2012 Audi A6 3.0 TFSI quattro Review and Road Test By Carey Russ
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
2012 Audi A6 3.0 TFSI quattro
The midsize A6 has been a mainstay of Audi's sport-luxury sedan lineup since 1994, with new versions following in 1997 and 2004. It has given Audi a significant presence in the important mid-size premium sedan class, carving a distinctive niche there with quattro all-wheel drive, meant not merely for optimum traction in less-than-optimum road conditions but on dry roads as well. Styling cues from the second A6 (1997 through 2004) are still readily visible in many other makes today.
With the debut of the fourth generation for model year 2012, only the name remains unchanged. Although it looks much smaller the the previous A6, the new one sits on a three-inch longer wheelbase but is half an inch shorter, and fractions of an inch wider and higher. Its familiar yet further-developed shape has decreased aerodynamic drag, and weight has dropped by 78 pounds for the V6 models. The new A6 shares its chassis and much of its style, inside and out, with the A7 "Sportback" executive luxury hatchback, while remaining a conventional four-door plus trunk sedan.
Drivetrain choices for the US market are four-cylinder and V6, both forced-induction and direct-injected. A 2.0-liter four in a luxury-sport sedan? Why not -- this one is the latest development of Audi's 2.0TFSI, with 211 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Which bests the 2.8-liter V6 found in late-90s A6es. It's front-wheel drive only (FrontTrak® in Audi-speak) with the multitronic® continuously-variable transmission (CVT). The supercharged V6 is familiar from the previous generation, but has been massaged for more power, now 310 hp and 325-lb-ft. That gets to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission and quattro® permanent all-wheel drive. It's quicker than its predecessor, with no loss of fuel economy.
Standard equipment level is as high as expected in the class, with premium accommodations and all the amenities for the driver and two or three passengers, iPod® and Bluetooth® connectivity, Audi Drive Select car systems control, and a full complement of passive and active safety equipment. Premium Plus upgrades the wheels and tires, adds a driver information system, Audi's Google Earth™-based navigation system, and the MMI control system for all the cabin electronics. 3.0T buyers can also opt for the Prestige level, further upgrading wheels and tires, adding four-zone climate control, active lighting, a BOSE® audio system and further comforts for executive luxury in a smaller size.
I've just finished a week with a 2012 A6 in Premium Plus trim, with the Sport Package (19-inch wheels and performance tires and firmer suspension tuning plus multifunction steering wheel with shift paddles) and the "side assist" blind-spot monitoring system. It reminded me greatly of the A7 that I drove recently. No surprise there, as they are closely related, sharing chassis architecture and the TFSI V6, eight-speed automatic quattro drivetrain. And most interior styling -- no complaint there. The A6 is about 150 pounds lighter, and a touch shorter. Performance and handling are similar, which is to say excellent for the real world of poor pavement and changing weather and surface conditions. The new A6 is a superbly-balanced automobile. In an unpredictable economy, Audi has been steadily gaining market share. Why? Product, product, and product. Like this.
APPEARANCE: Where some competitors are seemingly fixated on flamboyance, Audi understands understatement. The newest A6 is recognizably an Audi and recognizably an A6, with that oft-copied roofline that dates to the `97-`04 version and similar proportions. Its rounded hood and that arching roofline are complemented by sharply-incised shoulder lines and a more angular tail. The Singleframe® grille is a touch more angular in the corners, and the low, L-shaped headlights are similar to those of the A7, but far from identical. Ditto for the lower front fascia. The rear features wide LED taillights and twin exhausts, with a small "ducktail" lip separating the rear panel from the trunk lid. The 3.0 T has small "Supercharged" badges on the front fenders, plus a "3.0T" badge at the rear.
COMFORT: Inside, there is also a marked similarity to the A7, which was heavily-influenced by the premium A8. Meaning understated elegance without visual opulence. Audi interiors are still the benchmark. Materials and fit and finish are first-class. All amenities expected in a contemporary luxury car can be found, including electronics. The Google Earth nav system is yet another benchmark, displayed on a 7-inch screen that folds out of the dash. It shows the same Google Earth display you'd see on your home computer (or smartphone), centered on the car's position. The MMI (Multi-Media Interface) controls are the most intuitive of any in a German car, and that has been noted (and copied) by the competition. The gadgetry enhances the experience, but does not mask the A6's nature as a driver's car. Driving position, visibility, and control feel and response all see to that. Rear seat space and comfort are very good, for the outboard positions. A high central tunnel makes the center a short-term, small-person position. The rear seat back folds 60/40 and has a ski-passthrough and center armrest-cum-storage box. A large trunk adds usefulness for long-distance touring, for which the A6 is well-suited.
