1998 Audi A6

Updated: November 10, 1999
1998 Audi A6

1998 Audi A6

Audi officials are calling the fantastic new A6 their “center of gravity.” Audi's sales have taken off the past couple years and the company's new luxury sedan is certain to keep that momentum going.

Indeed, Audi is here to stay.

We hated to give our A6 back to them. We loved its elegant looks and friendly interior. We enjoyed its brisk performance. We appreciated its outstanding performance in bad weather. The week we spent in it seemed way too short.

Walkaround and Interior


The A6 is a beautiful luxury car. Audi designed it with the style and elegance of a coupe. It's instantly recognizable as a member of the Audi family. Headlights, hood and bumpers blend to reveal a familiar face while advanced lighting technology, visible behind polycarbonate lenses, add sparkle and style. Curvaceous lines caress the eyes. The wind glides across the gracefully flowing hood, up and over the sweeping roof line and down the smooth rear deck lid, slipping through the wind with a low 0.28 drag coefficient.

One of the most significant details is something you don't really see at first. The A6 comes together in seamless form, with body gaps kept to less than 3 millimeters.

Car design is a question of trade-offs, and all too often a stylish exterior means a compromised interior. But not so with the A6. It's a roomy car, offering more than an inch of additional headroom over the previous model (now 39.3 inches or 38.5 as tested with sunroof). Rear-seat passengers will enjoy an additional two inches of legroom.

Dynamically, the A6 is as good as it looks. A6 engineers took lessons from Audi's all-aluminum A8 high-performance luxury sedan. Pound-for-pound, aluminum is significantly stronger than steel and the A6 makes extensive use of it. The aluminum hood is 36 percent lighter than the hood on last year's model, yet it's 20 percent more rigid. Door frames, side-impact beams and bumper mounts are made of aluminum. Overall, the body of the A6 has 50 percent greater torsional rigidity even though it is 30 percent lighter. That translates into less shimmy and shake on rough roads and helps isolate noise. A rigid chassis also provides the basis for precise suspension tuning, contributing to the A6's excellent handling and ride.

Interior Features

Audi's objective was to design a world class car with a world class interior. The passenger compartment offers a full six cubic feet of additional volume over last year's model. And, at 17.1 cubic feet, the trunk is one of the largest in its class, with enough room to store a week's worth of luggage and a couple of sets of golf clubs. The rear seat folds down to provide room for skis or long packages.

German automakers are justifiably well known for their ergonomic interiors and Audi offers exquisite attention to detail on the A6. Switches are easy to reach and operate. Gauges are easy to see and read. Best of all, Audi has gone for a warmer, friendlier feel where BMW and Mercedes-Benz products tend to be Teutonically cold and efficient. At night, the glowing orange-red lights and indicators are calmly reassuring.

Echoing Audi's extensive use of aluminum for structural applications, the gear shift bezel is made of aluminum buffed to a high gloss. It's a visually exciting, high-tech look. That look is balanced by the warmth of lots of real wood that looks like real wood, not over-polished plastic.

Audi now offers three distinct interior styles or “Atmospheres” that come in an extensive range of colors and tones. Each atmosphere surrounds its occupants with a distinctly different character distinguished by the texture and appearance of the seat upholstery and the color and type of wood and aluminum trim. The classic touring sedan look is found in “Ambition,” which features rich, dark woods with classic, deep-colored leather tones. Lighter wood and bolder color combinations are seen in a Mediterranean style called “Ambiente” with fine, supple materials. A high-tech, monotone look is found in “Advance.” Each atmosphere is available in at least two color choices and a choice of leatherette, leather or, in the Advance atmosphere, a Jacquard cloth. They all come matched with choice of rich and vibrant exterior hues.

The A6 comes with a high level of standard equipment, including dual automatic climate control with pollen filter, power mirrors, windows and door locks, eight-way power driver's seat, keyless remote entry, rear heat duct, tilt/telescoping leather wrapped steering wheel and cast alloy wheels. The AM/FM cassette sound system boasts 120 watts of power and a subwoofer.

Two options packages should be considered: The cold weather package comes with heated seats and a heated steering wheel. The warm weather package includes infrared-reflective glass and a solar sunroof that generates power to run a cooling fan without draining the battery. This helps keep the interior cool in the summer.

Safety is a big issue for Audi and the A6 comes with dual airbags up front as well as dual front side-impact airbags. All five seat belts have pretensioners. In the event of an accident, they cinch the belts as tight as possible to minimize injuries.

Driving Impressions

Under the hood, there's a 2.8-liter, 30-valve V6. The five valve-per-cylinder design lets this engine breathe deeply, and on the open road it loves to wind out. Its 200 hp is delivered almost silently, though at full acceleration there's a reassuring roar. It's more powerful than previous Audi powertrains, though it isn't quite as quick off the line as some comparably priced sedans.

The V6 is mated to a 5-speed Tiptronic transmission based on a design from Porsche. It can be operated either as a silky-smooth automatic or switched to manual mode. Moved into a special gate, the driver upshifts or downshifts for enhanced control. It's entertaining and particularly useful on winding roads and in the mountains.

A6 buyers have a choice of the front-wheel-drive configuration or Audi's legendary Quattro all-wheel-drive system. A few years back, you had to have a big bank account to drive a Quattro, but since Audi reduced the price on the basic Quattro package, we'd say it's a must. Quattro is a full-time all-wheel-drive system that is constantly at work putting power to the pavement through all four wheels. It brings a sense of control and security to the driver like nothing else.

Audi calls its Quattro system an “enabling” technology, referring to traction control systems on two-wheel-drive cars as “disabling” technology because they work by reducing engine power until wheel spin is under control.

Now in the fourth generation of the Quattro system, Audi is way ahead of other companies in all-wheel-drive technology. The key to Quattro has always been the use of three differentials that vary power distribution to all four wheels, all of the time, at any speed. The latest system uses an electronic differential lock that operates on both the front and rear differentials. This feature detects and limits wheel spin and redistributes drive torque from side to side to take advantage of any available traction. This operates with the Torsen center differential that distributes up to 65 percent of the traction to whichever axle has the most traction.

Quattro comes with a double-wishbone rear suspension, while front-wheel-drive A6s are equipped with a torsion-beam rear suspension. The front-wheel-drive (non-Quattro) A6 models use Audi's FrontTrak traction control system, which operates at all speeds to reduce wheel spin.

Summary, Prices, Specs


Audi's new A6 rewards its driver with dynamic, controlled performance. It corners well and rides smoothly. Steering and handling are precise. And it's quiet. Overall, the A6 delivers the superb ride and handling qualities that Audi is known for.

It looks great and offers a lot of value in terms of standard features and must-have options. The A6 is a car the competition is watching closely. With this car as its center of gravity, Audi is going to be drawing in a lot of new customers.

Model Line Overview
Model lineup:N/A
Safety equipment (standard):Dual airbags, dual side airbags
Safety equipment (optional):N/A
Basic warranty:3 years/50,000 miles
Assembled in:Ingolstadt, Germany
Specifications As Tested
Model tested (MSPR):A6 Quattro
Standard equipment:ABS, 5-speed automatic transmission, 15-in. forged aluminum light alloy wheels, speed-sensitive power rack and pinion steering, leather tilt and telescopic steering wheel, traction control, anti-theft alarm system, power windows and locks, dual climate control with dual sun sensors and pollen filters, 12-way power seats, heated outside mirrors, electronic cruise control, remote keyless entry, auto check system with trip computer, headlight washer system, heated windshield washer nozzles, front and rear fog lights, outside mirrors with defog feature, 60/40 split/fold rear seat, AM/FM/cassette stereo with anti-theft
Options as tested (MSPR):Leather seats, 16-in. cast alloy wheels, Bose premium sound package, 6-disc CD changer, cold weather package with heated front seat and steering wheel and expandable ski/storage sack, glass slide and tilt sunroof, outside mirrors and driver seat memory, auto-dimming inside rearview mirror, Quattro IV all-wheel-drive system
Destination charge:N/A
Gas guzzler tax:N/A
Price as tested (MSPR):$41225
Engine:2.8 liter dohc 30v V6
Horsepower (lb.-ft @ rpm):200 @ 6000
Torque (lb.-ft @ rpm):207 @ 3200
Transmission:5-speed automatic with Tiptronic
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:7/26 mpg
Wheelbase:108.6 in.
Length/width/height:192.0/71.3/57.1 in.
Track, f/r:60.6/61.8 in.
Turning circle:38.3 ft.
Seating Capacity:5
Head/hip/leg room, f:38.5/NA/41.3 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m:N/A
Head/hip/leg room, r:37.6/NA/37.3 in.
Cargo volume:15.4 cu. ft.
Towing capacity:N/A
Suspension, f:Independent
Suspension, r:Independent
Ground clearance:N/A
Curb weigth:3704 lbs.
Brakes, f/r:disc/disc
Fuel capacity:18.5 gal.
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle. All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSPR) effective as of November 10, 1999.Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable. Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-822-2834 - www.audiusa.com