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Eric's Autos: 2021 Audi A6

Eric Peters on

Electric cars are being aggressively promoted, but the technical problems remain significant. While their range on a charge has increased, they still can't travel as far as a gas-powered car -- and recharging them takes much longer than refueling a gas-engine car.

Audi's solution is to combine the two until these issues can be sorted out. Almost all of its new cars are partially electric cars.

Including the new A6 sedan.

What It Is

The A6 is Audi's entrant in the midsize luxury-sport sedan class.

It is the only model in its class that comes standard with an electrically enhanced drivetrain.

Both its standard 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine and its optional 3.0-liter V6 are paired with a 48-volt electrical system that allows the gas engine to seamlessly (and automatically) toggle itself off and on -- including while the car is moving. This allows it to achieve the electric car boon of zero emissions of gas (while the gas engine is off) without the pure-electric car hassles of worrying about range and having to wait for a recharge.

Prices start at $54,900 for the Sport Premium trim with a 2.0-liter engine and electric assist. The next-up Premium trim is priced identically but gives you the option to buy the more powerful 3.0-liter V6, also with electric assist.

So equipped, this one stickers for $59,800.

A top-of-the-line Prestige trim with the V6 and electric assist lists for $69,500.

What's New

The standard 2.0-liter gas engine/electric assist combination gets a little stronger this year; total horsepower is up to 261 (from 248 last year). Also, 19-inch wheels are standard on the base Premium trim, along with an integrated wireless toll payment app.

A Black Optics appearance package is also available. It bundles a 20-inch wheel/tire package with black-themed exterior and interior trim.

What's Good

The all-wheel drive-equipped A6 costs about the same (or even less) than rear-wheel drive as-they-come rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and BMW 5 Series.

It transitions from gas to electric drive without the herky-jerkyness of less sophisticated engine stop/start systems in other cars.

The flat-panel gauge cluster can display multiple screens selected by the driver.

What's Not So Good

The gas mileage benefit of the gas-electric system is negligible.

The traction advantage of standard all-wheel drive is offset to some degree by not much ground clearance (4.2 inches).

It has a small (13.7 cubic feet) trunk.

Under the Hood

The Audi's 2.0-liter, 261-horsepower, four-cylinder engine is paired up with a 48-volt electrical system (up from the usual 12 volts) that consists of a lithium-ion battery in the trunk and high-torque belt starter/generator system up front designed to keep the gas engine off as often as possible -- including while you're moving -- in order to increase gas mileage and lower carbon dioxide emissions.


The gas mileage, though, is about the same as it was before the 48-volt system was added: 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway versus 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.

For more power, a 335-horsepower, 3.0-liter V6 is optional. It's also paired with the same electric assist system.

Equipped with the V6, the A6 can get to 60 mph in a very speedy 4.8 seconds -- helped along by the car's lightweight aluminum bodywork. The four-cylinder-powered version makes the same run in about six seconds.

A seven-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive are both standard with both engines.

On the Road

The A6's standard all-wheel drive system gives the A6 a wet- and dry-weather traction advantage over its rear-wheel drive rivals from BMW and Mercedes-Benz. But it's not much of an advantage in the snow, because of the car's sport-sedan ground clearance of just 4.2 inches.

This puts the A6 much closer to the pavement than the BMW 5 Series (with 5.7 inches of clearance) but not quite as in the weeds as the Benz E-sedan, which sits just 3.8 inches off the pavement (4.2 inches when ordered with its available 4MATIC all-wheel drive system).

At the Curb

One thing you don't get much of -- and can't order more of -- is trunk space.

The A6 only has 13.7 cubic feet of capacity back there, which isn't much more capacity than in some much smaller compact economy cars.

The good news -- relatively speaking -- is that the other midsize cars in this class are also lacking in this department, especially the BMW 5 Series when bought with its optional gas-electric drivetrain. The battery that comes with the deal eats up a chunk of the trunk, reducing the space to just 10 cubic feet (about the same as a Mazda Miata's trunk space) from 14.

The Benz E is also trunk-shy, with just 13.1 cubic feet of room.

The Rest

The entirely flatscreen Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster can display a variety of screens, including a Google Earth View-style 3D map that's a notch above the two-dimensional displays used in other cars. The Virtual Cockpit is complemented by a 10.1-inch secondary flatscreen that displays most of the other apps and functions.

Touch-sensitive "haptic" feedback is part of the deal.

The car also comes standard with three-zone climate control, upgradable to four zone; a panoramic sunroof; and an excellent 10-speaker stereo, which can be upgraded to 16 speakers.

Massaging seats are available, too.

The Bottom Line

If you like the idea of owning an electric car without the hassles of owning an electric car, you may want to check out Audi's solution to this problem.


Eric's latest book, "Don't Get Taken for a Ride!" is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

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