The Audi A6 has been redesigned for 2012. The all-new 2012 Audi A6 has a longer wheelbase than the previous version but it's shorter and wider, by small but noticeable amounts. A new body is better balanced and more athletic. It's a bit taller but improves the coefficient of drag of 0.26, as good as it gets. It's a very lovely car, especially in charcoal.
The A6 seats five, but it's a stretch. The rear center seatback doubles as a fold-down armrest so it's not contoured for a human back, and it straddles a driveline tunnel so spreads the unlucky passenger's feet. It's more comfortable for four people. Rear legroom of 37.4 inches isn't bad.
By streamlining the A6 fleet, Audi has redefined the car. Only two engines carry the A6 line now, when there had been five. The 3.2-liter V6, 4.2 V8, and 5.2 V10 have been benched, leaving the 2.0-liter I4 turbo that's becoming ageless, and the newer 3.0-liter supercharged V6.
The 2012 A6 3.0T is silky smooth, and fast. It gets 310 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque out of the 24-valve V6 using direct injection, supercharging and intercooling. The previous 6-speed automatic transmission is replaced by a flawless 8-speed automatic for 2012.
The 3.0T uses quattro all-wheel drive, which sets the front/rear power distribution at 40/60 percent for cruising, but depending on traction demands, can vary from 15/85 to 70/30. In its advertisements, Audi says the A6 makes 2000 decisions per second; many of them are about giving quattro what's needed. The 2012 A6 3.0T gets an EPA-estimated 19/28/22 mpg City/Highway/Combined. We got 31.6 miles per gallon on premium fuel, running with the cruise control set at 72 mph in the 3.0T. Puttering around town, we dropped as low as 16 mpg.
The 2012 A6 2.0T uses front-wheel drive and a CVT (continuously variable transmission). If you don't need all-wheel drive, the 2.0T looks good, because you get the same suspension, ride, looks and interior for about $8000 less. You also get 6 more miles per gallon: The government estimates the 2.0T at 25/33/28 mpg City/Highway/Combined, which appears to be best in class.
It's hard to beat the 2012 A6 interior for style and class. One arc flows gracefully into the next, on the dash and door panels, from vents to grab handles. On the 3.0T, the leather is grainy, wood is walnut, trim brushed aluminum.
The A6 went through 4000 crash simulations to reach its level of safety, with special attention paid to the front crumple zone, where structural cross members direct impact energy to two longitudinal members that deform in a controlled manner. In European crash testing from various directions, it's earned 5 stars.
The 2012 Audi A6 has a longer wheelbase (by 2.7 inches) but is shorter overall (0.5 inch), and also wider (0.8 inch), so it's better balanced and looks more athletic. It's taller (0.4 inch) but still has a beautifully low coefficient of drag of 0.26, compared to the old body's 0.29 cD. Great stats.
It's taken a few years, but we've gotten comfortable with Audi's big mouth. Fishmouth was a bold design, and they pulled it off. Others have copied it, so it must be a success. The A6 is totally relaxed with it, especially in charcoal. The A6 has a beautiful face now, with its big black grille.
Excellent execution of the shapely aluminum hood, horizontal air intakes, and wraparound headlamps, long sleek and sharp. Tidy red S on the A6 3.0T for supercharged. Shoulders like a racecar, aluminum front fenders. Beautiful window and roofline with cool little sharkfin antenna, another thing Audi invented. Little upturned tail. Audi all the way.
The Audi A6 seats five, although the rear center seatback doubles as a fold-down armrest so it's not contoured for a human back, and it straddles a driveline tunnel. Rear legroom of 37.4 inches isn't bad.
The A6 interior exudes style and class. One arc flows gracefully into the next, on the dash and door panels, from vents to grab handles. On the 3.0T, the wood is walnut, the trim brushed aluminum.
The leather is beautiful and grainy enough to feel, especially sliding in and out, leaving us longing for slick Acura leather. On a five-hour interstate run from Seattle to Portland, the A6 seat gets a B in the $50K class. The seats were redesigned with ergonomics in mind, says Audi, but still we couldn't find pressure points that felt perfect, with the standard 8-way power heated seats with lumbar. We all have different tastes and shapes, that's the hard thing about critiquing seat comfort.
We like the function and style of the Tiptronic transmission shifting paddles (Hyundai appears to have copied them in the new Veloster, but blew it by adding wings). The lovely tachometer and speedometer, with clean numbers and needles in organic white light, are the best. The information from needle-on-numbers goes straight to your brain, without the distraction of a fancy face on a gauge.
