2014 Audi A6 TDI Quick Drive
Audi's All-In on Diesel
Audi is betting big on diesel. For the 2014 model year the German automaker has introduced diesel engines to the 2014 A6, A7, A8, and Q5, with the ultimate goal of making diesel available across most all of its lineup. Why? Because increasingly stringent CAFE regulations means automakers need to raise their corporate fuel economy and reduce emissions, and Audi believes its range of TDI diesels can do just that. There's one problem with Audi's plans though, and that's the negative public perception of diesels, especially among Baby Boomers. To fight that perception Audi conceived of and celebrated "Clean Diesel Day" in Santa Monica, Calif., and gave us the keys to a 2014 Audi A6 TDI for a day.
Clean Diesel Day was an all-out effort to win over the hearts and minds of drivers and fight public perceptions of diesel being a dirty fuel. Audi went about doing that in a very clever way – by taking over a gas station in Santa Monica and giving away free diesel to anyone who showed up. Audi viewed it as a way to reward those who've already made the jump to diesel (yes, even the owner of the beater Benz 190D, and the Cummins-powered Ram HD). With lines going around the block for the free diesel, Audi looked at the giveaway as an opportunity to raise awareness of diesel's benefits to the majority of gas-driving baby boomers who'd never consider buying a diesel vehicle.
According to a recent Audi-commissioned survey, 61-percent of adults older than 45 wouldn't ever consider purchasing a diesel-powered car, even if diesel fuel were the same price as gas. While older buyers resist diesel, younger buyers are much easier to win over; the same survey found 59-percent of 18-34 year-olds would consider purchasing a diesel-powered car. That alone explains the spread of Audi's TDI engines across the lineup: the future is diesel.
If the 2014 Audi A6 TDI is any indication, the future of diesel is bright. Powered by the same 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 that's now found in the A8 L TDI, A7 TDI, and Q5 TDI, the oil burner makes a reasonable 240 hp and an impressive 406 lb-ft of torque. All that twist is then routed through an eight-speed automatic to Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system. The EPA rates the A6 TDI at 24/38/29 mpg city/highway/combined. Though the A6 TDI's fuel economy is impressive, both of its rivals net better EPA numbers; the rear-drive 2014 BMW 535d with its 3.0-liter 255-hp and 413-lb-ft of torque turbodiesel I-6 gets an EPA-estimated 26/38/30 mpg, while the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E250 Bluetec, which is powered by a 2.1-liter turbodiesel I-4 making just 195 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque gets 27/42/32 mpg when equipped with all-wheel drive, or 28/45/34 mpg with rear-drive.
To be fair, complaining about 29 mpg combined from a big German sedan is like complaining about coming in second place in The Price is Right's showcase showdown – I mean, you're still getting something, right? Further easing any pump pain is the fact that hitting the A6 TDI's 29 mpg combined score is pretty easy. I averaged about 28 mpg according to the A6's on-board trip computer. Not only is the A6 TDI efficient, but it also drives incredibly well. The 3.0-liter oil burner pulls like a freight train – it's just got gobs of power, pulling strongly throughout its rev range. Why anyone would opt for the A6's 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 when this engine is available for just $2400 more is beyond me. Audi estimates the A6 TDI is good for a 5.5 second 0-60 mph run, but we're betting a 5.0-second run isn't outside the realm of possibility.
Not only is the A6's mill potent, but it's quiet and refined too. Audi made an effort to take all the sounds associated with diesels out of its engine to make it better appeal to the Boomers who remember the diesels of the '80s. As is the case with the A8 L TDI, the only time you can hear the A6's faint diesel clatter is under acceleration with the windows down. The A6 TDI's powerplant is so quiet that if it weren't for the big "TDI Clean Diesel" decal plastered on the side of our tester, my girlfriend admitted she'd never have even known the $70,000-plus Audi she was riding in was powered by a truck engine. The one and only downfall of the turbodiesel V-6 is when the A6's engine start-stop system is engaged, as the engine shuts off and back on roughly with the emissions-saving measure activated.
Aside from its potent powertrain, the 2014 A6 TDI is a pretty compelling package. As we found in our Six-Cylinder Midsize Luxury comparison, the A6 has a stylish business class-like interior, with supple leather, natural finished wood, and Audi's WiFi-hotspot-equipped MMI infotainment system. The seats proved comfortable up front (the back seats were a bit flat), but the cabin overall was comfortable, roomy, and a nice place to spend time. Though our car was equipped with the S-Line sport suspension and 20-inch wheels with summer rubber, the A6's steering box wasn't the most communicative, and those two performance add-ons gave the car a jarring ride on poor road surfaces. Were we shopping for an A6 TDI we'd skip the sport stuff. That's what the S6 is for, after all.
At any rate, buyers seem to be biting on the diesel-powered A6; as of November 1, 13.1-percent of A6 buyers opt for the TDI model. Audi expects that to increase in the coming months.
Ultimately the 2014 Audi A6 TDI is quite the compelling package. It's quick, quiet, and efficient. Those in the market for a luxurious midsize sedan would be well-served by the diesel-powered A6 -- even those over the age of 45, and while younger buyers might be priced out of Audi's diesel offerings, its promising performance leads us to believe that an increasing amount of diesels will be making their way stateside in the years to come.