By Jason Allan - Updated Date: 10/13/2011
Audi is the Hyundai of the luxury car segment. Which is to say, it's currently enjoying an unprecedented tear. New models and striking designs are generating newfound levels of consumer lust, leading to record sales. The all-new 2012 Audi A6 sedan is not a radical redesign, and the subtle change exemplifies Audi's strategy of going after and BMW and Mercedes-Benz by confidently sticking to its own path. While the BMW 5 Series has long been the obvious choice for enthusiasts, and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class is the preferred ride for those seeking more traditional luxury, the 2012 Audi A6 trades in technology and design, unbeholden to a base of buyers with racing aspirations or early bird reservations.
If you find the Mercedes-Benz E-Class too stodgy and the BMW 5 Series too sterile, you might fall in love with the all-new 2012 Audi A6 and its rich but contemporary design, category-leading tech options and/or its unique balance of around-town ease and at-the-limits poise.
The 2012 Audi A6 sedan is a tough sell for performance enthusiasts. For instance, while a base BMW 5 Series offers an 8-speed auto transmission and rear-wheel drive, the entry-level A6 is offered only in front-wheel drive with a "gearless" continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). And if you prefer not just rear-drive but V8 power, you're out of luck on both counts with the A6.
More tech, more style and a newly available 4-cylinder turbo engine option are key changes to the all-new 2012 Audi A6.
The 2012 Audi A6 requires a lighter touch around town than a BMW 5 Series sedan. At the same time, it feels more athletic than the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. But more than a meet-in-the-middle compromise, the Audi A6 satisfies on both the comfort and performance fronts. The available supercharged 3.0-liter engine is responsive throughout its rev range, the 8-speed automatic transmission is equally smooth and flexible. Another enhancement worth considering, the rear-biased all-wheel drive system effortlessly puts power to pavement. No matter the situation, driving the 2012 Audi A6 is an exercise in ease. Wheeling into a tight parking space or charging a favorite highway on-ramp, the 2012 Audi A6 never asks too much and always returns much more. If we could change one thing, we'd swap the fuel-saving but quirky electric power steering system for a traditional hydraulic unit, but our distaste is more of a pet peeve as we hear few complaints from those who live with similar systems.
Dedicated Internet Access
For $25-$30 per month through T-Mobile, the 2012 Audi A6 gets its own connection to the Internet, providing access to Google maps and location data, traffic and weather information, and the ability to connect up to eight Wi-Fi devices, like computers, iPads and smartphones.
Stop & Go Cruise Control
Using video cameras plus short- and long-distance radar sensors, the 2012 Audi A6 will gas and brake itself along in stop-and-go traffic. All you have to do is stay awake and steer.
The 2012 Audi A6 boasts not only our favorite interior in the segment, but one of the finest passenger cabins money can buy: an unmatched mix of contemporary design, high-quality materials and impeccable build quality. The A6 is also the choice in the segment for tech-lovers, offering dedicated Internet access that enables Google-powered maps and location information, and turns the car into a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to eight personal devices. The center console-mounted volume knob, placed conveniently adjacent to the main MMI control knob, remains one of our favorite little touches.
The sheet metal of the fully redesigned 2012 Audi A6 sedan is as improved as it is familiar. The profile of the new car is remarkably similar to that of its predecessor, but the new one is more defined, more athletic, less droopy. Bright, crisp LED lighting options perfectly complement the modern aesthetic.
Not only does the 2012 A6 2.0T Premium boast one of the lowest starting prices in the category, there's not a single glaring omission from its standard equipment set. It includes all the luxuries you'd expect in the segment - leather, sunroof, auto headlights, seat memory, etc. - plus many of the newer niceties like keyless start (but not keyless entry), Bluetooth phone/audio connectivity and iPod/iPhone integration. Topped off by highway fuel economy of 33 miles per gallon, the entry-priced A6 is one of the best values going in the luxury class.
The 2012 Audi A6 offers an impressive array of comfort, convenience and safety technologies. In addition to all the benefits of dedicated Internet access, the A6 offers adaptive cruise control that can stop-and-go the sedan through a traffic jam. Audi Night Vision Assistant can detect nearby pedestrians on dark roads. A color head-up display projects speed and navigation information onto the windshield and closer to your field of vision. Audi Pre Sense Plus monitors the road ahead and can warn of a potential collision. And let's not forget the 15-speaker, 1,300-watt, $5,900 Bang & Olufsen sound system - worth it if you can afford it.
Audi's supercharged V6 is one of our favorite engines. Now that it produces 10 more horsepower in the A6, is matched to an 8-speed automatic transmission, and has fewer pounds to push - the new A6 is actually lighter than the old one by about 80 pounds – Audi says its 3.0-liter thrill mill will run the 2012 Audi A6 to 60 miles per hour in an impressive 5.3 seconds, compared with 5.9 seconds for the outgoing version. We haven't yet driven the 2012 Audi A6 2.0T with the turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, but we suspect it will deliver enough oomph for most buyers - it's lighter and offers more torque, after all, than the outgoing 3.2-liter V6 it replaces. As for the continuously variable transmission attached to the 4-cylinder, that remains an acquired taste.
2.0-liter turbocharged in-line 4-cylinder
211 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
258 lb-ft of torque @ 3,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/33 (CVT automatic)
3.0-liter supercharged V6
310 horsepower @ 5,500-6,500 rpm
325 lb-ft of torque @ 2,900-4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/28 (8-speed automatic)
The 2012 Audi A6 starts at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices (MSRP) of $42,575, including shipping, and tops out near $70,000 when fully loaded. The Audi A6 has a starting price advantage compared to the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedans, but when comparably equipped they're all playing in the same ballpark. If you want more features for your money, check out Asian competitors like the Acura TL, Infiniti M and Hyundai Genesis sedans. Before going to a dealer, be sure to arm yourself with Kelley Blue Book's Fair Purchase Price, which reflects what others are paying. As for resale value, we expect the 2012 Audi A6 to perform on par with the category average.