Between the tach and speedo there's a big space for stacks of digital information; instead of having to scroll through one report at a time, the A6 shows you three or four, including DTE, distance to empty, data that should be easy to find but often isn't. To get more info you easily thumb-scroll on the steering wheel (some cars make you dangerously reach around the steering wheel and push a button). You can also view the navigation illustrations there, a safe place to put that information because your eyes don't have to travel. Google Earth is too fun to watch while you're driving.
If only Audi would stop trying to reinvent things, for example human intuition. For more than a hundred years, people have turned knobs by cranking clockwise to increase and counterclockwise to decrease. Audi sees it differently on the satellite radio, as station numbers scroll up and down on the popup screen. Oh sure you can adjust, by remembering it works backwards each time, but it's one more distraction and interruption to your brain.
We called the navigation program Clueless in Seattle. Our passenger had a talking GPS on her $49 (with plan) cellphone, so we programmed the two systems together, to get from the airport to an address downtown. Two yakking voices in the driver's ear, telling him totally different things at different times. Most of the time the cellphone was right, while the car drove us in circles. Fifty bucks beats $57k, moral to the story somewhere. But apologies to the yakking voices. Sometimes you want to hear a comforting voice with guidance. The A6 makes it easy with a button on the steering wheel, so you don't have to reach to the nav system.
As for Audi's MMI, or Multi Media Interface (not Man Machine Interface as we keep thinking), it's not so bad, it's less distracting than a touch screen, because you don't have to reach; man and machine interface via a dial on the console at man's right hand. There's an amazing amount of information at your fingertips, for example Google Earth, T-Mobile in-car Wifi, even Google search. The dial is surrounded by four buttons like square corners, which go intuitive places, so you soon figure it out. It takes longer to figure out what the icon labeled Car means.
If point-and-clicking is too tedious, you can spell out your navigation requests on a tablet-like space with your fingertip. We were surprised by how well it read scribbling while driving. Slower than voice, but at least it understands you; and it's not really slower because you don't have to say it six times and finally give up in frustration after bringing it back from all the wrong places. We wonder what it does with misspellings.
The 2012 Audi A6 offers just two powertrains, the ageless 2.0 turbo and the newer 3.0 supercharged V6. It's all about efficiency, now.
We weren't able to drive the 2.0T, but we know that engine and it's flawless if you're content with 211 horsepower; it's certifiably smooth and relaxed at 80 mph. The CVT might be another matter. But if you don't need all-wheel drive, the 2.0T looks good, because you get the suspension, ride, style and interior for about $8000 less.
The supercharged V6 in the 3.0T feels like the perfect midsize luxury car engine. All the speed you need, silky fast acceleration (13.9 seconds in the quarter-mile, by the hotshoes at Car and Driver magazine), and a nearly spectacular 31.6 miles per gallon running with the cruise control set at 72 mph, on premium fuel. That's what we got, although the EPA's rating is 19 City/28 Highway. Puttering around town, we dropped as low as 16.
It's hard to get enough of driving the A6 with this engine, it's so smooth. The 8-speed Tiptronic transmission is seamless, in Drive mode (made by ZF in Germany). When shifting manually, you've got the neat racy paddles.
You can drive the A6 in a racy manner without holding back, except for safety of course. The unibody chassis is stiffer and lighter, with aluminum hood, front fenders, and suspension bits; and things like laser welds between the roof and side panels make a difference in rigidity. The Servotronic steering is electromechanical and speed sensitive, meaning it gets more precise as the car goes faster.
The versatile suspension stays flat and with you all the way. Our A6 was equipped with the optional Sport Package, including 19-inch wheels with summer performance tires and firmer suspension tuning. Over speed bumps and sharp edges at slower speeds, the ride can surprise you with a small shot now and then, but over unsmooth pavement at 50 mph there's no discomfort.
Quattro all-wheel drive seamlessly shifts power between the front and rear wheels according to the available grip. While cruising on the highway, the front/rear power distribution is split 40/60, but depending on traction demands it can vary from 15/85 to 70/30.
Drive Select, a standard feature, allows the driver to select from four modes (Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Individual) that adjust the transmission, power steering and engine to alter shift points, steering boost and throttle response. With this many options, one of them will be just right for what you're after. Maybe too many options, because you can spend forever trying to be a perfectionist, but that's another story.
The redesigned 2012 Audi A6 nicely takes the next step. The 3.0T quattro offers speed, exterior and interior style, technology, comfort, safety and good fuel mileage. The 2.0T FWD offers all that with even better mileage and a little less speed.
Sam Moses filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after his test drive of the A6 3.0T in the Pacific Northwest.