2003 Audi A6


2002 Audi A6

This 2002 review is representative of model years 1998 to 2004.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Audi's bread-and-butter A6 sedan finally gets the horsepower it deserves.
  • Larger engine
  • Roomy and refined
  • Continuously variable AT
  • Rather shallow trunk
  • Road noise
  • Awkward ignition switch location

Don't want a BMW, Jaguar or Mercedes-Benz midsize European sedan because it seems as if all the neighbors have one? Try the new Audi A6 3.0, which gets an engine that gives it the strong acceleration it long has needed.

The only major drawback of the A6 sedan has been a shortage of power. But that problem has been solved for 2002 by a new all-aluminum 3.0-liter V6.

More Punch
The smooth V6 generates 220 horsepower and has a newly developed two-stage variable intake manifold. It replaces a heavier 2.8-liter V6 that produced less torque and 200 horsepower. That's not an especially low horsepower figure, but the rather heavy A6 needed a bigger engine with more power and torque to compete with upscale European rivals such as BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes.

There are a variety of 2002 A6 models, including those with a turbocharged 250-horsepower V6 and a 300-horsepower V8. But they cost more, are significantly different in some respects and are mostly for go-fast car buffs. The 3.0 sedan is the entry level A6—and the bread-and-butter model of that Audi line.

The A6 3.0 sedan comes with front-drive for $35,400 or with Audi's respected all-wheel-drive quattro system for $37,150. (A $38,350 all-wheel-drive station wagon version with more cargo area also is offered.)

No Lightweight
The new engine still is rather small for the fairly large A6 3.0 sedan and thus requires lots of revs for the best performance. But it revs quickly and provides strong acceleration—although the all-wheel-drive system adds 232 pounds to the weight of the 3,516-pound front-drive A6 3.0 sedan. That system thus makes the car a little slower (0-60 mph in 7.9 seconds vs. 7.1 seconds).

The extra weight can be felt during hard acceleration and maneuvers such as quick lane changes. It holds city fuel economy to an estimated 17-19 mpg. The highway figure is 25.

The A6 3.0 qualifies as a solid luxury sports sedan with the new engine. Steering is precise, although a bit stiff and artificial feeling at highway speeds, and the supple suspension allows sharp handling and a comfortable ride. Although a little soft, the brake pedal allows good control of the standard anti-lock disc brakes.

Innovative New Transmission
The front-drive A6 3.0 sedan has Audi's innovative new continuously variable multitronic automatic transmission.

That's a mouthful, but the multitronic has an essentially simple design. Instead of gears, it has an infinite spread of "gear" ratios between its lowest and highest range. By combining clutch-like pulleys with a flexible steel belt, it's smoother than a traditional gearbox. It's also faster and more fuel-efficient than a five-speed manual transmission.

Unfortunately, the new transmission can't be had when the A6 3.0 has the alluring all-wheel-drive system, which provides appreciably more road grip.

Continuously variable automatic transmissions will be offered by a growing number of automakers, if only because they provide higher fuel economy and thus allow car companies to meet government fuel-economy standards.

But there's nothing wrong with the A6 3.0 sedan's responsive 5-speed automatic transmission, which has Audi's effective Tiptronic manual shift feature. And the A6 3.0 still is the most fun to drive with a 5-speed manual gearbox and clutch.

Other new items include stronger front brakes and an improved, standard electronic stability system with a brake assist feature for surer emergency stops. There's also a new emergency release handle in the trunk.

Airbags Galore
The A6 3.0 sedan should satisfy folks who are especially concerned about safety because it's rigidly built and provides no less than six airbags. And you can get eight if you order the two additional thorax-pelvis rear side airbags.

The new A6 3.0 also has a new 6-disc/in-dash CD changer, new wheels and bigger tires.

The slick, aerodynamic styling is mildly revised, with newly designed headlights and taillights. Optional are high-intensity Xenon headlights with automatic dynamic headlight range control and a headlight cleaning system.

The new dual exhausts may hardly seem worth mentioning, but provide the A6 3.0 sedan with a more sporting rear appearance.

There is plenty of room for four tall adults in comfortable seats and doors open unusually wide—something that can't be said for many sedans. The trunk isn't especially deep, but still is large and has a conveniently low opening.

Audi says new door seals and thicker glass in the side windows keep the interior well insulated against outside noise and that improved sound insulation has reduced tire noise.

Still Some Noise
However, the A6 3.0 sedan still has a fair amount of road and tire noise. It seems as if European automakers feel that a certain amount of such noise is part of the driving experience—a view not shared by American and Japanese car producers.

This nicely built sedan is well-equipped and looks and feels more expensive than it is. The instrument cluster has been redesigned, using stylish aluminum accent rings, but secondary gauges are small. The new steering wheel has a more elaborate design and is easier to grip.

Placement in the headliner (inner roof) of lights for the visor vanity mirrors shows good attention to detail; in most cars, those lights are in the visors alongside those mirrors and thus throw light too directly at front-seat occupants.

Groping for Ignition
However, one must grope to find the ignition switch on the steering column; it really should be on the dashboard. There are grab handles above all doors, but rear windows don't lower all the way.

Audi still doesn't enjoy the prestige of BMW or Mercedes in America, but it is steadily gaining on them. The new A6 3.0 sedan should definitely help it in that regard.


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BB06 - 9/18/2014 5:06:02 PM