• Feb 17th 2011 at 11:57AM
  • 65
A Smaller, Livelier, Less-Expensive A8

2012 Audi A6 – Click above for high-res image gallery

Audi is on a roll. Need proof? Who doesn't overtly or secretly lust after an R8 Spyder? Would any of us kick anything with an RS badge out of our garage? Didn't think so. Audi's sales are growing because of its products. The German automaker recently broke the 100,000 unit sales mark in the States, with 2010 calendar year sales up 23 percent over 2009. The all-new 2012 Audi A6 – due in U.S. showrooms in September – continues the manufacturer's aggressive product expansion and portfolio revitalization plan. Now we want to know if it's good enough to bring even more buyers into the Audi family.

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Photos copyright ©2011 Rex Roy / AOL

The A6's debut at the Detroit Auto Show was all look and no play. So for the latter, we traveled to Sicily where we saw the A6's new lines in daylight and it became even more clear that Audi's designers in Ingolstadt have brought the sedan's styling in-line with the automaker's evolving corporate design language.

The shape and details closely resemble the new A8 – a big sedan we like plenty. Initially seeing an A6 and A8 together in Detroit reinforced how similar the two are, with overall size and their wheels being the quickest differentiators. Technically, the new exterior gives the revised A6 a slippery aerodynamic face. The Cd is a commendably low 0.26. Compared to the previous A6, the 2012 edition is slightly shorter and lower in overall length and height, but width is up 0.7 inches. The most significant dimensional change is the wheelbase, up nearly three inches thanks to a reengineered front differential and axle. The extra space between the axles directly benefits interior roominess.

2012 Audi A6 side view2012 Audi A6 front view2012 Audi A6 rear view

Significant changes under the hybrid steel and aluminum unibody enable the 2012 model to weigh less than 3,500 pounds, a comparatively low figure for a 16+foot mid-size luxury sedan. Even though the new car is marginally larger and carries more equipment than the previous-generation A6, weight is down by modest amounts in most model-to-model comparisons. Aluminum makes up more than 20-percent of the body, while lighter hot-shaped steels, which provide a high strength-to-weight ratio, are used in areas of the passenger cell in the front of the vehicle to enhance passenger safety.

Inside, the design motif is pure Audi. Materials and ergonomics are exemplary. The car's Multi Media Interface Plus now includes a touchpad that enables the MMI to perform character recognition tasks. This allows users to spell words with the stroke of a fingertip, providing another means of text input for navigation, phone and audio system functions. If you've read our reviews of the A7 (due in April) and A8, you already know this, but can see what we mean in the Short Cuts video below.

2012 Audi A6 interior2012 Audi A6 gauges2012 Audi A6 gearshift2012 Audi A6 navigation

An updatable computer chip powers the MMI, rich non-reflective VGA display with deep blacks and a myriad of functions. A story as long as this one would barely do the new system's capabilities justice, but know that the A6 will be available with its own cellular data plan to pipe information to its occupants while transmitting a WiFi signal to connect up to eight devices simultaneously.

The optional navigation system benefits greatly from the new technology. Users can see layered maps that begin as a standard graphical navigation map, then overlaid with Google Earth maps, and overlaid again with route instructions and real-time traffic information. The system is also capable of 3D graphics modes. Overall, it's very slick and one of the best nav displays we've ever seen.

While the European Union gets a choice of five powertrains – including 2.0- and 3.0-liter diesels – the U.S. makes do with the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder and the supercharged 3.0-liter TSFI V6. Respective power figures are 211 horsepower and 258 pound-feet torque, and 310 hp and 325 lb-ft. The front-wheel-drive 2.0-liter model is offered with a Continuously Variable Transmission, while all Quattro and V6 models get the new ZF-sourced eight-speed Tiptronic. Naturally, fuel economy is up as well, with the 2.0T estimated at 25/33/28 mpg city/highway/combined, while the supercharged six manages a respectable 19/28/22 mpg.