SAFETY: The A6's unibody structure is designed to protect passengers with a strong steel central safety cell surrounded by crumple zones designed and built for controlled, energy-dissipating deformation in the event of an accident. The full complement of airbags is networked into the pre-sense safety system. Warning lights for the "side assist" blind-spot monitoring system are on the inside edges of the rearview mirrors, where they are more noticeable than the usual location in the mirror surface. Active safety is enhanced by exemplary maneuverability and handling and strong brakes, plus the quattro AWD system and electronic stability control.
RIDE AND HANDLING: Less weight means more efficiency, in handling, performance and economy. Careful design, aluminum body panels and high-strength steel and aluminum structural components are the contributing factors. There is no compromise for interior quiet, as careful mounting of subframes keeps unwanted noise and harshness at bay. The fully-independent multilink suspension features multiple damping modes, to change the ride quality from soft luxury to sport. After sampling "Comfort", "Automatic", and "Individual" (individual adjustment of damping, steering effort, and automatic shift characteristics), I left it in "Dynamic", aka sport mode. That seemed appropriate, with a firm but compliant ride from the optional sport suspension and moderate effort to the electro-mechanically assisted steering. It's quiet and comfortable to be an excellent long-distance tourer, on any sort of road, in any sane weather.
PERFORMANCE: Although turbochargers have been the norm for forced induction from Audi in recent years, progenitor Auto Union used supercharging quite successfully in Grand Prix competition in the 1930s. Supercharging has returned on the 3.0-liter V6, aided by twin intercoolers to optimize intake charge density and sophisticated electronic controls to keep it running efficiently. Direct fuel injection, as used in the 2.0TFSI engine for the past few years, and continuously-variable cam phasing on all four camshafts also aid efficient power production. With 310 horsepower from 5500 through 6500 rpm and 325 lb-ft of torque from 2900 through 4500 rpm the A6 is both quick and fast, especially for a large sedan. Its 0-60 time of 5.3 seconds is quicker than that of the slightly heavier A7, and its (governed) top speed of 130 mph is largely academic on this side of the German border. If that also sounds like the recipe for thirst, think again. An eight-speed automatic transmission with Dynamic Shift Programming and Tiptronic® manual mode allows lower low gears for acceleration and higher high gears for high-speed highway travel. At normal freeway speeds (not 55 mph!) the engine turns 1500 to 1800 rpm in D. And there's instant and strong torque available at any time thanks to supercharging, so the EPA estimate of 18 mpg city, 28 highway, and 22 overall is pretty accurate. I got 22 for the week, despite spending as little time as possible on highways and as much as possible in sport mode out in the country.
CONCLUSIONS: With a superb balance between luxury and performance, and power and efficiency, the new 2012 Audi A6 3.0 is a benchmark in the midsize luxury sedan class.
2012 Audi A6 3.0 TFSI quattro
Base Price $ 49,900 Price As Tested $ 57,470 Engine Type supercharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve V6 with continuously- variable cam phasing Engine Size 3.0 liters / 183 cu. in. Horsepower 310 @ 5500-6500 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 325 @ 2900-4500 rpm Transmission 8-speed automatic Wheelbase / Length 114.7 in. / 193.9 in. Curb Weight 4045 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 13.0 Fuel Capacity 19.8 gal. Fuel Requirement 91 octane unleaded premium gasoline Tires 255/40R19 108Y Pirelli P Zero Brakes, front/rear vented disc all around, ABS and ESP standard Suspension, front/rear independent five-link / independent trapezoidal link Drivetrain inline front engine, full-time all-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 19 / 28 / 22 0 to 60 mph 5.3 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES Aviator Blue Metallic paint $ 475 Premium Plus Package - includes: 18" wheels with all-season tires, Audi Navigation with MMI touch, Audi Connect (with 6-month complimentary subscription), Xenon Plus headlights with LED DRL, front and rear parking sensors, HD radio, 7" color Driver Information System $ 4,220 19" Sport Package - includes: 19" wheels with summer performance tires, sport suspension, 3-spoke multifunction steering wheel, shift paddles $ 1,500 Audi Side Assist $ 500 Destination charge $ 875