2012 Audi A6 Expert Review:Autoblog
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
New Car Test Drive
Redesigned with a new chassis, exterior and interior.
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.
Model Lineup The 2012 Audi A6 is available in two models, the A6 2.0T with a 211-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, 7-ratio CVT and front-wheel drive, and the A6 3.0T quattro with a 310-horsepower 3.0-liter supercharged V6, 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
The A6 2.0T ($41,700) comes standard with three-zone air conditioning, leather interior, full power, glass sunroof, multi-function steering wheel, 5-inch monochrome driver information display, halogen ambient lighting, Multi-Media Interface (MMI) with 6.5-inch screen, Audi music interface radio with single CD, Bluetooth, power front seats, folding rear seat with pass-through, halogen headlamps, LED taillamps, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The A6 3.0T ($49,900) includes all the 2.0T equipment plus heated front seats.
Options for the A6 2.0T include a Premium Plus package ($4220) adding things like Google Earth navigation, a 7-inch color driver information screen, parking sensors, high-intensity discharge headlamps, and 18-inch wheels. The Prestige package ($6880) adds four-zone climate control, adaptive headlights, a BOSE sound system and other features. Additional options include a cold weather package ($650) and sport packages.
Options for the A6 3.0T include an innovation package ($5800), driver assistance package ($2500), Bang & Olufsen sound system ($5900), LED headlamps with daytime running lights ( $1400), and a sport package with 20-inch wheels ($2300).
Safety equipment that comes standard includes six airbags in front, front side, and front/rear curtain; electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, LATCH for children, and tire pressure monitor. Optional safety equipment includes Audi Side Assist, rear side-impact airbags, Adaptive Cruise Control, and all-wheel drive.
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.
Audi A6 2.0T ($41,700), A6 3.0T ($49,900).
Audi A6 3.0T quattro Premium Plus ($54,120).
Options As Tested
metallic paint ($475), Sport Package ($1500), Driver Assist Package ($500) with Audi Side Assist, Audi Pre-Sense, power folding mirrors.
Audi A6 3.0T quattro Premium Plus ($54,120).
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