Extra gears, lighter weight plus reduced powertrain and driveline friction has lowered fuel consumption by as much as 19 percent model-to-model, year vs. year. The V6, for example, is up 1 mpg city and 2 mpg highway compared to 2010 models.

2012 audi a6

Of additional interest to the fuel conscious, Audi will add the A6 Hybrid later this year. The A6 Hybrid will feature the same powertrain as the Q5 hybrid: a 211-horsepower, 2.0-liter, turbocharged in-line four-cylinder and a 33-kilowatt (45-horsepower) electric motor. Expect a diesel A6 after the Hybrid. Audi representatives we spoke with weren't specific on timing, but hinted that 2013 might be about when to expect another TDI model for American roads.

Our driving time in Sicily was short, so we satisfied ourselves with several hours behind the wheel of a European-spec 2012 A6 3.0-liter with the fast-shifting seven-speed Steptronic DCT and air suspension-equipped sedan.

About that gearbox and the air suspension – neither are coming to America. Therefore, the impressions we took away from this drive aren't entirely accurate for U.S. drivers. (No U.S.-spec cars were available.) The immediacy of the Steptronic will be missed, as will the range of ride settings provided by the air springs.

Even without these features, the U.S. 2012 A6 should be a seriously good drive. For those unfamiliar with the supercharged 3.0-liter, it's a surprisingly powerful engine. The linearity of the power delivery is almost shocking. While max torque runs from 2,900-4,500 rpm, the power plateau feels even broader. It runs hard out of the hole and just keeps pulling at the same rate shift after shift.

Regardless of whether we were blasting up sinewy mountain roads or flying across straight and flat valleys at close to 240 kph, the engine never felt like it was working hard. The adjective "effortless" comes to mind, as does the feeling of a naturally-aspirated V8.

It was on blasts through the valleys that we were able to note the refinement of the A6's new body. Sicily's imperfect roads tried to bottom out the suspension and twist the body while succeeding at neither.

2012 Audi A6 headlight2012 Audi A6 grille2012 Audi A6 tailpipe2012 Audi A6 taillight

In terms of road feel, the A6 stakes out a middle ground between the heaviness of the BMW 5 Series and lively playfulness of the 3 Series. The extra wheelbase helps deliver a smooth ride and the steering is immediate and direct, with fair but filtered road feel. It's not a Porsche 911, but then again, it isn't meant to be.

When flogged hard, our A6 did understeer, but it wasn't the sickening push one might expect from a C-segment sedan with ample room for four and a week's worth of luggage. On more than one occasion we relied heavily on the A6's four-wheel disc brakes, and they never dissapointed and remained fade-free even after lengthy mountain descents.

In terms of cabin noise, at generous throttle openings, the V6 made its presence known in a way that enthusiasts can appreciate. Beyond that, the only hum emminated from the wind snaking its way around the side mirrors.

2012 Audi A6 rear 3/4 view

During relative periods of calm, we played with the A6's optional full-color head-up display, automatic cruise control, lane-keeping assist, MMI with the touchpad, and night vision (in tunnels). The amount of technology packed into this car eliminates the gadget gulf that once separated top-of-the-line full-size bourgeois luxury cars from more affordable proletariat conveyances.

Unfortunately, our drive route was far too short to provide a more in-depth analysis. That time will come closer to the car's fall introduction. For those looking to place an order now, expect pricing to generally overlay the current model while reflecting an increase commensurate with the new A6's added content. But if these intial impressions are any indication, Audi has yet another strong contendor on its hands, and BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus have yet another weapon from Audi to worry about.


Photos copyright ©2011 Rex Roy / AOL

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Junior A8.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I do not know the aura this car has. It's a very unconventinoal feeling to have on cars for sure, though. Overstyling is so common to Audi's lineup now that it rather feels boring to see their newer vehicles overstyled. Sounds quite paradoxical, but that's the best I can come up with to describe that feel I have.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I agree. Now the A4, A6 and A8 are all uniformly overstyled.

        Audi needs to step back from the edge a bit on their front ends, there's just too much going on there. The back is pretty good and could be great with a just a few changes. The backs already look pretty good at night!
        • 4 Years Ago
        Funny how this comment thread is complaining about "over-styled" Audis and the comment thread right above is complaining about Audi being "under-styled".

        Lol, I guess you can't please everyone . . .
        • 4 Years Ago
        Has anyone noticed that long hood. That's a lot of acres for a 3 liter V6 and a 4 Cylinder. Audi does need to step up their flare just a bit. You can be conservative without being boring. The 2011 BMW 5-series is boring too.

        I remember when the 1999 A6 came out. I thought that was the most beautiful car. Still see them driving around today and it looks fresher than these barges Audi is putting out now.

        • 4 Years Ago
        What are you smoking?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Rear: A+
        Front: C- (dissappointment)

        My boss is getting me this car, I wish I got the 5-series instead.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I see what you're saying- the cars have gotten VERY busy... But this to me is the most clean and elegant design of the new generation of cars; I think it's prettier than the A8.

        I would hate to be in charge of Audi design. Just reading the first few reactions would make me want to pull my hair out... "ITS BORING!! ITS OVERSTYLED!! I WANT AUDI TO GO BACK TO THEIR CONSERVATIVE DESIGNS... ALL AUDI'S LOOK THE SAME!!!"

        • 4 Years Ago
        sounds like something clarkson would say
      • 4 Years Ago
      Am I the only one to hate what the back looks like?
        • 4 Years Ago
        the rear looks like crap, but the front is nicest that the A6 has ever had, to me at least
      • 4 Years Ago
      3500 lb is the same if not lower than the S4 which is amazing considering this car is quite larger than the B8 S4
      • 4 Years Ago
      The same engine with about 40 more hp in the S4 costs 50k. Yet for almost 7k less one can buy a 335iX. I don't think there's enough extra to warranty paying that much more.
        • 4 Years Ago
        • 4 Years Ago
        The S4 only tips over $50k if you add the sports suspension and rear diff (though I ceratinly would). To comparably equip a 335xi, you need to add the M sport package, the premium package, and heated seats. Which brings the 335xi to almost $51k.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Judging from your comments it's prety clear you've not actually DRIVEN both cars. It's akin to asking why you'd pay more for an m3. Its many magnitudes better handling, just as the s4 is to the 335xi. Hell, had you bothered to read the review you commented on you'd notice an awd a6 is dynamically better than a red BMW (a sentiment shared by every review yet, winding road, evo, etc).

        7k is a small premium to pay for a much better handling car.
        • 4 Years Ago
        S4 is a really great drive...a 335i w/sport pkg is as well, but I hated the 335xi - the weight added up front ruined a great car, IMHO.

      • 4 Years Ago
      Never was a big fan of A6's - they are probably the most boring looking models of all Audis. But there other Audi cars which are very attractive such as the A5 and A7; the current A4 is also quite handsome. The only thing that really bothers me is the interior styling... Looks like they ran out of ideas and decided to transplant the cabin from a 10-year old BMW. This is unthinkable... Not the direction I would approve of.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You have to see it in person and feel it to appreciate it, it is really very very nice interior the only thing I really don't like a lot is the pop up display

        I sat inside the A7 which shares the interior with this car and honestly is just a hair shorter than the new A8 which is AMAZING and I have a bmw e90 lci 330 and Audi is like 10000 lights years ahead of BMW in interior design, the A4 is lovely and my BMW is lame.

      • 4 Years Ago
      You sure that's not an A4?????? I wouldn't be too happy if I was spending 60k and my neighbor with the 39k A4 got home at the same time. Good job Audi, way to make the cheaper guys feel better....
      • 4 Years Ago
      I wish Audi would take more risks with there designs.
        • 4 Years Ago

        I made the same comment a few weeks back when it was unveiled. If you cover up the front end, you can't really tell what generation A6 you're looking at. The body shape/side profile/side glass has not changed at all in 14 years. The only difference is they added a single crease to this one.
        • 4 Years Ago
        All the style is in the headlights and grill. Take those away, and the car looks 10 years out of date. The silhouette and window shape is generic, and the panels are straight slabs.

