The redesigned Audi A6 is best experienced at speed, when the six-speed automatic transmission hits its overdrive stride and the car settles into the land of triple digits as comfortably as a Gulfstream IV corporate jet leveling off at its 40,000-foot cruising altitude.
And while such Teutonic motoring may be felonious here in America, the great advantage of owning a machine with such deep reserves of capability is the ease with which it handles our much less demanding 65-75 mph highways.
When you've got a package - brakes, suspension, steering, chassis - designed for routine cruising at speeds 20-40 mph faster than the fastest legal U.S. highway maximums, having to slow down quickly or make an abrupt maneuver hardly begins to test the equipment, let alone makes your pulse jump much when something unexpected happens.
You just deal with it and motor on.
New cards to play
Of course, competitor sport-touring sedans like the BMW 5-Series and the Mercedes E-Class are similarly Autobahn-friendly. And they have a higher-profile as "prestige cars" than Audi, which many still think of as the German Buick - respectable but not quite in the same league as its high-line cousins.
But the A6 has some new cards to play this go around. For starters, it comes standard with full-time quattro all-wheel drive. And it boasts a substantially more powerful standard engine - a 255-hp 3.2-liter V-6 - as well as a standard six-speed automatic, a longer-wheelbase chassis, and all the electronic bells and whistles to make it more than even-Steven with any car in its price range and then some.
The current BMW 5-Series, for example, is a rear-drive-only deal: no AWD at any price. And its entry level price point of $41,300 for the 525i gets you a borderline economy car 184-hp 2.5-liter six-cylinder engine that's a fulsome 71 hp less than the 255 hp that comes standard in the $40,900 A6.
And while you can get AWD in a Mercedes E-Class, the base price of the 221-hp, V-6-equipped '05 E320 4-Matic is a stupendous $51,000 - fully $10,000 more than the base price of the similarly sized, more powerful and AWD-equipped A6 3.2 quattro. You could step up to the V-8 powered A6 4.2 (MSRP: $50,500), get 335 hp to play with, and still have not passed the price point of the V-6 4Matic E-Class, a car with 100 less horsepower and a V-6 that would be no great shakes among cars in the $25k price range.
Having an advantage under the hood is great for drivers who like things to happen quickly when they hit the gas. But it's the added grip of the Audi's Quattro drivetrain, which gives the A6 a leg up on its competitors, not just in inclement weather but also on your favorite winding country road, where its lateral grip is nothing short of tenacious.
While you might miss being able to do a dragstrip-style burnout in an AWD-equipped sport-tourer like the A6, you won't miss ending up in the ditch waiting for a tow truck. You'll also no longer have to fear that first snowflake come winter, because the quattro-equipped A6 will go through stuff that would leave a rear-drive Bimmer or Benz spinning its rear wheels helplessly.
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