Long before I started writing about cars for a living, I didn’t think much about them.

A car is a machine to move me from Point A to Point B, I thought. They’re all more or less the same. As long as it has a radio and a heater (I’m an Oregon native), I’ll be happy.

Fast forward a decade, and I have become considerably more discerning. When you drive 100 different cars a year (give or take) you quickly understand there are vast differences between a Mazda Miata roadster, a drop-top Bentley Continental, and a McLaren 650S Spider. Not to mention between a Ford and a Ferrari.

But there’s still something important about that original theory. Some cars are neither flashy nor exceptionally fast. They’re not boring—they work well, they do their job efficiently and practically—but they are forgettable in the sense that, for better or worse, there’s nothing too obtuse to remember about them in the first place. And that’s OK. Cars in their purest form are human conveyances. The 2016 Audi A6 falls into this category.

Vanilla Is Plain but Popular

I don’t mean this to sound disparaging. For many, many drivers, a well-made, smart-looking vehicle that comes with a supportive dealer network and well-placed creature comforts is exactly what they need. Drive the Audi A6, and you’ll look comfortably, appropriately, upper-middle class. Come to think of it, it would be the perfect car for a spy. Drive this around Anytown, USA, and no one will notice you. (Especially if it’s silver.)

Audi’s fourth-generation, $57,400 A6 comes with the company’s excellent Quattro all-wheel drive, a comfortable, responsive suspension, and a 333-horsepower V6 engine. It goes to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds, with a top speed of 128 miles per hour. And it drives as if it’s been educated at one of Connecticut’s finer prep schools: smart around corners, well- mannered on the straight. It listens when you turn the wheel or applies the brakes; it reacts immediately to directives and responds well to encouragement.

Here, behind the wheel of the automatic eight-speed A6, nothing is off-kilter, since the DriveSelect system comes standard and allows a choice among Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, and Individual modes. Each of those offers different throttle and steering response. The transmission includes its own Sport mode. Fuel efficiency hits 20 miles per gallon in the city and 30 on the highway.

In short, this is Audi’s second-biggest sedan, but thanks to all that, you could easily forget its size. The driving personality is unfailingly even-handed—placid, not sluggish. It's geared as smoothly as those big oil derricks down in Texas working as you drive by.

Perfect Data