its models, making them difficult to differentiate from the other, there is no doubt that the design will offend few and charm most.

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Inside the good news continues. In typical Audi fashion the interior is beautifully designed and takes a less-is-more approach. There are few buttons on the dash which, at first glance, looks rather baron. But press the console mounted push-button ignition and large display screen reveals itself from hibernating within the dash. This is fun for days for children, as my young nephews found out. But the system itself works rather well. Operated by a dial and a few buttons on the console, you can easily maneuver your way through menu items including the massaging seats. And yes, they are so far the best messaging seats I’ve experienced in any vehicle. And no, they aren’t so good that you’ll drift off and crash into a pole while driving.

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Speaking of the seats they are also supportive all while being immensely comfortable. If you’re in the back seats, you’ll get treated to your own climate controls along with heated seats for your posterior and decent amount of space for you noggin and legs; that is, if you aren’t seated in the centre seat. The centre seat passenger is probably best for your least favourite friend since it has a centre hump that is the largest I’ve ever seen on any vehicle.

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As you’d expect for a large German sedan, cargo room is plentiful, though I would wager large American sedans like the Impala have even more room. If you’re looking for more room from the Germans you can always opt for the larger A8, however you’ll also be opting for a much larger starting price as well.

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This version of the A6 is fitted with a 3.0 litre turbocharged V6 diesel which is good enough for 240 horsepower and a whopping 428 pound feet of torque. This engine is matched to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Like most Audis of today, you can program just how aggressive or tame you’d like your engine and transmission combo. You can choose from three preset modes or you can customize the engine, transmission, steering feedback and suspension set up yourself through the individual mode.

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Regardless of which mode you choose, the engine and transmission always seem to align themselves to near perfection. If you drive in comfort mode, they adapt well, making for a more luxurious ride than a sporty ride. Only the big 20-inch wheels offer up a bit of firmness which slightly takes away from the comfortable, luxurious ride. The diesel engine itself isn’t at all intrusive to the cabin and it is even relatively quiet from the outside.

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If you opt for a more sporting drive, the 428 pound feet of torque is only too happy to oblige. Instead of riding in a comfortable limo, the A6 can easily transform itself into a corner carving superstar. While the A6′s mass is still apparent in this mode, its weight isn’t. It feels as if it has suddenly lost 500 pounds and is more agile for it. Matched with Audi’s superb all-wheel Quattro drive system and you’ve got yourself a car that can truly act in a Jekyll and Hyde manner. And truth be told, it wears both personalities brilliantly.

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The engine itself is indeed brilliant in terms of efficiency as well, as diesels are inherently efficiency. The official fuel consumption numbers are 9.3 L/100 kms city and 6.2 L/100 kms highway. In mixed driving I returned 7.5 L/100 kms. Considering the A6 is a bit of a porker at just under 4,300 pounds, that is rather impressive indeed. And to put it even more into perspective that’s likely what you would return in real world driving from a Toyota Corolla.

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So, this turned out to be a glowing review. There isn’t a whole lot that I can find wrong with the A6 TDI aside from its astronomical as tested price as well as a ridiculously sized hump between the centre rear seat, and despite my saying there is an abundance of interior room, you can still find roomier sedans. But the fault lies with the engine and unfortunately it’s a big fault.

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Despite being both brilliantly powerful yet efficient, Audi’s parent company, as you’ve likely heard, has made a grave error in judgement with their diesel engines. Unfortunately for Audi, since they source their diesels from Volkswagen, that means 2.1 million Audis have been affected by the emissions cheating scandal.

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This all but completely ruins any or all positives of the A6 TDI. It’s a bit like how Lance Armstrong was the athletic hero of the year, battling his way back from cancer to continue to race again and then we found out he was actually using steroids. It damaged him, his brand and to an extent, the cycling industry. The same is true of VW’s scandal.

It really is a massive shame because all you need to do is drive a modern day diesel to realize just how brilliant they are. With a modern day diesel you didn’t need to sacrifice performance if you also cared for polar bears.

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Six years ago I was employed at an environmental non-profit to work on their fuel efficiency program. Part of the program was to make the general public aware of modern day efficient technology and, in addition to electric cars and hybrids, I promoted diesels to community groups, businesses and 16-year olds learning how to drive at driving schools. I told them you could have your cake and eat it too with diesels; you didn’t need to forgo a manual transmission like you do in electrics and hybrids, you didn’t need to forgo performance and you didn’t need to feel guilty about the environment because, as Volkswagen said even back then, emissions from diesels was so clean that you could drink coffee from a coffee filter fitted to the back of the tailpipe of one of their diesels.

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Now, with this new scandal emerging, all I can think is how Volkswagen made me, and the environmental non-profit I represented, out to be a bit of a knob. And just imagine how you would feel if you are the owner of one of these diesels which is now probably worth no where near what they expected? And what effect is it going to have on the dealerships and salesmen who are also innocent bystanders in the scandal?

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The Audi A6 TDI is a great car. Possibly even the best I’ve tested this year so far. But it’s now been ruined by calculated deceit. While it’s true you can get the A6 fitted with regular non-tampered-with gasoline engines, is the damage too great? That’s for you, the buyer, to decide but all I can say is the A6 TDI is a brilliant car that is the victim itself of typical corporate greed.

It truly is a shame.

Price As Tested: $85,455

Pros:

  • Dashing good looks
  • Opulent interior
  • A star performer in the bends
  • Performance meets efficiency

Cons:

  • Not exactly affordable for most
  • Brilliant engine now turned scandalous

Immediate Competition:

  • Acura RLX Sport Hybrid
  • BMW 535d
  • Infiniti Q70 Hybrid
  • Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTEC

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