- The Washington Times - Friday, July 14, 2000

What has all-wheel drive, six-speed stick, 250 horses and six cylinders?
If you guessed anything but the Audi A6, you just lost the first round of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" The good news is you don't have to be a millionaire to own the A6, but it would help if you were headed in that direction.
With a base price of $38,550, the Audi 2000 A6 shares company with some pretty elite models from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, et al. In black paint and tan leather upholstery this handsome sedan whispers the seductive language of luxury.
Introduced first in 1997, the A6 has three engines ranging in power from a 200-horse V-6 in the Avant to a 4.2-liter, 300-horsepower V-8 at the top of the line.
The car I drove had the middle engine, a 2.7-liter, turbo-powered V-6 with 250 horses on tap. Knowing how much power was waiting to burst from those six cylinders, I tended to hold back off the starting line for fear of attracting unwanted attention. A clear path allowed the ponies to take off at will as I hurried to keep up with the six-speed stick. That's right, this car has an optional manual transmission, something quite unusual in a luxury car but very attractive to a true enthusiast.
The 2.7-liter engine breathes through five valves per cylinder as the sedan soars from 0 to 60 mph in a stunning 6 seconds under the guidance of the stick. With the automatic, performance slows by only 0.6 second.
That kind of blazing speed is not what most of us think of when talking about all-wheel drive. But Audi's got that, too, with the Quattro system that lends extraordinary safety in all conditions, but particularly in snow and ice.
Control is what this sedan is all about and the suspension is the key. Like most German cars, the A6 rides on an exceptional set of springs. But with the optional sport package, the sedan becomes as stable as a pool table in tight turns.
Torsional rigidity may sound like something that happens to your back after a long car trip. But in automotive terms, it's the sedan's ability to resist twisting forces along its length. The A6 boasts a 50 percent improvement in torsional rigidity in the current model with a 33 percent reduction in body-seam gaps.
The front track has been widened by 1.5 inches to 62.1 inches, and at the rear, the track is 0.8 inches wider at 62.6. The body is 0.2 inch lower in the front and 0.1 inch at the rear because of new aluminum suspension components and revised suspension settings.
The tires ride on 16-inch aluminum wheels, but the wheel arches and flares are built to accommodate 17-inch tires as well. The new aluminum components have helped reduce the chassis weight by 10 percent.
While the exterior styling is unmistakably Audi, the new A6 could easily blend in at a Mercedes show-and-shine. Designers tried to create the profile of a coupe, with a sweeping roof line, flush-mounted bumpers and body-col-
ored accents.
If your friendly Audi dealer asks you what kind of "environment" you want, don't answer: "The one with an ozone layer and no greenhouse effect." Your choices are "Ambition, Ambiente" and "Advance."
Each environment or "atmosphere" is supposed to represent a different character through texture and appearance of upholstery, the color and type of wood and aluminum trim and the stitching of the upholstery.
These are the official descriptions of the three atmospheres: "Ambition evokes memories of classic touring sedans with its rich, dark walnut wood trim and classic, muted colors. Ambiente is more Mediterranean in feel with its fine supple materials, lighter sycamore wood trim and bolder colors. Advance brings out the natural side of any A6's character with its polished burled walnut wood trim and soft upholstery in warm, earth tones." (Now, you know why car sales people get the big bucks. Could you read that pitch with a straight face?) There's no shortage of space in the A6, which offers 98.3 cubic feet of passenger room and 15.4 cubic feet of trunk space in the Quattro models.
And Audi didn't skimp on the standard features, either. Twelve-way power seats with electric lumbar support are standard. A 140-
watt, eight-speaker sound system with trunk-mounted subwoofer and the new Symphony AM/FM stereo cassette radio with in-dash CD player are also part of every package. The climate control system is split between driver and front passenger and includes two sunlight sensors for better accuracy.
To help you find your way in the dark, the doors are equipped with "puddle" lights so that you can see what you are stepping onto or into.

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