2014 Audi A6 TDI First Test
A Clean Fight for Six-Cylinder Supremacy
The six-cylinder turbodiesel in the 2014 Audi A6 TDI is the newest engine to power the A6, and it's putting up a clean fight. Its direct competitors are the diesel-powered BMW 535d xDrive and Mercedes-Benz E250 Bluetec 4Matic, but there's another interesting matchup. That car is one of Audi's own: the gas-powered, supercharged A6 3.0T, which was the first V-6 offered in the A6 lineup.
Shoppers looking for a six-cylinder A6 are likely pulling their hair deciding between the A6 TDI and A6 3.0T. If not, they should be. Both are excellent powerplants, and deciding between the two is a bit more complicated than choosing between gas and diesel or a turbo and a supercharger. As previously reported, Audi launched a diesel offensive in the U.S. for the 2014 model year, adding oil-burning powertrains to the A6, A7, A8, and Q5. More Americans are embracing clean and efficient diesels, and Audi's timing couldn't be better, given the upcoming CAFE regulations requiring automakers to again boost their average fuel economy.
That said, the 2014 A6 TDI's 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel, rated at 240-hp and 428 lb-ft of torque, is an excellent fuel-sipper. The EPA rated the engine at 24/38/29 mpg city/highway/combined. Meanwhile, the gas-powered A6 3.0T (310 hp and 325 lb-ft) is far thirstier at an EPA-rated 18/28/22 mpg. Both engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic that sends power to all four wheels via Audi's Quattro system.
When it comes to the A6 TDI's diesel rivals, the BMW and Mercedes are offered in both rear and all-wheel drive, but we'll stick with the latter to keep things simple. The 535d xDrive and its 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six (255 hp and 413 lb-ft) is a tad stingier than the Audi at 26/37/30 mpg, while the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E250 Bluetec 4Matic trumps both German competitors thanks to its downsized 2.1-liter turbo-four (195 hp and 369 lb-ft) that gets 27/42/32 mpg.
We had a little more than a week with the A6 TDI. And after a hard day at the track, countless hours slogging through L.A. traffic, and an easy, breezy road trip to San Diego, the A6 TDI returned 30 mpg. We logged 983 miles and only stopped for gas twice.
During our day at the track, we launched the 2014 A6 TDI from 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds and through the quarter mile in 14.2 seconds. The 2012 A6 3.0T we tested posted times of 4.8 and 13.4 seconds, respectively. Around the figure eight, the diesel-powered A6 needed 26.1 seconds to complete the course, while its gas-powered sibling was slightly faster at 25.4. These numbers match the feeling from behind the wheel. Where the 3.0T is responsive almost to the point of being twitchy, the A6 TDI is slightly more subdued.
Still, a 5.4-second 0-60 time is impressive for a 4194-pound sedan, and the A6 TDI never felt lacking in power. Stomp on the accelerator and the engine responds with smooth and linear power delivery. Much credit goes to the eight-speed automatic, which is eager to shift and is tuned perfectly to the engine. The powertrain is quiet when it isn't being pushed hard. At times, the dancing tachometer is the only indication that the transmission is rowing though the gears.
Despite our tester's large 20-inch, five-spoke rims and low profile tires, the cabin remained relatively quiet on the highway and rough L.A. roads. You can opt for smaller wheels to gain even more peace and quiet and save money. The 20s are an extra $1300, but they do turn heads (the big "TDI Clean Diesel" decals stuck on our tester's front doors may have attracted some attention, too). Enthusiasts will clamor for more steering feel, but the A6 TDI is fairly athletic and responsive. It never felt clumsy during a casual stint through some curvy back roads. Our tester's Drive Select system allows drivers to adjust steering resistance, suspension dampening, throttle response, and transmission shift points.
Inside, the 2014 A6 TDI is still fairly handsome despite being almost four years old. The matte, open-pore wood garnered plenty of compliments, as did the clear infotainment screen. The instrument panel is one of the best in the segment, thanks to a large color information display that is clearly arranged and makes clever use of the space around the gauges.
Our tester was packed with options, and its as-tested price of $67,295 certainly reflects that. The Driver Assistance package is pricey at $2800, but adds adaptive cruise control, Pre Sense Plus collision prevention/readiness, lane keep assist, and a top view camera. While it's great for long and exhausting road trips and tricky parking spots, we'd skip this package. The Prestige package also costs $2800, but adds a number of niceties such as ventilated front seats, ambient lighting, and premium sound.
That said, the A6 TDI carries a base price of $58,395 including $895 destination fee, which is $2400 more than the A6 3.0T. Furthermore, our partners at IntelliChoice gave the diesel-powered A6 an "above average" cost of ownership rating, while the A6 3.0T earned an "average" rating. Calculated using the car's base price, owning a 2014 A6 TDI for five years will cost a total of $64,817, versus $66,298 for the 3.0T. Both cars post similar numbers on most costs including insurance and repairs, but the TDI's obvious trump card was fuel costs.
Summing up this sibling rivalry, then, is pretty simple. The A6 TDI goes farther on a tank of fuel, is just slightly more expensive than the 3.0T, and makes more financial sense in the long run. The A6 TDI might be slower than the 3.0T, but it doesn't fall too far behind and is still plenty entertaining from behind the wheel. Looks like we'll be seeing more TDI-badge A6 sedans on the road.
|2014 Audi A6 TDI|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$67,295|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||3.0L/240-hp/406-lb-ft turbodiesel DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4194 lb (55/45%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||193.9 x 73.8 x 57.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.4 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.2 sec @ 94.8 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||107 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.91 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.1 sec @ 0.71 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||24/38 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||157/99 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.77 lb/mile|