        Real style is engineered into the car - the shape of the roofline and windows - not slapped on like aftermarket headlights (Audi) or non-functional creases graphed into the body panels (like a lot of "over-stylized" cars).

        (My post didn't seem to go through, excuse me if this is a repeat.)
        • 4 Years Ago
        They're doing things right. Like the Porsche 911 (maybe not to this point, but still), "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

        Their new design language is selling well, and looks simple and great. As for that hybrid, I'd also like to see a version with the Porsche Cayenne/Panamera powertrain. (Also in VW Touraeg). That must be one fast(ish) hybrid. And in this class, 3500 lbs is extremely impressive (compare to the 5-series 4000+lbs). Can't wait for S/RS6
        • 4 Years Ago
        To Audi: Stop the madness with the headlights. Its not that cool anymore. Sort of reminds me of the clear "Euro" tail lights. Lose the cheesy head lights, and its quite elegant.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I have an S6 4.2 and a 4.2A6....ain't gonna buy no steenking V6.

        Wait for the new S6. If it's not a V8 (possibly supercharged) it's not going to sell.
        • 4 Years Ago
        All I meant to say was it looks clean and handsome, but it looks like every other Audi has for the past 4 years. I guess I like my cars to be a little more distinct.

        Gruv, did you see the low drag coefficient? Hopefully you now know that low drag coefficients are achievable with a wide range of designs from sports cars to full size sedans and not just prius/insight/volt shaped cars.
        • 4 Years Ago
        When Audi introduced the waterfall grill it was a really big departure from what everyone was doing at the time. So, Audi has taken "some" risks. I actually like the understated design of Audis. I personally thing Benz's and BMW's are slightly over styled.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Why take risks if the sales are up? The cars are simple and elegant, the interior is gorgeous and it exudes quality, same for the mechanical parts.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Not everyone likes overstyled trendy lines that age really quickly. The 1-bratwurst 3-sizes approach has worked for BMW (and sometimes Merc) for a long time and is the reason their cars age well.

        The "average" person on the street would have difficulty distinguishing between an older A4 for example when compared to a new one. Another reason why the resale values on Audi has really shot up which wasn't always the case.
        • 4 Years Ago

        The Prius shapes maximizes internal volume while minimizing air drag.

        Air Drag is a function of CdA. Notice the "A" component. A Prius has around 10% less CdA than this new A6... yet the has 99.5% of the Front Seat Volume. Oh and has 3% more interior volume in total. Based on the above statements, the Prius shape is ~13% better at creating internal volume for a given drag number... thats fair significant still.

        Cd is only one component. One could create a gigantic teardrop shaped car that had really low Cd, but much higher airdrag than even trucks.
        • 4 Years Ago
        New A6 is too beauty for fanboys BMW.
      • 4 Years Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Uh...it's "emanated" NOT "emminated."

      • 4 Years Ago
      Note to the teenagers and 20 somethings that make up 99% of the posts here. This cars IS NOT aimed at you. Its aimed at well-to-do 40/50/60 year olds that dont need their cars to make styling statements. They are content with letting the badge on the grille do that.

      I would also like to see these luxury car reviews done more in depth, this article just told me about the car. However, I think people about to drop 70 large on one would like to know a bit more about its strengths and weaknesses.

      I am sure the "too short" test drive was part of Audis agenda, and that raises an eye-brow from me. Especially considering they flew you all the way to Italy....whats up with that?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Exactly. When I sold Audi's, one of the largest buying motives for A6 customers was that it WASN'T flashy... It's the perfect sedan for someone who wants a serious quality product but doesn't want to scream "look at me"
      • 4 Years Ago
      very nice.......i like interior in this car. i think black color are good fit on this car.

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