When it comes to the mid-sized performance-luxury segment, there’s a pecking order that’s pretty easy to spot. The BMW 5 Series ranks on top for those with a performance bent, while the Mercedes-Benz E-Class focuses more on the finer things in life. And that’s about it. Any other players in the segment have to either get behind one of the leaders or fade into obscurity.
|1. The 3.0T is actually supercharged and not turbocharged, as the badge seems to suggest.
2. Power is rated at 300-hp and 310 ft-lbs of torque, which is good for a 0-60 mph time of 5.9 seconds – just a tenth short of the V8.
3. Delivering V8 like power, the supercharged V6 model weighs 200 lbs less than the V8 to help deliver improved fuel economy of 18/26 mpg (city/hwy).
4. The A6 3.0T ranges in price from $45,200 to $55,200.
The Audi A6 is such a machine, and despite the company’s best efforts, it fell short of the bar set by its German rivals. It was neither sporty nor luxurious enough, and quickly fell off the radar.
But in 2009 the A6 received a serious refresh to better challenge the incoming all-new Mercedes-Benz E-Class and upcoming BMW 5 Series. However, besides the updated nose, LED running lights and new wheel designs, the biggest news comes from under-hood.
NEW SUPERCHARGED V6 OPTION BRINGS V8 POWER WITHOUT THE FUEL CONSUMPTION
While the 270-hp 3.2-liter FSI V6 remains in the base A6, and the optional 340-hp 4.2-liter FSI V8 is the hot-rod of the group, there’s now a new middle-of-the-road offering. The 3.0T badge may confuse some into thinking this model is turbocharged, but the new engine is really a supercharged 3.0-liter TFSI V6 that puts out 300-hp and 310 ft-lbs of torque.
Strangely, both the V8 and 3.0T do the 0-60 mph run in almost identical times, with the supercharged six posting 5.9 seconds and the V8 a 5.8 second run.
In reality, the new engine is significantly lighter than the old V8 – helping the middle model to weigh in some 200 lbs. less. Not only does that aid acceleration, but fuel mileage as well, with the 3.0T averaging 21 mpg to the V8’s 18. Audi rates the car at 18-mpg city and 26-mpg highway. Otherwise, both share the same six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic, and quattro all-wheel drive hardware.
ADDED STANDARD FEATURES, PLUS EVEN MORE OPTIONS
As with every Audi, the A6 3.0T comes in three trim levels: Premium ($45,200), Premium Plus ($46,900) and Prestige ($55,200). Add about $5,000 for Quattro models.
Safety’s the word with standard ABS with EBD, six airbags, traction and stability control all helping to harness those enthusiastic horses and move them down the road with ease. Audi’s side-assist system is optional and signals the driver when another car is sitting in their blind spot.
Adaptive Xenon headlights are standard on Prestige versions, as are heated folding mirrors. The new LED taillights come on every model, and there are five different wheel designs for the 3.0T alone: a 17-inch five-spoke standard, an 18-in five-Y-spoke on the Premium Plus, and an 18-in 10-spoke on the Prestige.
Inside, the design is clean, albeit a little dated now. Audi is still unmatched when it comes to materials used in this price category. Mercedes-Benz’ new E-Class comes close, but its darker dash comes off as tougher.
Audi treated the interior to new colors, heated 12-way power seats with lumbar support, a leather-wrapped shift knob, Bluetooth and some fantastic mood lights. The infamous MMI knob returns, allowing the driver to control the audio, HVAC and Navigation systems. Prestige models also get Audi’s advanced key, excellent Bose surround sound system and a rear-view camera.
For those itching for a little more driving pleasure, Audi now offers two new sport packages based around either 18-inch wheels with all-season tires ($1,000), or 19-inch wheels with summer tires ($1,500). You also get a three-spoke sport steering wheel with shift paddles, and a sport-tuned suspension that’s firmer and lower.
The only problem is that even with the sport packages, the A6 3.0T never turns into an able handler. There’s too much crashing over bumps, and you never get rid of the feeling that the engine is hanging out way over the front axle. Typical Audi numb steering completes the package.
It’s quick, stops well enough and will turn corners, but it doesn’t offer the same feedback that a BMW 5-Series would. This is even more in evidence now that the new A4 and A5 lines prove that Audi can do sporty just fine. The current A6 is just too old a package to polish properly.
Other than the 535i xDrive, which is about $2,000 more than the A6 3.0T, Audi will also have to contend with the completely new – and excellent – Mercedes-Benz E350 as well.
On paper, Audi’s supercharged engine matches the BMW’s twin-turbo unit, but in practice, they’re miles apart. The Bimmer’s straight six makes a mean sound, and will catapult it off into the distance, leaving the A6 panting. And you can get the 535i xDrive with a six-speed manual transmission, if you so desire. The Benz remains underpowered by comparison, but makes up the difference in drivability.
Better to order your A6 3.0T to go full lux, and work on pampering yourself instead. The Audi will do that job, but it’s merely ok at it. It doesn’t excel at isolating you completely from the road, and letting you relax, like an E-Class.
On the flip side, if we wanted to play the devils advocate (or the role of an Audi marketing rep) we could argue that the updated A6 in 3.0T guise is an ideal compromise between the car’s sporty and luxurious competitors.
But with the new Mercedes already here and an even newer BMW expected soon, this only mildly refreshed product is like bringing a spitball to a gun fight, and Audi is running out of paper…