This week’s Audi A-6 is a triumph over much of the past product put out by the company. Like the BMW, Audi’s were just too expensive to maintain. Brother John’s experience from running a foreign car repair service business for many years was my barometer for the cars to stay away from. Right there with BMW and Jaguar was the Audi. High maintenance cars were good for John albeit not so good for the owners. John was honest, to a fault, and I’m sure his long time customers miss him, even though they probably have dumped their old Audi’s by now. John used to remind me that he didn’t build ‘em, but only fixed ‘em. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. Funny though how the mechanic often times takes the heat for poorly designed and manufactured cars.
Audi also got some bad press along the way. Many think they were unfairly maligned in the media for braking problems some years ago. I don’t know how true those reports were, but my race-driving partner, Price Cobb, did some personal testing back then and here’s what he has to say. “60 Minutes did an expose on the Audi saying that these cars had a run-away problem and that somehow the car went berserk and gave itself tons of power and made the brakes inoperative at the same time. So I took a new car off the showroom floor onto the highway and accelerated up to the speed limit, THEN I floored the gas pedal AND applied the brake and still brought the car to a halt! In all the hoopla, the saddest of all was that ‘60 Minutes’ almost cost the Audi Company their business with no apologies to AUDI for what were considered botched tests.”
Few companies can come back from that kind of bad press. And right or wrong, if folks don’t vote for a product with their dollars, it will surely die. Somehow Audi got its act together and survived an almost sure death. This new generation of their car is a whole ‘nuther story and a very impressive car that appears to have overcome its poor image. My brother-in-law, who used to own Porsche and Audi dealerships said, “when I was in that business you couldn’t give either of them away”. Today, Mark drives a Porsche and after driving this A-6 he told me how impressed he was. Ok Mark; see we do agree on more than one thing.
Business, of course, is a numbers game and one need only look at Audi sales figures to get a picture of how people changed their minds about Audi over the years. Audi began selling cars in America in 1969 with unit sales of 7,691 and they grew steadily peaking out at annual sales of 74,061 units in 1985. From there sales plummeted to a low of 12,528 units in 1993. Sales are back up with annual unit sales of 27,379 in 1996.
My first impression of the A-6 muffled my initial bias that it would be a dog even though friends in the industry had been telling me what a great car it was. I was determined to keep an open mind, so I suppressed the vision of shit falling off as I drove. But I also had flashbacks to my experience on the autobahns of Germany. The fast lane was almost exclusively populated by Mercedes, BMW and Audi, in that order. Obviously the Germans think highly of this new generation Audi automobile.
Competition for the Audi A-6 includes the Acura TL, BMW 5-Series, Cadillac Catera, Infiniti I30, Lexus GS 300/400, Mazda Millenia, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Saab 9000, Volvo S70.
Personally I don’t like the red instrumentation, and prefer the softer colors like white or green that are easier on the eyes, but overall I have to give this A-6 a high recommendation for your test drive line-up.
2.8 liter 200 horsepower V6 engine, 5-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes that are vented in the front and solid in the rear, alloy wheels, speed sensitive power steering, front and side air bags in front seat, anti-theft alarm with remote keyless entry, fog lights, dual power mirrors, climate control, power widows, tilt and telescopic steering column, wood trim and AM/FM stereo with cassette.
17 City / 28 Highway MPG.
Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price is $33,750 and the model I tested included a 6-disc CD changer upgraded audio package for $1,300, Cold weather package for $750, glass power / tilt and slide sunroof, memory outside mirrors and driver seat and auto dimming inside rearview mirror for $1,500 and leather upholstery for $1,550. After destination charges of $500 the total came to $39,350.
For the dealer nearest you call 1 800 822-2834.