Albert Austria, Senior Vehicle Evaluation Engineer
Power up the 2012 Audi A6 and the Bang & Olufsen stereo tweeters rise majestically from the dashboard. At the same time, the navigation display unfolds itself from the dashboard, another hint that the new Audi A6 is an advanced technology titan.
There's more to it than just fancy gadgets, though. While several other cars in the midsize import luxury segment have gone soft with their recent model changes, Audi has gone even sportier with the 2012 A6. It has a powerful supercharged engine, aggressive chassis tuning and, at least on the 3.0T, standard Quattro all-wheel drive.
So you'd be mistaken if you thought of the A6 just as a rolling high-tech computer workstation. Quite the contrary: The 2012 Audi A6 also has high limits of driving performance available, just in case you need to take a break from your in-car Twitter updates.
All the Power It Needs
The name may suggest otherwise, but the A6 3.0T is equipped with a 3.0-liter supercharged V6. It uses direct injection, twin intercoolers and variable valve timing to help develop 310 horsepower from 5,500-6,500 rpm and 325 pound-feet of torque from 2,900-4,500 rpm. The supercharged engine is coupled to an eight-speed ZF transmission with well-spaced ratios and excellent drivability.
This engine feels powerful throughout the rev band and backed it up with solid numbers at the test track. We clocked it from zero to 60 mph at 5.2 seconds (4.9 seconds with 1 foot of rollout as on a drag strip) and it covered the quarter-mile in 13.6 seconds at 102.0 mph.
There's none of the low-speed hesitation followed by surge phenomenon that's common in many of today's automatic transmissions. When left in Dynamic mode, the transmission shifts quickly with little shift shock, and will hold the proper gear without unnecessary upshifts. Paddle shifters, although they're plastic, add to the sporty environment.
Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive provides all the grip the chassis can handle and it translates into a solid 0.90g skid pad performance. While you might expect Quattro to impart a heavy-handling feeling to the A6, it doesn't. The car feels quick and tossable during hard driving, and proved it with a 67.2-mph slalom speed.
Sportier Than Before
On the street, the 2012 Audi A6's improved performance capabilities make it a far more engaging sedan. Between the V6's flat torque curve and all those gears, the A6 is rarely caught flat-footed. It feels fully capable of competing with any of its V8-powered competitors.
The flip side of its supercharged power curve is that it takes the edge off the visceral experience. You don't get a rush as the engine races to redline and there's no mechanical frenzy as the revs increase. The lack of drama is partly due to the engine's unremarkable sound. There's no personality to it no matter how hard it's working. It just drones along with soulless efficiency.
The speed-sensitive electrically assisted power steering also contributes to the A6's occasional visceral letdown. Although it is quick, accurate and the best Audi steering we've experienced lately, it still feels a tad light in everyday driving. It can be adjusted through the Audi Drive Select system, but even then it never really firmed up exactly to our liking.
In addition to its strong road performance, the 2012 Audi A6 also has more advanced technology than any car in its segment. Many of the features are the type normally reserved for the flagship sedan of a carmaker's model line, so clearly Audi sees this A6 as a breakthrough model. Adaptive cruise control with Stop/Go capability, night vision with pedestrian detection, and full LED headlights are just some of the trick features available on the A6.
One of the more interesting new features is an onboard Wi-Fi router that comes packaged with the optional Audi Connect system. The router can create a Wi-Fi hotspot to wirelessly connect up to eight devices such as passengers' phones or tablet computers. There are obvious implications for distracted driving, but it seems like an inevitable development.
Thankfully, Audi didn't forget about the more traditional aspects of a comfortable cabin. There's plenty of high-quality wood trim, nicely finished metallic accents and soft leather everywhere. The gauge cluster is easy to read and the three-spoke steering wheel feels good in your hands. We were also glad to see that the A6 uses a more traditional shift lever that moves up and down the console instead of the A8's setup that turns the shift lever into nothing more than a glorified joystick.
Although Audi stretched the wheelbase of this A6 by 2.7 inches, the interior isn't noticeably more spacious. There's an inch more room here and there, so the 2012 Audi A6 continues to be comfortably midsize and nothing more. In fact, the trunk is smaller than before, so it's even slightly less if you want to be picky.
High Tech, High Performance
The A6 has often been a step behind its German competition. The BMW 5 Series was always a little more athletic, while the Mercedes-Benz E-Class managed to feel a little more luxurious.
This 2012 Audi A6 feels as though it's finally evened the score. Its supercharged V6 is more than a match for BMW's turbocharged sixes and both the ride quality and cabin appointments feel every bit as refined as the E-Class. Add in the Audi's latest technological features and their slick integration and there's not much left to wish for.
With an as-tested price of $71,330, the Audi looks to have matched its competitors in the pricing department, too. At least this time, however, it feels like it's worth it.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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