This week, Audi is pulling the wraps off of its updated A6 and A7 range at the Los Angeles Auto Show. While these cars may appear to be benefitting solely from a mild cosmetic mid-lifecycle freshening, we recently went to Germany in order to take a look. What we learned there, and while driving this Audi A6 2.0 TFSI, is that the updates are more than just skin deep.
Before hitting the road, we caught up with Audi engineers and product planners at a converted commercial building outside of Dresden in order to get the rundown on this latest generation C7 sedan.
First off, America will get the A6 in four flavors – A6 2.0 TFSI, A6 3.0 TFSI quattro, A6 3.0 TDI quattro and S6 with 4.0 TFSI and quattro. We’ll focus today on the A6 2.0 TFSI since we’re driving that car here, and provide more detail on the others in the coming days.
At the bottom of the range remains the A6 2.0 TFSI, now sporting 252 hp and 273 lb-ft. of torque. Available in front-wheel drive only for the USA, the entry A6 ditches its old Multitronic CVT transmission for an S tronic 7-speed DSG that, it turns out, is more efficient.
Worth noting, this isn’t the same S tronic we’ve already had in cars like the Audi S4 and is instead an updated design. This latest evolution of the 7-speed S tronic unit has no mechanical hydraulic pump, replaced by an electric unit that only runs when needed. In addition, the box also benefits from a new transmission fluid concept where the gears are not immersed in the oil, but instead sprayed by an electronic pump. Not having to push through oil, there is considerably less parasitic drag on the actual gears. This is the first S tronic to use such a design, and the same design will also carry over to the S6 and S7 models.
As a result, straight line and efficiency performance are both improved. While Audi isn’t yet ready to provide EPA consumption figures on the car, they did share that it will do 0-60 mph in 6.7 seconds.
From the outside, updates to the car are fairly subtle. The trademark singleframe grille gets a wider and more 3-D in appearance, with chrome on both the frame as before and also on the horizontal struts. Gloss segments of the grille are now a richer gloss black finish.
Non S line models will get an all-new bumper design that carries the black and chrome strips from one side to the other below the singleframe much like the design seen on the updated Audi A8. This is all done in order to make the car feel wider, sportier and more elegant than the earlier cars.
Our particular 2.0 TFSI tester was a European market example, which means its configuration wasn’t exactly matched to the U.S. market. For one, it was an S line and that package will only be available on 3.0 TFSI and 3.0 TDI markets in the US.
With the facelift, S line models like our tester also get a newly designed front bumper with X-like designed bumper that is (again) identical to that of the S6. Our car also had the European black exterior optics package which replaces chrome around the grille and windowframes for a gloss black finish. Black optics will be an add-on option for American market S line models and thus unavailable on 2.0 TFSI models in the USA.
Regardless of engine or S line packaging, all new A6 models will get a trapezoidal design exhaust. The rear is further updated with the addition of a chrome trim strip at the base of the trunk and new quattro badges with raised silver lettering on a matte black background.
The shape of the headlight appears to remain the same, though the inside assembly is completely different. The daytime running light signature (DRL) is completely different, as are the light signatures of at the rear. Turn signals front and rear also get a dynamic animation to further call attention to a change in direction.
Like the latest A8 and S8, the new A6 also gets Matrix Beam LED headlight technology for European applications. Also like the A8/S8, Americans will get less dynamic LED headlights that will look very similar to the European Matrix Beam but will not have the the Matrix Beam functionality. Ours will have two modes instead of four. America also gets the amber American corner marker/reflector mandated for the U.S. market.
Wheels on the base A6 2.0 TFSI in America will be 18-inches in diameter. Our S line Euorpean market tester came on a 19-inch wheel in a Audi’s familiar 10-spoke design and wearing 255 40 19 series rubber.
Inside, there are subtle but significant changes. You’ll notice richer elements like aluminum trimmed vent and window switches, a redesigned shifter design and aluminum finish for the “logic buttons” around the MMI knob. Subtly, the heads up display housing, a source of critique on the earlier car, has been subtly redesigned for a less tacked-on look.
More interesting is the tech upgrade. With Google maps and search, multi-language character recognizing touchpad and 3G Audi connect, the current A6 is no slouch. Even still, Audi has raised the car’s game considerably.
For starters, the A6 now uses Audi’s MIB-2 architecture, powered by an NVIDIA Tegra 30 chip that has twice the processing power as the previous car. This means more impressive graphics and management of effectively two fully functional zones, those being the 8-inch main info screen in the center of the dashboard and also the 7-inch driver information screen in between the speedometer and tachometer. Want to run Google maps on your driver information screen while your passenger navigates your iPod? No problem.
Data streaming is also improved, moving up to 4G LTE compatibility just like the latest A3 sedan. You can upload navigation updates via the web, while real time traffic data is also fed to the car.
With upgraded graphic user interface (GUI) featuring more ambitious graphics also comes updated controls. As in the new A8, Audi uses tabs controlled via steering wheel buttons where drivers can choose their own optional views. While some people might want to see what the car can see with adaptive cruise control hardware, others may want to quickly access their contact list.
Maybe one of the most praiseworthy changes on the A6 is what can be found beneath the lid of the center console. We can happily confirm that Audi has fully done away with the need for an Audi Music Interface cable (often costing $100 or more) in favor of both a standard USB data/power and also a secondary USB power ports. Simply use your phone’s USB charging cable in the main port and you can now charge and access all of your music and playlists just as before.
Our European market S line tester also had Audi’s “phonebox” system whereby a phone placed in that zone is paired with the car’s antenna to boost its signal. Unfortunately, the FCC hasn’t approved this sort of thing for Audi to sell in America and as such this last feature won’t be found in U.S. models.
Firing up the 2.0 TFSI and hitting various roads around Dresden, including short stints on the Autobahn, the A6 2.0 TFSI is a considerable improvement over its predecessor. This is Audi’s entry price A6, yet the more powerful 2.0 TFSI paired with the considerably better S tronic transmission make this more of a sought after choice rather than something to settle upon just because it’s more affordable. It is both quicker and more engaging to drive.
What can we say? We weren’t big fans of Audi’s Multitronic CVT. Instead of that bit of wonky kit, the A6 2.0 TFSI now gets the quick shifting and more sporting S tronic available elsewhere in the A6 range only in S-car variants.
Like other front-wheel drive smaller displacement Audi models, what you lose in traction you earn back in slightly lower weight and improved dexterity. No doubt non S line models sold in America won’t have the sport suspension of our S line tester, but we still expect them to prove refreshingly agile. The C7 A6 has always dealt with its mass well, handling like a smaller car. The A6 2.0 TFSI only adds further to this sense of agility.
Changes to the driver information interface are also quite welcome. All at once the smooth and slick visual transfer between infotainment needs while moving them from the center display to the driver information display immediately made the old A6 feel dated to our techno-addicted minds.
The change to the USB cables was also a revalation. Whereas we often find ourselves cursing when a car lacks a cable or lacks an Apple Thunderbolt cable. No worries now. We had a Thunderbolt cable in our bag, and it fits the phone without having to remove the cover. In the meantime, we charged a Go Pro on the secondary outlet. Adding these wasn’t rocket science, but that doesn’t depreciate the importance of their arrival.
The first U.S.-spec Audi A6 models are on the company’s show stand at the L.A. Auto Show as we speak. More importantly for those looking to pick one up, they’ll be arriving in dealerships in the spring… maybe sooner. Thanks to new infotainment, engine and transmission tech, the 2.0 TFSI is now a much more desirable offering.