cars

2014 Audi A6 TDI: Snow Day

When snow makes roads a mess, the A6 cleans up.

$57,900.00
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The forecast said eight inches of snow over the weekend, followed by another six inches on Tuesday. Normally, I'd be dreading the drive in to work, but I had a secret weapon: The 2014 Audi A6 TDI (MSRP $57,500, as tested $67,300).

Now, it was no accident that an A6 wearing snow tires ended up in the New England press fleet in winter. Audi's PR folks aren't fools, and they know that winter weather testing sells all-wheel drive cars.

And, judging by the way the A6 I drove handled the storms, it's a sound strategy. On the barely plowed streets of Boston and Cambridge, the A6 didn't slip, skid, or slide. The quattro all-wheel drive system knew just when to transfer power and to what wheels, and it made for a drama-free drive home.

Of course, any Bostonian with a light foot and snow tires could make it home in a few inches of fluff. I wanted to see just where the A6's limits were, so I took it to an empty, unplowed parking lot and repeatedly tried to put the car into a skid—for safety's sake, of course.

Mysteriously, our cameras turned off during those very important, safety-related tests. So I'll summarize: No matter how many times I let the tail of the car loose, quattro stepped in to help me regain control. In an empty parking lot, that meant lots of fun—but on an snow-covered road, it might be the difference between a costly accident and a near-miss.

Mixing pleasure and prudence seems to be the hallmark of the A6. Consider its fuel economy: Thanks to the 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel engine under the hood, I got around 20 mpg in a stop-and-go city crawl. But when the snow cleared and I took it on the highway, my combined average went up to 33 mpg. Try that in an SUV or a crossover. Only the incomparable Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel comes close.

You won't want for power, either—at any speed, you can open up the throttle and let loose some torque. Unleashed, the diesel doesn't snarl. It's more of a calm rumble, like Barry White enjoying a tomato bisque in the backseat.

I had but a single complaint about how the A6 handled: When the electronic power steering was set to "Comfort," it got noticeably twitchy at high speeds. So I changed the car's steering setting to "Dynamic," and steering feel immediately became more communicative and predictable.

As far as diesel drawbacks are concerned, you may notice a slight pause before the engine turns over, but in the long run the additional time between fill-ups will more than make up for the small wait.

Connectivity options were excellent. On the current-gen A6, AudiConnect adds a mobile 3G hotspot through T-Mobile for between $15 and $30 a month, depending on how many months you purchase in advance. Alternatively, you could tether your smartphone and use its data plan.

Regardless, you get Google Earth for maps and some useful apps—my favorite showed nearby parking garages and rates. Even though the fold-up screen is within arm's reach of the driver, input is only through a clickwheel or a touchpad with handwriting recognition. Buttons and knobs are thoughtfully placed, but they cover nearly all surfaces.

Of course, Audi wowed us at CES with promises of a 4G connection through AT&T, plus a vastly simplified dashboard that won our CES Editors' Choice award.

If you're looking for the latest infotainment tech, the current A6 is only milliseconds behind announcements from R&D labs. Otherwise, it's the perfect luxury sedan. With all-wheel drive, a fuel-efficient diesel powerplant, impressive handling, and an interior that's both elegant and functional, you really can't go wrong with the A6 TDI.

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