Audi’s long-time partnership with the listening experts at Bang and Olufsen has, once again, created an optionally-available stereo for owners of the all-new-for-2019 A6 sedan. Designed to explore the possibilities of in-car listening without price as a constraint, this $5,100 upgrade is, perhaps, the strongest indication of what the latest A6 is all about.
Here’s a machine for the driver who wants to treat themselves.
And, by way of that stereo (and numerous other design touches and implements throughout), Audi’s latest sedan is one of the market’s most compelling products for delivering on that goal.
That stereo is on the options list because there’s a good chance you’ll use your A6 as a personal listening space, and as a place to entertain, unwind, socialize and relax on the open road. Audio quality, even at extremely high volume, is so vivid and full and eye-wateringly clear that you’ll find new details in familiar songs, all day long.
Further, music is reproduced with nearly-startling clarity. On more than one occasion, I was startled briefly by the fleeting sensation that a vocalist, drummer or guitarist was present in the vehicle with me. In-car listening doesn’t get any better than this and I’ve spent hours listening to virtually every high-end car stereo there is.
That stereo system is just one of many ways this roomy cruiser is built to spoil its occupants. With a starting price in the 70s and an as-tested-with-options sticker of about $99,000, it sure spoiled the heck out of me.
Drivers are greeted by low-effort door handles, which work like switches to trigger an electronic actuator within that does all the work. This makes opening the doors possible with your pinky finger if you like. The doors close silently by touching them against their latch and allowing the electric motor to cinch things closed, no noisy slamming required.
Get seated. Touch the start button to fire up the engine. Toss your (compatible) phone into the centre console bin to recharge it wirelessly, no plugging in required. A click and flick of the wrist on the electronic shifter engages reverse (or drive), and the A6’s complete surroundings are displayed on a single screen, allowing drivers to make a circle-check of the car in about a second.
Set off, and all of your favorite things are called up, automatically. Drive mode. Seat position and massage program. Climate control settings. Media sources. Add in the automatic lights, brights, wipers and temperature control, and you’ve got a recipe for set-it-and-forget-it motoring. Just hop in, press start, and off you go.
The A6 is a big sedan, which makes it roomy, which makes it comfortable. At 5’10, I could stretch out for miles, front seat or back. Occupants are surrounded by a smooth and angular array of wood, metal and leather, broken up with gloss-black accenting and plenty of contrast. This is broken up by an array of gorgeous, glossy and high-resolution display screens.
There’s even a head-up display screen projected onto the windscreen in front of the driver. The entire instrument cluster is a display, too. If you like, you can even turn most of it into a digital real-time map, complete with topographical and building details, for easy navigation in unfamiliar locales.
This is the first navigation system I’ve encountered that lets drivers see taller buildings on the screen, and off in the distance ahead, for easy landmarking.
What an atmosphere they’ve created inside. It’s one-part luxury business lounge, one part futuristic sci-fi central command centre. This might be the cleanest-looking integration of modern tech against traditional luxury design and design in the segment right now.
Notably, the central command interface ditches control knobs or pads, leaving more room for luxurious trimmings on the console while creating a more straightforward, modern, and direct means of moving from one function to the next. Instant responses and beautiful lag-free animations round out the package.
The A6’s drive is its best asset, however. My tester’s adaptive suspension responded to the surface of the road with millisecond precision, constantly optimizing ride quality via a sort of electronic force field between the wheels and driver. Many bumps are minimized in real time, so the A6 rides more comfortably, more of the time.
Body motion control is even more impressive. Dips and bumps that cause many a large sedan to undulate and wallow about fail to do so here, as the suspension neutralizes unwanted body motions as they’re created. Even over big dips and bumps, A6 moves only twice: up, then down, and that’s it.
Things are, therefore, more settled, more of the time to the benefit of occupant comfort. It rides like a big squishy sedan, but without feeling like a big squishy sedan.
Around town at lower speeds, the A6 feels smaller and lighter than it is, thanks to some tweaks to the steering system which gets lighter at lower speeds for easier maneuverability.
On the highway, where A6 does its best work, it feels heavy, sturdy, planted and dense — quiet and smooth all the way through. I often expect this sort of ride quality in a pricier flagship model.
Braking performance is exceptional, almost startling. I performed three sequential emergency stops from highway speeds, one immediately after the other. The A6 hunkers down to a stop with cuss-worthy urgency, and no brake fade was noted. Brake pedal feel is nicely tuned—precise but not twitchy, and stopping power feels typical of a big-dollar sports sedan.
This is not a sports sedan, however. Though largely unbothered by being chucked around fast ramps and corners, A6 is comfort first. There’s an effortless feel to high-speed handling maneuvers, though the car doesn’t encourage the driver to explore its capabilities nearly as well as it encourages the driver to sit back and relax and unwind in quiet comfort.
This extends to the powerplant. Typically, the 335-horsepower V6 engine does its work in silence — the turbocharger and light-hybrid system boosting low-end torque considerably. Unless you’re approaching the top of the tachometer with your foot down, you’re unlikely to hear much of anything from the engine room. Drive with a light foot, and the strong but largely noiseless torque call an electric car to mind.
Acceleration is swift when called upon, always refined. Interestingly however, this driveline is smoothest when worked hard: the dual-clutch transmission executes invisible gearshifts in a blink, even at redline, and little more than a tastefully-restrained growl seeps into the cabin.
In traffic and at lower speeds, the driveline can emit a few more subtle vibrations and lurches than many competitors, largely thanks to the goings-on of the hybrid system and dual-clutch gearbox working in the background.
All said, this powertrain is ideal for the driver who likes a bit of firepower, but mostly, wants solid mileage and prefers their engine to be the strong, silent type.
Final notes? There’s generous room for four adults and excellent performance from the headlights after dark. Still, some may wish for more thrilling sounds and sensations from the powertrain, and the A6’s generous size may complicate maneuverability in tight quarters, for some drivers.
Ultimately, tech-savvy shoppers looking to spoil themselves with a luxury sedan that’s incredibly comfortable and very high tech can consider this machine a priority test drive.
Model: 2019 Audi A6
Engine: 3.0-litre V6, turbocharged, hybrid, 335 horsepower
Drivetrain: Quattro AWD
Transmission: seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission
Features: Bang and Olufsen Stereo, around-view parking, massage seats, panoramic sunroof, power tailgate, power door cinchers, Audi Pre-Sense safety systems, drive-mode selector
What’s hot: incredible cabin, incredible stereo, incredible ride quality, incredible navigation system, easy-to-use tech abounds
What’s not: comfort-first dynamics may leave sportier drivers wanting, some low-speed driveline vibrations
Price as tested (Approx): $99,000