While I appreciate the entirety of the C5 Audi A6 lineup, it is the post facelift ’02-’04 models that hold a special place in my heart, and on my automotive bucket list. Audi took an already beautiful design and tweaked it ever so slightly to give the final 3 model year A6s the sendoff they deserved. Timeless is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days, but it’s certainly fitting when describing the design of the C5 A6. It’s not a stretch to call it the best sedan design in Audi history, maybe even the best sedan design of all time? While that may seem too bold, the longer you stare at it, the more it will make sense.
The 2.7T power plant in the face lifted C5 A6 makes 247hp and 243 lb-ft of torque. That juice is squeezed through the standard Quattro all wheel drive system and moves the 3,262 lb car around with an impressive amount of grace. The driving experience is above average in the 5 speed Tiptronic models, you need the super rare 6-speed manual, like the one seen here, to really get your blood pumping while behind the wheel.
The S6 and RS6 may have your heart beating out of your chest when in the drivers seat, but they’ll also have it doing so when you take them in for service. The 2.7T in considerably less expensive to maintain, though it does come with it’s own set of quirks, and is by no means a perfect picture of reliability. As with any pre-owned luxury car of German decent, you have to decide how much the risk you’re willing to accept for the reward of driving it.
Aside from featuring a beautiful exterior, and a spirited power plant, the A6 also has a wonderfully simple interior. Audi’s ergonomics have long been the best in the business and the C5 A6 cabin is a perfect example of why. If there is one fault to be pointed it out, it’s the location of the cupholder. I’m sure the designers grumbled about having to cave to the desires of silly foreigners who need a place to put their Big Gulp, just as they grumble now when they have to work around the inclusion of an infotainment system. In a way I can now understand why some automakers just slap a tablet up at the top of the dash and call it a day. If only they would offer an option to delete it. Wouldn’t that be something special?
Subsequent cabins would see a stash drawer replace the cupholder location and the hydration stations moved to the center console. Since the width of the center console grew, the width of the car grew as well, and the C6 A6 was a whopping 1.7 inches wider than the perfectly proportioned C5. That might sound like a whole lot to most folks, but when it comes to cabin space, every inch matters. The C6 is a handsome vehicle in its own way, but it doesn’t come close to the minimalist beauty of the C5. Just think, we lost one of the greatest designs of all time because of cupholders. Shameful, simply shameful.
If you can track down a ’02-’04 2.7T with the sport package and 3 pedals, congratulations, you’ve located a unicorn. Do yourself a favor, buy it, then enjoy owning one of the most sleeper Q-ships to ever grace our shores. The A6 pictured here doesn’t have the sports package, but it does have that all Ticking the sports package option box meant you got nicely bolstered seats, a 3 spoke steering wheel, lower/stiffer springs, and 17″ wheels. After all, if you decide you want to dive into the wonderful world of Audi tuning, you’ll want the look and feel of your C5 to match the massive power. People regularly tune these cars to the +500hp range, though the mellow exterior will never let on that the thing is a monster. That what makes these cars so underrated, great potential, and a sleeper look to match.