In the past decade Audi has become a car-manufacturing powerhouse with entries into almost every motoring category. But for all its new models one of its most important and defining vehicles remains the A6. The executive cruiser now enters its seventh-generation and with lightweight construction, sleeker styling and extensive mechanical upgrades, is ready to resume its long fought battle with BMW’s 5-Series. Does the 2012 Audi A6 have the dynamic ability and first-class luxury appointments to dominate its high-end division? Car and SUV buckled into the driver’s chair of the new A6 TDI Quattro to find the answers.
A glance across the new A6 reveals an understated and smooth aesthetic that’s acutely awareness of its own bloodlines despite being a clean-sheet design. Following on from the A8 flagship and the A7 four-door coupe the new A6 embraces Audi’s corporate design language. The bold Audi gloss black grille sits prominent at the front and is flanked by frowning headlights and recessed fog lamps. Broad shoulders define the sides with chrome trim drawing the eye to an elegantly curved roofline. The rear features a subtle boot spoiler, wide two-piece taillights and twin chrome exhaust tips signaling performance intent. The clean and mean look is finished off with 18-inch V-spoke alloy wheels. There are no radical risks in the A6 exterior design, just a continuation of the conservatively muscular styling that works well for Audi and its legions of brand fans.
Enter the cabin and you’re greeted with an inviting space packed with luxury charm, sweeping lines and high-tech gadgetry. Everything you touch has a reassuringly bulky feel and all materials are solid yet tactile and high quality. A black dashboard with walnut inserts is standard fitment as is full Milano leather trim. Push the start button and a seven-inch full colour display screen rises from the top of the dash for some wow factor and to add a sense of occasion. The screen offers a multi media interface with satellite navigation and a deep range of vehicle and entertainment settings. It’s an intuitive system that’s controlled by a dial, buttons and a touch pad located in front of the gearstick. Between these controls and those on the leather-wrapped steering wheel there’s rarely a reason to lean forward. The broad instrument cluster is another highlight, with its conventional two-dial arrangement and a bright LCD multifunction display screen.
When it comes to interior comfort there’s little scope for complaint. The front seats are cosseting with ample lateral support and there are multiple electric adjustments with memory settings for when you get it sorted just right. Plenty of leg and shoulder space can be found up front and a broad centre armrest/storage bin further increases comfort. The new A6 is slightly wider and rides on a longer wheelbase than its predecessor so there’s more room for back seat travelers. It’s best suited for two adults but a third can occupy the middle position without too much compromise. The boot space offers a generous 530-litre capacity, its hinges tuck away neatly and there’s a cargo net for keeping items secured.
A car like the Audi A6 comes with too many standard features to list but has highlights like a 2-zone air-conditioning system with sun sensors, tyre pressure monitoring display, a 10-speaker 6-disc CD stereo with iPod input, parking sensors front and rear, heated front seats and auto dipping side mirrors with memory function. It’s an impressive package and while our tested model was at the lower end of the A6 range there was nothing about the vehicle that felt entry-point.
Away from the fancy interior features and kilometers of electrical wiring does the new A6 have the mechanical aptitude to compete in the luxury segment? It’s an easy answer – yes, absolutely. With lightweight aluminum construction, Quattro 4WD system and twin clutch gearbox it’s a high-tech and classy act. Under the bonnet is Audi’s 3.0-litre V6 common rail diesel engine that’s available in two states of tune. The turbocharged unit can be had with either 180kW of power and 500Nm of torque or 150kW and 450Nm. Our test vehicle was a 150kW model but this doesn’t mean it’s a slouch. With the full compliment of torque available from 1,250rpm it has plenty of urge and will sprint from standing to 100km/h in 7.2 seconds. It’s also the economical choice and returns a quoted fuel consumption of just 5.7 litres per 100km. That’s better than many petrol-powered hatchbacks. A stop-start feature is included as standard but can be turned off with the push of a button.
The diesel engine is matched up to a seven-speed S-Tronic automatic transmission, which uses a twin-clutch set-up for smooth and razor sharp shifts. Power is pushed to both axles through Audi’s badge-defining Quattro system. During regular driving conditions a centre differential splits 60% of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels and 40% to the front. If it detects slippage up to 80% of torque can be automatically shifted to the rear wheels or up to 70% to the front. The Quattro system operates seamlessly and allows the A6 greater ability on gravel or snow covered roads than its rear-wheel drive competitors.
In terms of daily use there is much to like in the new A6. It’s no sports car but with 450Nm of torque on tap the diesel engine is very strong particularly through the mid-range and at motorway speeds. Extensive use of aluminum in the A6 construction has resulted in weight reductions of around 80kg from the previous model. It feels light on the road and is only betrayed under heavy braking where its mass becomes more evident.
Through the bends the A6 keeps flat and has excellent body control. With a wide track and the Quattro system working away behind the scenes, traction levels are very high but the diesel engine has just enough grunt to seek out its boundaries. However, the electromagnetic power steering can be vague and prevents the driver from really feeling a strong connection to the surrounding machine. Even with its Drive Select system set to ‘Dynamic’ the A6 can’t quite match its 5-Series nemesis for driver engagement on twisted B-roads.
Cruising on motorways or the open road it’s a different story, the A6 is serene and superbly refined. Any noise from the diesel motor is relegated to a purr and it glides along with a nicely cushioned ride. Overall, it’s dynamically very competent and comfortable and as a luxury cruiser the new A6 does its job diligently with a strong progression of Audi’s traditional strengths.
If it all goes wrong the A6 has its safety bases covered with all the features you’d expect. Stability and traction control systems are operating and there’s ABS brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution. Front, side and curtain airbags are onboard and there’s an anti theft alarm with immobiliser to foil thieves.
In summary, the 2012 A6 is an attractive option in the luxury saloon market. There’s plenty here to tempt existing Audi owners to upgrade; the A6 is now lighter and more economical, it’s driving dynamics are improved and it’s interior fit-out is about as good as you’ll see in any vehicle. The styling has been conservatively updated but nicely modernised and the diesel powertrain is strong and smooth. If you’re an Audi fan then you’ll know what you like and the new A6 is ready to deliver.
Price: From $127,900
What we like:
- Elegant and impeccably constructed interior
- Strong and economical diesel engine
- Dynamic ability
- High-tech equipment
What we don’t like:
- No reversing camera on entry-model
- Exterior styling may not entice new buyers
- Vague steering
Who will buy this car: Executive types with some serious coin, may also suit newly retired executive types who refuse to downgrade to the A4.
Cool Factor: Moderate, the A6 means business but it’s sleek and has been glamoured up just enough to turn some heads. Bonus cool points for the main interior control screen emerging from the dashboard
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo