Although I am a BMW guy, I still appreciate getting behind the wheel of something different every now and then. Having driven many other cars, there are characteristics I do genuinely love about other brands, mainly most European brands, and after BMW, I will say that Audi is my guilty pleasure.
Furthermore, because I’m constantly driving a plethora of late-model cars, especially luxury cars, on a near daily basis in my line of work, I’ve become somewhat spoiled and therefore less excited than I once was each time I get behind the wheel of a nice car. I’ve actually come to find much more enjoyment in getting some seat time in older “wholesale” luxury cars that get traded in, for older cars with older mechanics and technology simply exhibit more character and differences not found in modern cars.
Now the story of this Audi A6 and how it came into greater prominence in my life is special to me. Spending most of its life up in Kennebunkport, Maine, this A6 was purchased new and maintained for most of its life by the same family, who happened to be good family friends of my friend Adam. Following the husband’s untimely death, his widow was looking to unload some of his cars, with this A6 being one of them.
In case you don’t recall Adam from some of my previous posts over the years, he’s a guy with a heart of gold and also one with a fondness for high-mileage, expensive to maintain, older European luxury cars. He also typically drives in excess of 30,000 miles per year, so in a situation like his, it’s always a good idea to have a backup vehicle when one is in the shop. When the opportunity to purchase this then-90,000 or so mile A6 for $3,000 presented itself back in 2017, Adam decided to get it as a supplement to his 2009 Volvo XC90 (soon replaced by a 2012 Land Rover LR4 as his daily).
After almost two years and some significant maintenance invested into bringing it back to life, plus 40,000 or so miles added, primarily by his younger sister, Adam expressed the desire to part with the Audi. By coincidence, my partner Pat was in dire need of a new vehicle, as his well-worn 2004 Toyota Camry was on its very final leg. He toyed with the idea of leasing something new, but ultimately decided he’d rather buy something cheap cash for less than he would’ve put as a down payment.
Having once owned a 5-speed manual Passat wagon, Pat liked the idea of going back to something German and after test driving the Audi, he decided it was a good fit. After a vehicle check by a trusted mechanic at my former dealer, Venmo to Adam of $2,000, signing over of the title, and a quick trip to the registry, the car was his. We knew it needed new tires and a couple of other minor things to pass the ever-stringent annual Massachusetts vehicle inspection, and out of convenience, Pat took it to a mechanic right up the street from where he lives. Clearly trying to rip him off, this guy quoted him a bill of over $5,000, claiming it needed everything from new control arms and stabilizer bar to new taillights.
I told him I’d take it to a trusted mechanic that my family has been using for close to ten years, and as I expected, most of what the other place told him the car needed to be merely roadworthy and pass state inspection was total bull. Treated to an oil change, new hood strut, tightening of the exhaust clamps, a set of new Yokohama AVID Ascend GT all-seasons, and its inspection sticker, the Audi was all ready to go for Pat.
Due to our busy work schedules and currently living almost and hour apart, Pat and I typically only get to see each other on the weekends (hopefully something soon to change). So while the car was finished on a Tuesday, I got to drive it until that Saturday while Pat drove my 2 Series, which also left me time to get it a fantastic detailing.
As I said, Audis have always been a guilty pleasure for me, especially as I’ve always had a somewhat love-hate relationship with the brand. From an onlooker’s perspective, I’ve always found Audi designs to be highly attractive and aesthetically pleasing in their understated ways, yet the lack of significant visual change from one generation to the next has always kept their excitement factor low.
Taking this into consideration, there is no denying that Audi designs hold up incredibly well over time, something that cannot be said about most competitors. This C6 generation, the third to bear the A6 name, was sold for the 2005-2011 model years. Although heavily evolutionary of the more radical C5, the C6 incorporated Audi’s now familiar single-frame grille and slightly more athletic proportions. Its looks evolved into the slightly more formal looking C7, but the overall familiarity makes this car look great today, even after 13 years.
Yet styling alone isn’t responsible for my dichotomy with Audi. There’s also the point that Audi tends to deliver less cohesiveness across its brand in terms of driving dynamics than BMW or Mercedes-Benz. I’ve driven some Audis that I’ve found very impressive and capable, while I’ve driven others that I found downright disappointing and lacking the driving dynamics expected with a premium German car. Thankfully, this A6 4.2 is a car I truly enjoy driving.
There’s a special sort of satisfaction that comes from its 4.2-liter 40-valve DOHC naturally-aspirated V8. From its ample on-tap power, to its aircraft-like engine notes, to the growl from its throaty exhaust, it’s an engine that puts a smile on my face. Rated at 335 horsepower and 310 lb-ft torque when new, this A6 is certainly no slouch. Acceleration from stop is quick and instantaneous, with plenty of low-end torque making for smooth shifts at low-RMPs through its 6-speed triptronic automatic, unless pushed very hard when it will rev well past 3,000 RMP.
For a 13-year old vehicle, overall handling is superb. Steering is nicely-weighted and accurate, striking the expected balance between the heaviness of BMW and looseness of Mercedes. Cornering is sharp and precise, with no noticeable body roll or floatiness expected with a larger sedan. The struts were replaced under Adam’s ownership, and ride quality is very good, on the firm side which is how I prefer. This car truly does everything it was designed to do with remarkable ease and composure. It excels in being a well-built, sharp handling, comfortable midsize German sports sedan, and makes no claims about being anything other than just that. What’s more is that the combination of its understated styling and robust V8 makes this particular A6 a true sleeper.
Among other advanced-for-the-time and appreciated features are steering-linked adaptive bi-Xenon headlights, LED tail lamps, rain-sensing wipers, power rear sunshade, and its absolutely fabulous Bose 13-speaker surround sound system. Comfort and support from its 12-way power front buckets is good, although I’d personally like a bit more lateral and thigh support by way of adjustable side bolsters and extendable thigh cushions.
Thankfully, the 6-level heated front seats work superb! I do like a nice toasty seat even on a damp spring day, and with this car coming before the various lawsuits against manufactures involving people claiming they suffered burns from heated seats, on the highest setting these seats are marvelously hot!
Furthermore, all of its other electronics are also working great. It is worth noting that this C6 was the first generation A6 to feature Audi’s Multi Media Interface (MMI), a comprehensive command center for all media, phone, navigation, climate, and vehicle setting functions. It takes a little getting used to, but apart from software and screen graphic updates, Audi really hasn’t changed the overall layout of its hardware until the most recent C8 A6 released for 2019. I’ve experienced it in most other Audis that I have driven, so I’ve had time to become versed with it.
In my time with it, I quickly came to like this 2006 Audi A6 4.2 very, very much. Far more importantly is the fact that Pat likes it. It suits his needs and driving style well, and in a time of need, was an affordable solution, at least for the short term. How long he will keep this car is certainly in question, as the longevity of a high-mileage, older German car can be a gambling game, even if it is well-maintained. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see, but at least for now this Audi is a gracefully aging autobahn cruiser.