There is technology in the 2012 Audi A6 that is so advanced, the car will be banned from some countries by the United Nations. The international organization feels that the A6's infrared pedestrian detection system is so powerful that it could be repurposed by rogue paramilitary groups.
The rest of the 2012 Audi A6 is slightly less dangerous. We suspect that the A6's extensive use of aluminum, highly efficient drivetrains and more unique styling will be less sought after by gun-wielding thugs. Those new attributes should help generate some interest from other groups, though, namely the more traditional customers who have been buying the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class sedans instead.
Lighter and Smaller
Due to be launched early next year, Audi has made the 2012 A6 shorter, lower and more economical than the old car. The carmaker has turned the tables on the automotive obesity by using aluminum to make this A6 at least 176 pounds lighter than the outgoing model.
About 20 percent of its under-skin materials are aluminum including the hood, front quarter panels, trunk lid and all four doors. Yet, while it's nearly half an inch shorter than the old A6, there's more interior room thanks to a 2.7-inch-longer wheelbase.
Like the current A6, the new model will offer both front- and all-wheel drive, although all U.S. models will initially offer Quattro all-wheel drive only. Most of the power will be sent to the rear wheels, as the standard split is 60/40. Torque vectoring is standard, while Audi's sport differential will be optional.
The standard steel spring suspension uses a five-link setup up front with aluminum control arms, while the rear continues with Audi's trapezoidal, multilink design. An air suspension is optional, as is an S line sport setup.
Audi's Drive Select system is also optional, and this time it adds an "efficiency" mode. This system has a software map specifically set up to give the best possible economy, altering everything from the engine mapping to the gearshift points, the steering and the cruise control, and it even lowers the ride height to reduce aerodynamic drag.
No, You Cannot Have a V8
Like most modern German sedans, the 2012 Audi A6 will offer a raft of diesel engines for the European market. For the U.S., however, the A6 will arrive with the same supercharged 3.0-liter V6 already offered in the current model. It generates 295 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque and runs through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Audi says the 3.0T is good for a 0-60-mph run of 5.5 seconds while still delivering nearly 27 mpg on the highway.
Bigger news will arrive in 2012 when the A6 adds a hybrid drivetrain to the mix. It will be the same setup first introduced in the Q5 Hybrid. It combines a 2.0T four-cylinder with an electric motor that takes the place of the torque converter. Between the two, the A6 Hybrid will have a total of 241 hp being sent through its eight-speed automatic transmission.
Audi is already throwing out a few numbers on the A6 Hybrid. It says the hybrid sedan will go from zero to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds and still manage to deliver nearly 38 mpg on the highway.
We expect to see a V8 model arrive in 2012 as well, although Audi made no mention of such a setup.
Subtle Styling Updates
It is the third car to use Audi's new grille design (after the A7 and the A8) and the wider grille and headlights have been designed to give a greater impression of width in a rearview mirror. Yet the headlights aren't exactly how the designers wanted them to be, because Audi's had to compromise their shape to accommodate halogen, bi-xenon and full LED lighting systems.
The LED system provides the best lighting, though unlike halogens or bi-xenons that generate their heat at the front of the light (which can easily be cooled by the passing air), LEDs get hot at the back and need their own cooling fans, which makes them more expensive. They won't need replacing, though, because their lifespan is rated beyond the scheduled life of the car.
In back, the taillights feature LED bulbs that add a three-dimensional effect, according to Audi. Most will recognize the overall look of the tail end, as it is virtually identical to the A4 and A8 sedans. There's an integrated spoiler in the trunk lid along with a blacked-out diffuser at the bottom as well. The optional S line package paints the diffuser gray along with the middle of the front airdam. The side sills remain body-colored, but S line badges are added to the quarter panels.
A Cabin That's All Business
Inside the A6, there's a three-dimensional feel to its dash layout. The overall theme and button layout will be familiar to anybody who's ever driven an Audi, but it's been refined and tidied up here and there. It also carries over the A7's wraparound line at the front edge of the dashboard and will feature the same unique wood trim.
There's more shoulder room in both rows, and the trunk is huge at just over 18 cubic feet. With plenty of extra space in the rear, the A6 gives the rear passengers not only more foot space beneath the front seats, but in response to U.S. requests also provides two DC charging sockets for everything from laptops to computer games.
This A6 will trump BMW's new 5 Series for storage space, especially with a combination of door pockets that comfortably carry 1.5-liter water bottles, two cupholders in the console and an enormous, covered bin where the optional ashtray would normally be. Unusually, too, the glovebox is larger than the one in the old car.
The car is also a rolling wireless hot spot and you can order it with the small MMI screen or the large one, plus there's an optional head-up display for the driver. Audi has intentionally shied away from split-screen technology that allows the passenger to watch TV on the run.
Is It Enough?
On the surface, the 2012 Audi A6 appears to be nothing more than a heavy refresh of the current car. It's using a carryover engine, a similar suspension setup and even similar styling. Not exactly a compelling case for a car that rests firmly in the shadow of its German peers.
Like the A8, though, the A6 is hoping to find buyers who are more interested in the small things that make a luxury sedan: appealing wood trim, an easy-to-use electronics interface and materials that feel expensive to the touch. Adding a hybrid model to the mix should bring a little bit of eco attractiveness to the A6 as well, although that may be trumped by the eventual introduction of the V8 model that will arrive around the same time.
Expect to see an official introduction of the 2012 Audi A6 early next year, with U.S. sales starting next spring.