by: AUDI PRESS AG - Understated elegance and balanced road manners characterize the 2014 Audi A6.I was a little surprised when I picked up the 2014 Audi A6 for a driving test. Manufacturers usually provide their top-of-the-line models to automative reviewers, and the most expensive A6 now features a 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel V6 that Audi is promoting its next big thing.

But my test car only had the base engine, a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four gasoline engine, although was equipped that the optional quattro all-wheel-drive system that includes an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode.

But you know what? I'm not complaining. I've tested the turbodiesel in the full-size Audi A8 and found it to be a very impressive engine, offering both tremendous power and excellent fuel economy for such a large vehicle.

The turbo four is very well suited for the midsize A6, however, providing very quick acceleration and a very reasonable EPA estimated 23 average miles per gallon. Considering how much more an equally equipped 3.0TDI A6 costs (a lot), I suspect a lot of buyers will choose the 2.0T. The same goes for the optional supercharged 3.0 gasoline V6, which is less expensive than the TDI but still considerably more than the base engine.

And the optional quattro all-wheel-drive system on the Premium Plus model was also impressive. I had the A6 during the worst snow storm in six years. It dumped over seven inches of snow on Portland, then follow it with freezing rain. I live on a hill, which the city did not plow, although it cleared the connecting street. The A6 made it up and down the hill with no problems, while a neighbor's new BMW 320i with chains on the rear wheels spent days parked at the bottom of it.

Even with its lower horsepower, buyers who choose the base 2.0T are not making much of a sacrifice because everything else about the A6 is so good. The exterior design is athletic but understated, the interior design is refreshingly uncluttered, the ride is quiet and supple, the steering is crisp, and the brakes are precise and easy to modulate. The interior materials were all top notch, from the fine leathers to the genuine wood trim. The overall effect is one of refinement without being showy.

I can't testify to the relative merits and demerits of the entry-level A6, which includes the 2.0T engine, a Continuously Variable Transmission and front-wheel-drive. I suspect it does not perform as well as the quarto-equipped version, although it gets better mileage.

Even with everything going for it, the A6 is not the right car for everyone. Rear seat room is a little cramped, like a lot of other midsize cars. And it might be too technologically sophisticated for some buyers. Audi is pushing the technological edges in all of its vehicles these days, and mastering the convenience, entertainment and navigation functions takes a little study and practice. Much of its controlled through a knob and button package on the console. It works the menus on a digital screen that swivels out and up when the car starts. Although not as clean as some built-in screens, the design allows the dash to be kept low and lean, improving forward visibility.

But for anyone else wanting a true European sport sedan at a reasonable price, the 2014 Audi A6 is hard to beat.

Facts and figures (all models)

• Model tested: 2014 A6.

• Manufacturer: Audi.

• Class: Midsize sedan.

• Layout: Front engine, front and all-wheel-drive.

• Style: Four-door car.

• Engines: Turbocharged 2.0 inline 4 (220 hp, 258 ft-lbs); supercharged 3.0 V6 (310 hp, 325 ft-lbs); Turbocharged Diesel Injected 3.0 V6 (240 hp, 428 ft-lbs)

• Transmissions: Continuously Variable Transmission; 8-speed automatic.

• Fuel Economy: 25/33/28 (2.0/CVT/FWD - as tested); 20/29/23 (2.0/Auto/AWD); 18/27/22 (3.0/Auto/AWD); 24/38/29 (3.0TDI/Auto/AWD).

• Price: Starting around $42,000 ($53,845 as tested).

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