Audi has a real winner on its hands in the 2012 A6. The car looks great inside and out, and it drives very well to boot. Audi used to be an also-ran in this segment, and now it sits at the top of the luxury mid-size sedan class. BMW has lost the intimate connection between car and driver in the current 5-series, and Mercedes doesn't offer nearly as nice of a cabin in the E-class as Audi does in the A6.
If connectivity is your thing, the A6 is easily the best car in the class. From the Google Earth integration in the navigation system to the in-car Wi-Fi hotspot option, Audi offers a lot for tech geeks, but the system is also intuitive enough that Luddites won't be scared off.
There's also an option to use Google to search for your destination instead of relying on the information stored in the car's navigation system. I was heading to a new restaurant in Detroit that also has an Ann Arbor location, and I was unable to find the address using the regular navigation system or Google search in the car. I ended up finding the address of the restaurant on my phone through Yelp, which seemed like a failure of technology. When I returned home, I did a regular Google search for the address on my computer and also struck out. No matter how advanced your car's search setting are, they won't help you in the least if the business you wish to find doesn't list its address on its own website.
I would like to spend more time with Audi's touch-pad input for the MMI system. I didn't find it to be all that helpful during my brief evaluation period over the weekend. I think it would be better once I had more practice with it, but it did a good job recognizing the sloppy characters I scribbled when I was looking for a destination. If you prefer to enter a destination with the MMI scroll wheel instead of the touch pad, that's still an option.
Although the Audi drives a lot better than its predecessor thanks to a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system, it doesn't have the best handling in the class. I found the A6 to be more involving than a current 5-series and it was also easier to drive smoothly around town, but the Jaguar XF still wears the dynamic crown in this segment.
There are a lot of very good mid-size luxury sedans on the market right now. Audi is doing the best job of building an attractive car that offers intuitive technological features and very respectable driving dynamics. It would easily be my first choice if I were shopping this group right now.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
The Audi A6 is the Goldilocks of luxury cars, striking the perfect balance between sporty driving dynamics and a luxurious experience. I find the A6 to be more involving than the Mercedes-Benz E-class, which is too relaxed and cosseting to entertain enthusiastic drivers. On the other hand, I find the BMW 5-series a bit too aggressive and sporty for its luxury pretentions. The Audi A6, then, strikes the perfect middle ground between fun and comfort.
Driving the Audi A6 is an overwhelmingly serene and relaxing experience. The transmission is so refined I barely notice it shift. If you do need performance, the A6 responds with strong acceleration and willing handling. I love the sound of the supercharged V-6 engine, although it sounds even better in the racy S4 sedan.
My favorite thing about the Audi A6, though, is its clean and modern sheetmetal. I think the car's taut and precise lines will stand the test of time and still appear current in years (or decades) to come. On top of that, the stunning LED running lights really make new Audi products stand out from the crowd.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
The 2012 A6 is gorgeous; however, I'm beginning to worry that Audi is starting to put form over function. Like Phil, I didn't really see the advantage of the new MMI touch pad when entering navigation input - in fact it seemed like I was being slowed down as the computer processed what I drew - and the six radio preset "buttons" are hard to accurately hit without looking. I look forward to the next-generation MMI system that made its debut at CES this year and will hit Audi dealerships next year in the all-new A3.
I do love the A6's full-LED headlights. They cut a bright, blue light through the night, and the high beams douse even the darkest sylvan roads in near-daylight. However, the low-beam lights seemed to throw a little short and didn't project with the same kind of distance and clarity that many other cars do with LED and xenon units. No matter how far or short the headlights brighten the road, it may not matter to many - they are a showpiece worthy of a mantle, gallery, or garage.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
Donny is absolutely right when he calls the A6 gorgeous. It is, both inside and out.
I haven't seen many new A6s on the road, but the car sure looks sharp in white. There's lots of room in back seats and the trunk. I also love the solid driving demeanor and the smooth powertrain. I did, however, notice some automatic-transmission hesitation off the line on more than one occasion during my too-brief evening with the Audi. The only car in this category that might command my theoretical cash over the A6 is a Jaguar XF, but it'd be a tough decision.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
I thought of Audi's vampire-themed Superbowl commercial the night I drove our A6 on dark Huron River Drive west of Ann Arbor. I flicked on the high beams and, although I didn't see any obvious vampires, these LED headlights do an incredible job of lighting up the night, making any white roadside sign just burst into your field of vision. The headlights also have a very good light pattern. My other overwhelming impression of the A6 was its overall feeling of lightness, which was aided by the light but precise steering. The car almost seems to dance across the road surface.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
Audi has done a fantastic job of riding the fine line that separates comfort and sport. This A6 delivers balanced portions of each, creating a practical, luxurious sedan that is also engaging and fun to drive. That well-rounded character once made BMWs unique, but these days, it appears Audi has the upper edge -- at least in this segment. While the BMW 5-series drives more like a downsized 7-series -- well appointed but isolated and aloof -- the A6 retains some of the athleticism of the model below it. Speed comes by way of a sweet powertrain: a spirited supercharged V-6 and an eight-speed automatic that delivers some of the quickest, crispest shifts in any car. Agility is the best in the class with controlled handling and accurate steering.
As good as the A6 is to drive, it's the interior that really blows me away. Audi does a modern, well-built, luxurious cabin better than anyone in the business from the materials, to the finishes, to the technology. The basic details are all in order, as well. The seats are superb, the seating position is perfect and the sightlines are good. I'm a fan of Audi's exterior styling, but the lineup is beginning to look rather homogenous. While this A6 has a refined and timeless look, from some angles it's indistinguishable from an A4.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
I've just finished a review of the Infiniti M sedan wherein I say it "tops my list" of luxury mid-size sedans. Driving the Audi A6 leaves me thinking it tops my list. At least until I get behind the wheel of a Jaguar XF. Oh, the frustrations of picking a favorite $50,000 sport sedan!
Since I clearly can't make up my mind, allow me to sing the Audi's praises. It's nimble, great looking, and has, bar none, the best six-cylinder engine you can buy. Yes, it's better than BMW's inline six, thanks to the fact that it's completely free of the lag that bedevils the turbo-six in the BMW 535i. It also has, per Audi norm, a well-crafted, beautiful interior.
If I were looking for demerits, I'd say the A6 doesn't have as much character as the Infiniti and the Jaguar. And for an all-new car, there's not much here that looks or feels very fresh, though that's mostly because there wasn't anything wrong with the departing A6.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor