What's New for 2012
The 2012 Audi A6 is fully redesigned. Highlights include updated styling, increased interior room, a lighter curb weight and new technological features. The A6 Avant wagon has been discontinued.
In prior years, the Audi A6 has typically been the also-ran choice in the midsize luxury sedan segment. Though a thoroughly fine automobile, the A6 typically lost out to the sportier BMW 5 Series or the more prestigious Mercedes E-Class. But for 2012, the luxury car pecking order has changed, and the redesigned 2012 Audi A6 is now a desirable front-runner.
While staying true to its roots, the redesigned Audi A6 displays a number of incremental improvements. On the outside, it gains the large trapezoidal grille and more angular headlights found on the latest A7 and A8 models. Outer dimensions have shrunk slightly, but interior space has grown, thanks in large part to a longer wheelbase. Weight has also been trimmed -- by as much as 165 pounds, depending on the model -- thanks to increased use of aluminum construction. The longer wheelbase and shorter overhangs also make for better overall weight distribution. All this equates to improved handling as well.
The 2012 Audi A6 comes with a choice between two familiar and energetic engines. The first, a 310-horsepower supercharged V6, is largely carryover. The second, however, is a 211-hp turbocharged inline-4 that's new to the A6. A four-cylinder is an odd choice for this class, but it's an indicator that fuel economy is now a priority for consumers even in this segment of larger cars. This particular inline-4 is a feisty mill that posts fuel economy numbers you'd expect from a compact economy car, not a midsize luxury sport sedan. Last year's naturally aspirated V6 and V8 engines have been dropped, but all-wheel drive, Audi's calling card, continues to be standard on the 3.0T.
In addition to performance chops, this segment requires its players to be packing the latest high-tech gizmos, and this A6 isn't lacking in the least. Available features include an available head-up display, an adaptive suspension, night vision with pedestrian detection, mobile Internet and full LED headlights. Inside, the cockpit-style fascia of the old A6 has been replaced by a simpler, more luxurious design influenced by the new A8.
The preceding is all well and good, but the most impressive thing about the 2012 Audi A6 is its newfound personality on the road. Previously, the car of choice for driving enthusiasts in this segment has been the BMW 5 Series, while the composed Mercedes-Benz E-Class followed from a distance, so to speak. The Jaguar XF has also been a thorn in the A6's side, its sleek styling making the previous A6 almost forgettable by comparison.
But that's all yesterday's news. We've compared the A6 to the latest 5 Series and found the Audi superior in terms of driving enjoyment. And with its interior updates, the A6 certainly upholds the luxury end of the equation, too. One can still make a strong case for any of the aforementioned cars -- they're all excellent -- but the leaner and sexier 2012 A6 stands as the pick for those who like to be as involved in the drive as they are in getting the best that technology has to offer.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Audi A6 is a midsize luxury sedan available in five trim levels -- 2.0T Premium, 2.0T Premium Plus, 3.0T Premium, 3.0T Premium Plus and 3.0T Prestige. The numbers denote the engine fitted (a 2.0-liter turbocharged four or a 3.0-liter supercharged V6).
The 2.0T Premium comes standard with 17-inch wheels, Audi Drive Select (adjustable modes for steering, throttle and transmission), automatic headlights, heated mirrors, a sunroof, keyless ignition/entry, triple-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats (includes lumbar adjustment), partial leather upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth and a 10-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio and an iPod interface.
The 2.0T Premium Plus adds 18-inch wheels, xenon headlights, front and rear parking sensors, Audi's MMI electronics interface, a color information display, upgraded audio (with HD radio, a CD changer and a music server), a voice-activated navigation system (with real-time traffic and Google Earth) and Audi Connect (an in-car wireless Internet connection).
The 3.0T Premium is equipped similarly to the 2.0T Premium but adds heated front seats. The 3.0T Premium Plus is equipped similarly to the 2.0T Premium Plus. The 3.0T Prestige adds different 18-inch wheels, adaptive headlights, S line exterior accents, cornering lights, ambient LED cabin lighting, quad-zone climate control, ventilated front seats, a power-adjustable steering wheel and a Bose audio system.
