20 February 2004

Behind that controversial upright grille, Audi’s new A6 is bigger, roomier, packed with A8-pilfered technology, and features a massive engine line-up – topped by the Lamborghini Gallardo’s V10.

Audi has released these world-first photos of the sixth-generation A6, two weeks ahead of its Geneva show debut. The car will go on sale in the UK as a saloon in June and as an Avant estate early in 2005 – 65 per cent of all A6s sold here are estates.

Audi will also launch a short-wheelbase coupé based on the A6, although the Nuvolari-inspired two-door will be sold as a model in its own right, like the rival BMW 6-series and Mercedes CLK.

Adding the new chrome-rimmed grille (‘single-frame’ in Audi-speak), a prominent crease line parallel with the waist and the dramatic rising edge in the door sills, Audi has turned its back on previous understated elegance. The current A6’s rounded rump has given way to a higher, more conventional tail with a small built-in spoiler.

Plenty of traditional Audi design cues remain, though: the arched, almost coupé-like, roofline, shallow glasshouse ringed by a thin chrome line, and incredibly tight shutlines, now reduced to just 2.5mm, claimed to be the world’s best.

Careful aerodynamic work means lift at the rear has been reduced to just 19kg at the 155mph top speed, a quarter of today’s model’s. And the drag co-efficient of 0.28 for the V6 is a welcome reduction over the present car’s 0.31.

The new A6 is now the biggest car in its class. Overall length is up by 121mm to 4916mm, width by 45mm, while the wheelbase has grown 83mm to 2760mm. The boot is 546 litres in all A6 saloons, outclassing not only the E-Class and 5-series, but even models on the next level up, including the A8.

Helping to keep the weight down are an aluminium front bumper, bonnet, bootlid and firewall, although the basic structure remains steel. Audi admits that building 700 A6s a day in alloy would be too expensive and complex. The base 2.4-litre V6’s weight swells by 45kg to 1525kg.

At launch, the A6 will be sold with V6 and V8 engines only, all with twin 80mm exhaust pipes. The only four-cylinder engine, a 138bhp 2.0-litre TDi, arrives a few months later. There are no current plans for a four-cylinder petrol model. The 174bhp 2.4- and 252bhp 3.2-litre petrol V6s belong to the same 90deg engine family as the thoroughly re-engineered 4.2-litre V8 with four (instead of five) valves per cylinder and chain instead of belt drive for the twin overhead cams. Diesel lovers can pick a 221bhp 3.0-litre TDi and a 210bhp 2.8-litre FSI V6 will join the range in 2005. Transmission choice depends on engine variant, but front- and Quattro all-wheel drive are both available, while gearbox options include six-speed manual, Tiptronic ZF automatic and Multitronic CVT. At the top of the A6 range, Audi is planning a two-pronged performance car attack. Ingolstadt engineers are believed to be developing a twin-turbo 500bhp V8 for a new RS6 to take on the E55 AMG, plus a 5.0-litre V10, powered by a detuned version of the Gallardo engine, to slot into an as yet un-named, super-sporting model aimed at the BMW M5. All models get double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension, finally laying to rest the old torsion beam rear axle that persists on current front-drive A6s. Early in ’05, adaptive air suspension joins the options list. To improve ride, the engineers have increased suspension travel by 15 per cent, while retaining spring and damper rates comparable to today’s models. Quicker racks should improve steering feel: V6s get 2.7 turns lock-to-lock, while the V8 has 2.5 turns. Speed-sensitive Servotronic power steering is standard across the range. Weight distribution is now 55:45 compared to the current 58:42, thanks to a longer wheelbase and a battery in the boot.Inside, there’s an extra 23mm shoulder width, but the biggest change is to the dashboard, with instruments and centre console angled like 1980s BMWs. Electromechanical handbrake and MMI multi-function switchgear come from the A8.

Audi has further improved the interior finish, increasing the choice of materials and colours: three different seat styles; three standard interior colours; six optional colours; alloy or choice of two wood trims; three leathers plus Alcantara; and six optional standard leather colours.

ESP, EBD and front, rear and side airbags are standard, plus active head restraints and light and rain sensors. Options include active cruise control, three- or four-spoke multifunction steering wheels, sports suspension (standard on the UK Sports model) that lowers the ride height by 20mm, adaptive cornering lights and a tyre pressure monitoring system. Competitive pressure has forced Audi to freeze prices, at least in Europe, signaling a £25,000 starter price. Ingolstadt reckons this will help it boost sales by 10 per cent over today’s car.

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