Review and road test of the Audi A6 (1994 - 1997)
BY JONATHAN CROUCH
The first generation A6 proved to be a surprise success story for Audi. This was, after all, in its original form, little more than a facelifted version of the Audi 100, which was selling slowly until the range was renamed 'A6' in 1994.
The only major engine changes that were effected in the transformation concerned the turbo diesel version. These were aimed at improving response, reducing vibration and increasing pulling power at lower revs. It's no coincidence then that this variant proved to be a key ingredient in the original A6's contribution to Audi's climb back into British profitability. It's equally no surprise that the first generation A6, which lasted until 1997, excellent car that it is, has proved to be much sought after as a used buy, now that the Audi image is on the up and up.
A6 - 1994 to May 1997 (1.8 Saloon and Estate [base, SE] / 2.0 Saloon and Estate [base, SE] / 2.2 S6 turbo quattro Saloon and Estate / 2.6 Saloon and Estate [base, SE] / 2.8 Saloon and Estate [base, SE, quattro] / 1.9 turbo diesel Saloon and Estate [TDI, TDI SE] / 2.5 (115bhp) turbo diesel Saloon and Estate [TDI, TDI SE, / 2.5 (140bhp) turbo diesel Saloon and Estate [TDI, TDI SE, TDI quattro]) *Some sellers call the estate 'Avant'.
Audi never pretended that the original first generation A6 was anything other than a revised and re-badged version of the last generation Audi 100, originally released in 1991. It received its A6 badges in June 1994, a month before the arrival of the brand-new A8 aluminium limousine and nine months before the smaller A4 saloon.
Engines differed little from the original 100, but did reflect Audi's continued move away from its signature five-cylinder motors. The base versions of the A6 were powered by the Golf GTI's 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine. The next model up also used a VW motor, though this time it was a 2.0-litre four-cylinder.
Next up in size, but not in power, was the five-cylinder 2.2-litre S6. This car, available as both a saloon and estate, came standard with the Quattro all-wheel drive system. And for good reason too. The engine was turbocharged and the S6 was an extremely rapid machine. It sold in small numbers and was the flagship of the A6 range.
Audi's own six-cylinder engine (the Volkswagen VR6 unit is completely different) powered the 2.6 and 2.8-litre cars - and there was a Quattro version of the 2.8-litre saloon and estate.
The turbo diesels ranged from 1.9 to 2.5-litres and there were two versions of the latter. The five-cylinder 115bhp 2.5 was released at the same time as the rest of the A6 range in June 1994, but a 140bhp version arrived in January 1995 - the same time as the 1.9-litre four-cylinder TDi engine. Quattro versions of the 2.5 (140bhp) TDI saloon and estate were released in December 1995. The range was replaced by an all-new model in May 1997.
What You Get
German reliability, build quality and solidity as well as a surprising amount of character. The five-cylinder S6 (in left-hand drive markets there's also a V8 S6) is nicely understated, so if you want a saloon or estate with lively performance, track one of these down.
Standard equipment has always been good on all A6s, especially on the SE models and Audis are very safe cars so all the 1990s safety kit is there. The A6 had conventional airbags instead of the 'Procon Ten' safety system previously used on the Audi 100 (which pulled the steering wheel away from you in a crash).
What to Look For
Not too much, really. Be careful with turbo cars - make sure the service history is all there as repairs will be expensive if the car's been abused.
The quattro system is reliable and well proven, but again, make sure a full-service history is present, as these cars are complicated and not for your local spannerman to fiddle with.
Interiors are hard wearing and well designed, much like the rest of the car. As for corrosion, with an Audi you're pretty safe and there's an anti-perforation warranty to reassure you.
(approx based on an M-reg 2.5 TDI Saloon - ex Vat) A clutch assembly is around £200 and an exhaust system (without catalyst) about £270. Front and rear brake pads will be in the vicinity of £50 each.
A radiator is about £255, an alternator about £340, a starter motor £215, and a replacement headlamp can be up to £320.
On the Road
The handling bias is geared towards safety and predictability, rather than trying to deliver the ultimate driving experience. These cars are all front-wheel drive, (unless they're Quattros) and that makes them quite different behind the wheel than BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes. The suspension has been set up for comfort, though the A6 manages a good compromise between this and responsive handling. It may be less sporty overall than a BMW, but Quattro versions grip far better than their German competition when the roads get wet and slippery.
A serious rival to the BMW 5-series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and one or two others. If you like the looks, you'll love the driving experience and used ownership should be just as enjoyable.
Audi A6 (1994 - 1997) review by JONATHAN CROUCH