Option highlights (depending on trim) include LED headlights, the Innovation package (includes adaptive cruise control, head-up display, LED headlights, night vision assist, a blind-spot warning system, Audi Pre-Sense Plus and power-folding sideview mirrors), the Cold Weather package (heated front/rear seats and heated steering wheel) and a 15-speaker Bang and Olufsen surround-sound audio system. A Sport package adds a sport-tuned suspension, a sport steering wheel, shift paddles and either 18-inch wheels with all-season tires or 19- or 20-inch wheels with summer tires. There are also various interior trim options, including brushed aluminum and natural finish ash wood.
Powertrains and Performance
The Audi A6 2.0T comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 good for 211 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) are standard; all-wheel drive is not available. EPA-estimated fuel economy is an impressive 25 mpg city/33 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined. Audi says the 2.0T should accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds.
The Audi A6 3.0T gets a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 that produces 310 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive are standard. In Edmunds performance testing, the 3.0T sedan went from zero to 60 mph in a very quick 5.2 seconds -- this is quicker than the time logged by the last V10-powered Audi S6 (5.7 seconds) we tested. Fuel economy stands at an estimated 19/28/22, which is also quite good.
Standard safety equipment on the 2012 Audi A6 includes antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and front knee airbags. Rear side airbags, front/rear parking sensors and a blind-spot warning system are either optional or included with the upper trims. Audi Pre-Sense Plus is optional (among other features, it can automatically activate the brakes if a crash is deemed imminent).
In Edmunds brake testing, an A6 3.0T with the Sport package and summer tires came to a stop from 60 mph in a short 111 feet. Expect longer distances with all-season tires.
In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the A6 received the highest possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2012 Audi A6 continues to offer one of the finest cabins in its class, with an attractive dash layout, excellent materials quality and solid fit and finish. The MMI (Multi Media Interface) controls entertainment, communication and navigation functions via the dash-mounted pop-up screen and a knob and buttons on the center console. The system boasts logical menus, crisp graphics and a touchpad to increase functionality.
The A6 also offers the option of in-car Wi-Fi, which uses a 3G connection and adds Google Earth data to the navigation system while also providing simplified Google search for POIs. It sounds a bit over the top, but it's actually quite handy if you need to get some unexpected work done on the road and there's no Starbucks in sight. The Google Earth nav system is more a matter of form over function, though, and can actually make the map more difficult to comprehend at a glance.
Seats are supportive and comfortable on long trips, while the backseat in particular offers more real-world legroom than most rivals. The A6's 14.1-cubic-foot trunk is on the small side, though the rear seat folds and features a pass-through when more space is needed.
Previous generations of the A6 sometimes felt clumsy when you pushed them hard on a winding road, but the 2012 Audi A6 feels lighter and changes directions more eagerly. There's plenty of grip, and the improved front/rear weight distribution and well-sorted suspension gives the A6 excellent balance and provides a more satisfying connection between car and driver. The A6's steering is still overly light at low speeds, but the effort level increases in a more linear fashion when you start pressing on back roads.
The supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine has sharp response off the line, and continues to pull hard throughout the range, thanks to a torque curve as broad as Montana. In Sport mode, the 3.0T's automatic upshifts smoothly under full throttle and downshifts with authority, matching revs to keep things smooth. The 2.0T doesn't sound as refined as a six-cylinder, but it's hard to argue with the excellent fuel economy it returns. The CVT does an admirable job of feeling connected and predictably responsive to throttle inputs, something that can't be said of most CVTs.
In terms of ride quality, there's sometimes more impact harshness than we'd like, which is the price paid for the new A6's more athletic handling. Forgoing the optional Sport suspension might help, but doing so makes the A6 less fun through corners.