2014 Audi A6. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Jacob Black
The row of snow-white Audis gleamed under Washington’s slightly overcast sky. The Audi TDI decals adorning the passenger door made it clear we were at the right hotel. This was an international launch of Audi’s clean diesel flagships, the A6, A7 and Q5.
The star of the show? Audi’s second generation 3.0L TDI engine that produces 240 hp and 428 lb-ft. Enough to propel the A6 and A7 from 0-100 km/h in 5.7 seconds.
We were to take these cars on a three-part tour of Virginia and Maryland’s lush green forests and rolling rural farmlands, driving out from the centre of Washington, DC deep into the countryside and back. The sheer amount of old money in these parts was obvious. Every narrow road was peppered with multi-storey stone mansions. The serenity and obvious presence of wealth on our driving route was a masterstroke of Audi’s PR department. It was ideally matched to the cars we were in.
Our task was an efficiency rally, with prizes for the team which achieved the best fuel mileage. Pffft! We left the competition to the long-sock brigade; my co-driver and I wanted to see how these cars worked, not how well we hypermile. In the end we came second-last in the competition.
The first drive of the day was in the A6. A beautifully proportioned sedan with a sweeping character line and the signature wide-mouth grill and LED lighting system. Inside, brown leather (from an actual cow) accentuated by real textured wood (from an actual tree) improved the feeling of luxury.
2014 Audi A6 TDI & 2014 Audi A7 TDI. Click image to enlarge
The Bang and Olufsen tweeters rise out of the dashboard with Starship Enterprise-shaped sound deflectors that look stunning, and produce sensational acoustics. The dashboard is draped in top-notch materials, but the design integrity is ruined by the pop-up navigation system. Guidance information is available in the centre of the instrument cluster, so we tried to get the navigation to show up in there with the navigation screen stowed back in the dash – no dice. I can’t see that minor annoyance affecting people who’ll use navigation only about 10 percent of the time anyway, and with the screen stowed back away the dash looks brilliant.
That same screen also showcases one of the best pieces of technology in any car, ever. A split-screen rear-view camera, complete with a live top-down view. That view extrapolates what the front, side and rear cameras see to give you the most comprehensive parking aid possible. We even watched each other walk around the car in live time – though our on-screen form was just two elongated legs.
2014 Audi A7 TDI & 2014 Audi A6 TDI. Click image to enlarge
The same interior graces the A7, but externally there are some key differences. At 4,969 mm the A7 is 54 mm longer, for a start, but only has two millimetres of extra wheelbase. The A7 is also 35 mm shorter than the A6’s 1,455 mm. While the A6 is a standard three-box sedan, the A7 is what some call a “four-door coupe” and what others call a “fastback”. Its sloping lines add an elegance and gravitas to the platform which the A6 lacks slightly.
The extra weight and length of the A7 give it the tiniest of hits in the performance department but the bonus sexiness is worth every millisecond on the stop watch or decimal point on a g-force meter. There is nothing about the A7 that isn’t gorgeous. Even the rear brake light – usually a horrible red rectangle banged somewhere into the rear windscreen as an afterthought – is [Overuse warning in 3,2… –Ed.] elegant in the A7. The thin LED strip runs the width of the rear window and is easily visible, but it is utterly unnoticeable when not illuminated and actually enhances the line of the car when it is.
2014 Audi A6 TDI. Click image to enlarge
And the seats. Oh my goodness the seats. This car could put you to sleep if you weren’t careful. Not because it’s bland, it could never be called that, but because it is so comfortable it’s not funny. We did a solid seven hours of seat time across the three cars and at the end of the day I could have gone again. I was as comfortable at 5 pm as I had been at 8:30 am, which is a pretty big achievement.
The A6 and A7 both soak up bumps and road construction zones with a dismissive “thud” barely audible from inside the cabin. That smooth ride comes at the expense of ultra-pointy handling, but on a 1,895 kg (1,935 kg on the A7) car with a luxury interior – who needs it? There is a bit of weight-induced understeer but once in the corner both cars remain composed. They glide effortlessly through bends and we found them more than capable of making us smile on the narrow, winding, undulating roads of the Virginia countryside.
The speed-sensitive electromechanical steering was balanced perfectly, and the steering wheel gave excellent access to the front tires. Five-link, independent suspension keeps the front wheels in line while the rear end is controlled by trapezoidal-link independent suspension with wishbones. I’m not sure why a squashed square is the perfect shape for linking rear suspension components together, but after driving the A6 and A7 I can assure you that it is. The four-wheel drive helps with grip too.