Quick Take: 2014 Audi A6 TDI – Flexing Diesel Muscles

2014 audi a6 tdi review

Diesel engines are engaged in the automotive equivalent of the one-armed pushup. 2014 Audi A6 TDI is one of the vehicles at the forefront.  Diesels are getting stronger all the time and intend to double up.

They’re proliferating rapidly in passenger cars as old consumer impressions and prejudices fade away, though slowly.

General Motors, no longer smarting from its disastrous dance with diesels back in the 1980s, recently introduced a diesel in its Chevrolet Cruze compact. The Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV has a diesel model, along with the Ram 1500 light duty pickup truck. Japan’s Mazda also has a diesel ready for its midsize 6 sedan.

So far—and for the immediate future—German manufacturers dominate the niche. Volkswagen has diesel options in nearly all of its models. Audi is the same, and Mercedes-Benz now offers diesels in its E-Class sedan as well as its MLK, ML and GL sport utility vehicles. Even Porsche and BMW have diesels in their lineups.

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Despite diesel fuel prices taxed higher than regular gasoline and a scarcity of fueling pumps, diesel cars now provide the most direct competition to popular gasoline/electric hybrids like the Toyota Prius and Ford C-Max. Pure electric cars are still in their infancy, and plug-in hybrids have yet to win broad acceptance.

A powerful new V6 diesel makes its debut for 2014 in four of Audi’s 2014 luxury vehicles, all of which bear a TDI badge to identify them as oil burners. TDI originally stood for turbocharged direct injection.

STATS Starting Retail Price As Tested Price HP / Lb-Ft
2014 Audi A6 TDI $58,395 $67,295 240 / 428
EPA MPG As Tested MPG Curb Weight LBS
  24 / 38 N/A 4,178

Two are four-door sedans, the A6 and A8; one is a crossover utility vehicle, the Q5, and the last is a hatchback: the superb A7, though to call it a hatchback is borderline disrespectful.

The A8, Audi’s near-$100,000 top-of-the-line sedan, already had curtsied to the customers when the company staged a diesel centric event in Washington, D.C., to introduce the other three and tout the advantages, stumbling blocks and rosy future of diesel engine technology.

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There is little argument over the advantages. Diesel engines, which use high compression instead of spark plugs to fire the fuel/air mixture inside the cylinders, deliver 25% to 30% higher fuel economy, on average, than gasoline engines. Because they must be built stronger, they also last longer, which is why they power the nation’s backbone haulers, the long-distance semitrailer trucks.

But because they are stronger and last longer, diesels are more expensive. In passenger cars, the premium is around $2,000.

That doesn’t much matter with the new Audi models, which carry prices north of $50,000, where a couple of grand doesn’t get noticed. More important, as good as these vehicles are—and they are extremely good—they must still motor up a steep hill of prejudice.

Most Americans still think of them as smelly, noisy, slow, dirty and impossible to start in cold weather. Only the smelly part still is true, and that’s only when you stand at the pump to refuel.

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All the rest is gone and, in truth, few drivers would be able to distinguish any of the Audi diesels from their gasoline counterparts. The only clue inside is the tachometer, which tells at a glance that the diesel does not reach the high revs typical of a gasoline engine.

That’s because diesels develop their enormous torque, or twisting force, at low rpms, which makes for a forceful jump off the line at stoplights. Of course, that also means more leisurely cruising and passing.

Take the tested 2014 A6 TDI, which is as fine a mid-sized sedan as you can find anywhere. It competes as a luxury car, which means it’s not cheap at $58,395. That includes Audi’s proven Quattro all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic manual shift control. With options, it checked in at $67,295.

But it was slick, quiet and comfortable, though with a sport-oriented stiff and sometimes punishing ride. Supportive front seats and outboard back seats coddle the vast majority of adults relatively comfortably on long trips. Forget the middle seat, however, which is a hard, narrow cushion against a giant floor hump. It’s suitable only for backpacks or watermelons.

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With its 240-horsepower and 428 lb-ft of addictive torque, 3.0-liter six-cylinder diesel, the A6 registers 24/38/29 mpg on the EPA’s city/highway/combined fuel consumption cycles. That’s remarkable in a two-ton sedan.

One of the gripes at the Audi diesel symposium was that oil burners get no respect. Electrics get tax breaks, and hybrids and plug-ins often can use express lanes. Diesels must fend for themselves.

However, as Audi demonstrates, virtue eventually will be rewarded.

Here is fun and informative video review of the 2014 Audi A8 TDI that uses the nearly identical 3.0-liter TDI:

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Roman Mica is a publisher, columnist, journalist, and author, who spent his early years driving fast on the German autobahn. When he’s not reviewing cars or producing videos, you can find him training for triathlons and writing about endurance sports for EverymanTri.com as our sister blog’s publisher. Mica is a former broadcast reporter with his Master’s Degree in journalism from Northwestern University. He is also a presenter for TFLcar’s very popular video review channels on YouTube.