The Douro Valley region outside of Porto, Portugal is filled with postcard-worthy sights of the Douro River, vineyards and sleepy towns. The tight roadways, lower speed limits and a liberal sprinkling of speed cameras provides a perfect opportunity to take things easy and fiddle with all the new tech features packed inside of the 2019 Audi A6. Sadly, it's less ideal for digging the spurs into the new luxury cruiser.
There are small stretches, however, where you can really open it up between towns. With Audi Drive Select in Dynamic, the new mild-hybrid 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 is punchy throughout the rev band with 340 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque on tap. That's equal horsepower to the supercharged V6 in the outgoing car, but 46 additional pound-feet of torque. A new 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission dials in sedan's sporty attributes with quick, well-timed shifts in full auto, and an excellent manual shift function. Audi says the combo will get the all-wheel-drive A6 to 62 miles per hour in just 5.1 seconds.
The V6 will be the only engine offered when the A6 goes on sale near the end of this year. Audi says a four-cylinder model is forthcoming, but exact timing for its arrival is still to be determined.
Fuel economy figures aren't available just yet, but you can expect V6 numbers on par with the current car's 20 mpg city and 29 mpg highway ratings. The hybrid hardware captures energy via regenerative braking and powers a more aggressive stop-start system, and the electric assist is well integrated with no noticeable effects on brake feel or off-the-line performance.
Through curves, firmer adaptive dampers and 19-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires keep the A6 tied down and quick on its feet, confidently slithering through transitions. Unfortunately, Audi's light steering tune remains, with hardly any weight on center, even in the Dynamic setting. Overall feedback probably won't be any better on US-bound vehicles, as our cars will likely wear less aggressive all-season rubber.
Just as a driving rhythm begins to develop, a 50-kph speed limit sign always puts an end to the party. But toggling Drive Select to Comfort puts the A6's daily-driving road manners in the spotlight. The drivetrain is smooth in all situations and doesn't suffer from any jerky, low-speed behavior that's common with some dual-clutch gearboxes.
Ride quality over bumps is cushy with the standard steel-spring setup; all US models will use this, in addition to a sport suspension that lowers the ride height slightly. An adaptive air suspension will be available in other markets, as will a rear-wheel steering system. An Audi spokesman says the air springs and fancier steering hardware will be coming to the States, but on the more performance oriented S6.
Inside, the new A6 is a bit more spacious than its predecessor. All passengers enjoy comfortable and supportive seats, and rear occupants get a half-inch more legroom than before. The trunk offers 18.7 cubic feet of space to accommodate ventures to the store, enough luggage for a road trip or a couple sets of golf clubs.
The interior layout mirrors that of the swoopy A7, and includes much of the technology that first appeared on the Audi's A8 flagship sedan. Gone is the MMI control knob as well as most of the traditional hard buttons, all of which are replaced by the MMI Touch Response system's dual capacitive touchscreens with haptic feedback. On higher trim levels, the upper screen measures 10.1 inches and the lower screen is a still-plenty-big 8.6 inches.
The top screen controls navigation, the available 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system and various other media. The lower screen usually houses climate seat temperature controls, and up to 27 shortcut buttons for radio stations or specific menus, but will turn into a writing pad when entering a destination into the top-screen navigation. Thanks to the larger surface area and software improvements, you can now write in full names of streets and cities, rather than the previous MMI's one-at-a-time inputs. Thankfully, Audi didn't go too crazy and move all controls into the touchscreens. Volume is still handled by a good old-fashion knob -- hooray!
Audi Connect services enable Google Maps imagery, online destination search with voice recognition, weather and Wi-Fi capabilities. Those who prefer to hand infotainment controls over to a smartphone will be happy to know that the latest MMI system still includes both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
The only downside? Fingerprints. After a half-day of driving, both center screens were seriously smudged-up, but besides that, the new MMI Touch interface is responsive, intuitive to use and is capable of storing up to seven drivers' individual settings. If two high-resolution screens aren't enough, you can also add Audi's wonderful 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit in place of the traditional gauge cluster to further stimulate your retinas.
In addition to a stronger infotainment technology game, the A6 receives a number of upgrades on the safety tech front. Typical features like automatic emergency braking, 360-degree cameras with a 3D view, blind-spot monitoring, cross traffic alert and parking sensors are all here, but improvements have been made to the adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping-assist systems. A new laser scanner joins a sizable suite of sensors that include ultrasonic, radar and camera, to autonomously help the car stay better centered in the lane and hang back a bit if a car happens to be intruding into your lane -- say, in a narrow-lane construction zone.
Pricing won't be available for a few more months, but look for the A6 to hit dealerships around November, alongside the new A7. The current V6-powered A6 commands $57,475, including $975 for destination, so use that as a baseline for your 2019 model year MSRP guesstimates.
The eighth-generation Audi A6 is primed to be the technological powerhouse of the midsize luxury sedan segment. That it also boasts attractive sheetmetal, competent handling chops and the ability to deliver supreme ride comfort should definitely have the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class on notice.
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