Hooniverse Asks: What does a luxury C-Segment sedan need to stand out?

I’m driving the all-new Audi A6. It’s the eight-generation example of Audi’s C-segment sedan, and it’s really nice. But at the same time, there’s nothing amazing about the car. It lives in the middle ground between entry-level luxury and full-on flagship cars. Someone looks to upgrade to the Audi world with the A4. Another person has become king of their castle with the new A8. An A6 owner lives in the space between elation and expected excellence.
This isn’t an Audi specific thing, mind you. A BMW 5-Series owner, Mercedes-Benz E-Class owner, and Lexus GS owner all look at their machines as something they’ve worked hard to earn. But they might not be excited about it, like they once were when they bought the 3-Series, C-Class, ES Lexus, or Audi A4. And they pine for the 7-Series, S-Class, LS, or A8.
I’ll tell you that the new A6 has an amazing interior setup, available dynamic steering, and just-fine on road manners. It’s the new interior displays, next-generation MMI, and subtly cool styling that will carry the A6 amongst its own competition.
But what does a C-segment luxury sedan need to stand out? Or should it even try to do so as it’s a transitory piece of automobilia that serves as the bridge between working hard and true success?

16 Comments

  1. Isn’t an A6 considered an E-segment car? I thought C-segment cars were compacts (so in Audi’s case, an A3?)
    Regardless, the question is how to stand out – I say with one of these (I know, it’s a tired, old-man take and you can’t even get a manual transmission in any of these cars, blah, blah, blah I can’t hear you over my speakers blaring Ride the Lightning and my loud-ass exhaust)
    https://s.aolcdn.com/hss/storage/midas/d34f4ee08377eb94cf27a9002a075690/205540960/chevy-ss-11-1.jpg

    1. Semi-relevant: I find myself actually considering whether a Genesis G70 would make a good next car, solely because the US-spec sport model is a unicorn configuration. “Grown-up”/less boy-racer-y than a WRX or Type R, RWD, a manual, no sunroof, but has (or at least offers as an option, not sure on this one) the one piece of fancy new luxe tech I actually really want: cooled seats. It looked like it would have been a fine car regardless, and I wish Hyundai all the best with their new Genesis brand, but I probably wouldn’t have given it a second look (and didn’t expect to be looking at a “luxury” brand at all, really) if it hadn’t had that unusual combination of features. Now I almost feel obligated to cast a vote with my wallet to say “more like this, please”.

  2. Mercedes used to build vehicles that oozed quality via longevity in choice of materials and mechanics. When they stopped doing that, Lexus stepped up. They still make good vehicles, but their design mission is reduced to scaring poor people in small cars. So I don’t know who makes cars that are both conservative and good? Maybe that would stand out, but it might not provide the feeling of excitement Jeff is looking for.

    1. Benz owners live their lives in terror of running the car past warranty expiration. once the warranty is up the value of the car takes a dump. Lies damn Lies and Statistics not withstanding, Benz no longer crafts longevity as a part of the quality definition. The customers expectations and meeting them hold no interest at Mercedes. used to. Today, customers are expected to meet Mercedes expectations of quality. As in “can you pay for the car and its dealer maintenance?”. the only quality benz cares about for the last several decades is cost per unit as the out the door prices soared for the high end units. Benz engineering is driven solely by accountants expectations of profit, not customer expectations.

  3. Not only are they an inbetweener segment, they’re also undoubtedly feeling the squeeze from crossovers.- if it’s $10k cheaper to get a Q7 (to start), how many people are going to pick the smaller sedan? Alternate answer is go full electric and at least try and look a little different. Tesla has pretty healthy sales despite questionable quality and a limited dealer network.
    But going a step further (and into some pretty muddled thinking), and piggybacking of Sjalabais’s point, YTD, the top sellers in the class are still the Lexus ES and Mercedes E-Class. It’s an inherently conservative segment. EV’s are inherently smooth and quiet, so build an EV with top notch interior quality and a 10-year warranty.

  4. Hmm. XF? Personally I find them forgettable in a way that a Jaguar shouldn’t be, and sales figures suggest that too many people agree with me.

  5. I’m the wrong person to ask, I have minimal interest in “luxury” cars whose primary function appears to signalling your ability to afford the lease payment.

  6. Make it a plug in hybrid with an optional EV performance mode. You can have 60 miles of EV commuting range or 10 miles of Telsa Ludicrous mode levels of performance. To really stand out make the ICE a diesel.
    I want: sub 3 second 0-60 or 60 mile EV range, and 50mpg after that, with a 500 mile total range.

  7. I think where they can stand out from mainstream cars is refinement, interior plushness, and to a certain degree performance. Those areas are where there is room for improvement in most cars.

  8. To make your C-class stand out, put a K&N filter on it.
    Seriously, today’s German cars equate to a reinvention of the Sloan hierarchy
    Porsche is Cadillac
    BMW is Pontiac
    Mercedes is Buick
    Audi is Oldsmobile
    Volkswagen is Chevrolet

  9. When I sit in a luxury car I need to feel special. Lots of cars have leather steering wheels, but a luxury car’s will just feel better. I point to my Acura’s “semi-luxury” segment, the wheel is ok, but nothing like my Audi had.

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