2012 Audi A6

2012 Audi A6 2012 Audi A6
First Drive Review

There was some disappointment in Germany when the 2012 Audi A6 was unveiled. The seventh generation of Audi’s executive sedan looks an awful lot like the previous A6, not to mention the smaller, less expensive A4. It is an all-new car, but it didn’t take the visual leap forward that some previous A6 generations or their predecessor, the 5000, did. The difference is in details such as the pronounced shoulder line, protruding door handles, and finessed shapes of the grille, headlights, and taillights.

The perception that this redesign relies solely on nuance changes as soon as you enter the car. Audi’s interiors have been best in class for years, but the new A6 raises the bar another very significant notch by integrating much of the interior from the A7. The company is proud of the A6’s optional layered-oak trim, but we’re divided on it; check it out in person before ordering. The overall atmosphere and the attention to detail are simply unbeatable in this segment.

The instrument layout is dominated by a large screen between the tach and speedometer. It displays all kinds of information, including a feed from the thermal night-vision system on cars so equipped. A head-up display is optional for people who always want their information immediately available.

Really Good Six

Speaking of engines, the top-of-the-line A6 is still powered by a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 that produces 300 hp from 5250 rpm to its 6500-rpm redline and 325 lb-ft of torque from 2900 to 4500 rpm. Compared with the supercharged V-6 in the previous-generation A6, this engine is more efficient, owing to an electric power-steering pump and a new oil pump. The compact, Roots-type Eaton TVS supercharger is virtually inaudible, thanks to the work of Eaton’s and Audi’s own engineers.

On the road, this powerplant steps off forcefully and builds torque evenly and rapidly. It emits a pleasant, sonorous sound that is unusually sporty for a luxury sedan yet unobtrusive enough not to scare away the nonenthusiast buyer. In the Euro-spec car we drove, the intermediary between the six and the Quattro all-wheel-drive system is Audi’s DL501 seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. (We'll actually get Audi's eight-speed automatic with this engine.) It shifts quickly and helps deliver better fuel economy than a torque-converter automatic would, but the manual mode could use some work. If you select a gear that the box doesn’t anticipate, the shifts can get a little jerky. Moreover, the system won’t process multiple shifts at once, meaning you have to order them one gear at a time. And it upshifts by itself at redline, so if you hold off too long and pull the paddle right as the engine tops out, you may find yourself shifting up two gears instead of one—which happened to us more than once. You’re probably going to want to ignore the manual mode.

Drives How it Looks: Beautifully

The A6 uses the latest version of Quattro, with a nominal front-to-rear power distribution of 40/60 percent. Add to that an optional sport differential that actually distributes torque instead of cutting it off like stability-control-based “torque vectoring” systems offered on cheaper cars, and the A6 is supremely capable. The electromechanical steering is nicely weighted, and its feel is vastly superior to that of the BMW 5-series, which has had most of its feeling snuffed out by a new electric booster.

The A6’s modular longitudinal platform places the front axle farther forward than in the old, nose-heavy A6s, making for far better weight distribution and greatly reducing the car’s tendency to understeer. The dynamic abilities of the new A6 also are enhanced by its lower weight. Audi managed to shave almost 300 pounds off the old car’s heft with extensive use of lightweight materials, mostly aluminum.

The A6 will stay on top of things even when the driver isn’t—perhaps because he’s lost in the sounds emanating from the top-notch, 1300-watt Bang & Olufsen stereo. The adaptive cruise control works from 0 to 155 mph, and it can bring the car to a full stop when necessary. A side assistant monitors the blind spots, lane assist acts on the steering system to keep you in your lane, a crash-sensing system will apply brake pressure even if you stay oblivious to looming disaster, and the night-vision system will highlight pedestrians in your path. Still, we’d prefer you just pay attention.

Passengers Limited to Two Computers Apiece

Your passengers will appreciate the fact that the A6 is a wireless internet hot spot that can support up to eight computers—which seems utterly unnecessary. The nav system includes a Google Earth bird’s-eye view. You can operate it with the MMI controller, by voice, or with Audi’s touch pad that recognizes letters—even poorly written ones. Among our favorite features are the full-LED headlights. The light they emit is colder and brighter than xenon, and they are styled to add a cool menace to this executive sedan.

For the U.S., the A6 will be offered initially with only the V-6 and Quattro, but a front-drive model with the 211-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and Multitronic CVT will follow. Other markets will get a hybrid based on the four, but we’ve been told that model will not come to the States. Audi is likely to add the powerful and torquey 3.0 TDI to the portfolio later, and by the middle of 2012, we’ll see the S6, powered by the same turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 that you’ll find under the hood of the entry-level Bentley Continental. That model is probably worth waiting for, but for the impatient or those with smaller budgets, the A6 3.0T is already pretty close to perfection.