You might not notice the 2012 Audi A6 at first. Although the classy, taut lines look expensive, the overall appearance is somewhat understated. Whereas the larger A7 and A8 have chromed front grilles, the A6 has a gloss-black beak, further turning down the flash factor. There is no denying that the car still has curb appeal, turning a few heads and drawing awed compliments from friends.
Audi says the A6 represents a holistic approach to improving efficiency, achieved primarily by cutting fat and reducing drag. Much of the suspension and body is made from aluminum, and even the exhaust is 2.5 pounds lighter than before, making the 2012 A6 almost 80 pounds lighter than an equivalent 2011 model. Wind-cheating underbody trays and anti-turbulence flares mean the A6 is more aerodynamic than a Chevrolet Volt.
As a result of all the attention to detail, the Audi A6 is close to perfect on the highway. The supercharged engine settles into a gentle stride in eighth gear, wafting along nearly inaudibly. Bumps and road imperfections are diluted before they reach the cabin, and wind noise is minimal even when exceeding the speed limit. The engine's abundance of torque makes passing and merging effortless. Around town the A6 likewise provides a genteel driving experience befitting of a luxury machine.
A T-Mobile 3G connection provides an in-car Wi-Fi network to which up to eight devices can connect; an Audi PR rep told me that on a recent road trip, he made his wife drive so he could surf the Internet from the passenger seat. I found the connection fast enough for watching YouTube videos on an Apple iPad, although outside urban areas the connection speed is apparently slower. The service is free for the first six months of ownership, and then costs about $30 a month for an unlimited data package. Thanks to an exclusive deal between Audi and Google, the car's navigation system displays satellite imagery from Google Maps, allowing you to zoom in close for an aerial view of your surroundings.
The A6 is the sort of car that makes driving a joy rather than a chore. I didn't want to turn in the keys and decided that if I ever strike it rich, I'll buy an A6 for long-distance highway trips. So that I can surf the Internet from the passenger seat, of course.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
This car is a tech convention on wheels. Jake mentioned that the A6 has a T-Mobile 3G connection for in-car Wi-Fi, a nifty system that I unfortunately did not have the pleasure of trying out. I did, however, use the car's spectacular navigation system numerous times. At first I first thought using Google Maps for simple navigation was a cheesy gimmick. By the end of the weekend, I was smitten. While there's no substantial increase in functionality, Google Maps is more aesthetically pleasing than your everyday navigation system.
Still, the four-door needs more than some space-age equipment to work in the real world. How about a hearty, supercharged V-6, a smooth-shifting, eight-speed automatic transmission, and tidy good looks? That should about do it.
Chris Nelson, Road Test Editor
With the 2012 Audi A6 now on the road, Audi has officially become a top-tier luxury brand. Although the A6 doesn't sell as well as the A4, there was a very visible gap in the middle of Audi's range after the A4 and A8 were updated and the aging A6 soldiered on a few more model years. Now that the A6 is up to Audi's current design standards inside and out, it has become my favorite midsize German luxury sedan. BMW has lost its mojo with the current 5-series and the only Mercedes E-class I want comes from AMG. The A6 is now the perfect luxury car.
Audi has done a great job with the supercharged V-6 and eight-speed automatic transmission in the A6. It's very smooth, and easy to drive away from a stop (BMW, please examine this powertrain and make the 5-series this smooth) It's also happy to be driven aggressively if you're in the mood to attack a twisty road. The 19/28 mpg ratings are very good considering the 4000-pound curb weight and Quattro all-wheel-drive system. The competitors offer rear-wheel-drive cars in this segment, but Audi's AWD system is so seamless that I can't think of a scenario where it wouldn't be welcome.
Though declaring an Audi interior best in class has become a cliche, it's still true with the A6. Integrating Google Earth, beautiful materials, smart design, good ergonomics, and all the other technology shoppers have come to expect in a modern luxury car makes for a fantastic experience whether you're driving or riding as a passenger. I enjoy the subdued exteriors that define Audi cars because there's always a very special interior behind it and I spend my time behind the wheel, not admiring my cars from the outside.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor