2012 Audi A6 New Car Test Drive
Audi once again nails its not-too-big, not-too-small
By Steve Siler
Audi butters its bread with the A6, its mid-sized luxury sedan, positioned between its “entry level” A4 and the grand A8. Yes, that technically makes it the middle child in the Audi sedan family, but as I found recently along the picturesque roads of the Italian island of Sicily, where Audi hosted the worldwide media first drive program, the A6 is hardly Audi’s “Jan Brady.” Rather, think Goldilocks, and her perennial quest for things that are “just right,” which is precisely how I would characterize the all-new 2012 A6’s blend of style, space, luxury and prestige.
On the outside
I confess that I was not at all impressed with the styling of the 2012 A6 when I first saw pictures of it last fall. And I wasn’t much more impressed with it even after seeing it at the Detroit auto show in January, bathed as it in light so bright I longed for my Persols. Out on the road, the A6’s wide stance, newly athletic proportions (the result of a reconfigured engine bay in which the engine and transmission essentially switched places), and beautifully rendered details all convey unspeakable confidence. In my view, it is still a bit too understated, but not so understated as to appear plebian, which is the mortal sin of the dull-looking A8. Easily the best styling bits of the A6 are the cool optional LED headlamps, which do away with standard bulbs in favor of a line of individual LEDs, underlined by a line of super-skinny LED daytime running lights that switch into amber turn signals when summoned. Available 20-inch wheels are a must, especially as they do not exact any penalties in the ride quality department.
Interestingly, the A6 will be offered with a hatchback body in the form of the A7, and the whole looks-better-in-the-metal thing applies to that car as well. The contrarian in me finds the A7 to be even cooler than the A6, but alas, most of us would never be so brave as to drive a hatchback with a starting price near $60K. Certainly, the coolness factor of some recent hatchbacks (and wagons, for that matter) has sparked more than a few debates at my dinner table recently.
On the inside
Not up for debate, however, is the A6’s interior design, with is absolutely gorgeous. While Mercedes-Benz ran afoul with the messy interior of the current E-Class, and BMW ‘s new Five is better but rather unremarkable, the A6 has once again proven that no brand designs better cabins than Audi. Unvarnished wood trim appears to be pinstriped, though it is actually painstakingly inlaid wood veneers that Audi must employ a small German village to execute. The seats are simply marvelous, and are available with heat, ventilation, and massaging pistons in the seatbacks.
As with the flagship A8, the A6 features Audi’s multi-media interface, including a touch pad upon which the driver can scrawl individual characters of names or addresses for the navigation system. The new A6 follows the big A8’s lead in offering Google Earth visual maps that help make this navi system the most realistic yet. Also like the V-6, a pricey B&O sound system will be optional.
Under the skin
Initially, the A6 will be offered in the U.S. with two engines: a 211-hp turbo four-cylinder with 258 lb-ft of torque, and a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 with 310 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque, the latter also found under the shapely hood of the sexalicious S5 coupe. The latter also comes mated to Audi’s excellent new eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shift paddles, and Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive will be standard on the V-6.
As I said before, the engine/transmission have changed places this year, effectively neutralizing the weight balance of the vehicle, a very good thing from a handling perspective. Even better, all A6s will come standard with driver-selectable settings for steering effort, throttle aggressiveness and suspension stiffness, too. In its most aggressive settings, body control is absolutely superb—complimented nicely weighted steering and strong brakes—whether you’re standing on the gas, slamming on the brakes, or power-sliding the car around a corner (not that luxury cars should be driven in that fashion—a-hem). In its least aggressive, it is town-car smooth. Drivers may mix and match the settings to their liking. Personally, I like them all.
As for fuel economy, greenies will be happy to know that the A6 V-6 improves upon its predecessor by one mile per gallon, at 19/28,.and the newly available four-banger does even better, at 25/33, which is truly stunning for a vehicle of this size.
Audi has hit another out-of-the-park home run with the 2012 A6, which is still a little ways out with a September, 2011, arrival. Pricing has yet to be determined, but I’ve been told it will be “well below $52K” (I’m guessing $48K). The sexy A7 arrives a little earlier (May), with a higher price tag (think $58K—$60K), but expect it to come standard with the saucy V-6 standard. If it was my money, I’d go with the A7 since I love hatchbacks and the A7’s zoomier nose. But both will offer the same interior and driving goodness, so you can’t go wrong if you can hold out for them. But as they say, good things come to those who wait, right?
2012 Audi A6
Estimated Base Price: $48,000
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, 211 hp, 258 lb-ft of torque; 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 (310 hp, 325 lb-ft of torque)
Drive Wheels: front (4-cyl) or all (V-6)
Fuel economy (city/hwy/comb): 25/33/28 (4-cyl),
For more information on the 2012 Audi A6, click here.