Words and photos By Joshua Decker
Audi picked the island of Sicily in southern Italy for the official launch of the brand new 2012 Audi A6. At first I wondered why they picked such a remote location for this launch, flying media from literally all over the world in to experience their latest creation. However, looking back on the weekend I can see clearly why they chose it; The Audi A6 just seemed at home in this country, surrounded by beautiful vistas, amazing architecture and rich history.
The 2012 Audi A6 is a beautiful compilation of engineering achievements. It is without a doubt, one of the most advanced luxury sedans in the world. It has so many new and improved features that it may take me a while to go through them with you in detail, but bear with me and I know you will be happy that you did. As you may have seen with the new A8, Audi has significantly raised the bar once again and has created a notable separation between them and the likes of Mercedes, BMW, Lexus and other competitors. Audi’s marketing phrase “Never follow” seems to be a perfect nomenclature for the 2012 A6.
The A6 will be hitting US dealers in September with the powerful 3.0TFSI engine as standard issue, the same one found in the current Audi A6, S4 and Q7. However this newest version has increased power and improved fuel efficiency over the previous A6. Advertised power output is 310hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. Thanks to the fitted supercharger, the power delivery is incredibly smooth and linear. In fact the car feels downright nimble under acceleration, something not expected in a car this size. The fuel efficiency of this powerful engine is rated at 19mpg City, 28mpg Highway and 22mpg mixed.
Audi will be also offering the car with the 3.0 TDI engine. Now we won’t see this engine available at first, but I have confirmation from Audi executives that we will definitely see this engine available in 2012. The 3.0 TDI engine is a remarkable engine that delivers power that is nearly comparable with the 3.0 TFSI. It gives you 245HP and 368 lb-ft of torque. It achieves a very impressive 21.8mpg City, 35.64mpg Highway and 28.68mpg mixed, which would make it the most fuel efficient luxury sedan in its segment, by a long shot.
A third engine option will also come to North America next year, the award winning 2.0 TFSI engine. Unfortunately for quattro fans, this will be offered only with Audi’s CVT based FronTrack, Audi’s front wheel drive system. The tradeoff however is impressive fuel efficiency that will rival hybrids.
Speaking of hybrids, the A6 hybrid is also expected to become available in late 2012. It was launched a few months ago at the LA Auto Show. It will share the amazing technical advancements and designs of the rest of the A6 lineup. The A6 Hybrid will only be available in FronTrack as well, aiming at the highest fuel efficiency possible. If you want a hybrid Audi and need quattro, you are in luck as the Q5 hybrid is expected to be available around the same time.
Audi has increased the efficiency across the lineup of these engines. Each one boasts improved power output, and at the same time showing improved consumption numbers. Much of this efficiency comes from a strict aluminum diet that Audi put the A6 on. The Audi aluminum space frame as well as other weight saving measures contributes to a notable 78 lbs loss in the 3.0 TFSI powered A6. The most impressive part is they were able to accomplish this while increasing the car’s size and adding countless new features and equipment.
The only transmission made available in North America is a brand new 8 speed tiptronic. Yeah, I said 8 speed! Apparently this is the ideal number of gears and allows the car to utilize the perfect gear for every possible scenario. As the car is accelerating through these gears the power stays right in the sweet spot of each gear. Why no S-tronic you might ask? Well Audi VP of Marketing, Jeff Kuhlman said that it is because the 8 speed is very close to the S-tronic in performance and is more fuel efficient. This new 8 speed is also smoother than the S-tronic, something he felt would deter from the experience A6 buyers would be expecting. After driving both S-tronic and tiptronic versions. I can honestly say that it’s a very smooth and refined transmission. However, the new 8 speed S-tronic will make its debut in this chassis with the S6 model which we should see announced sometime in 2012 and due to arrive as a 2013 model.
A Driver’s Car
Driving the new A6 around the hills of Sicily was a surreal experience. I must have said “wow” about a hundred times. Half of those times I was talking about the scenery, the other half I was talking about the car. They were certainly a good match for each other. It is really hard to create a midsize luxury sedan that makes you say “wow” as much as this one does. I came away having my expectations highly exceeded.
If you have driven a 2010-2011 S4, this car feels like a just slightly larger version of that car. The 3.0T makes quick work of the windy hills and the car does not feel heavy or unbalanced. The car handles superbly around even the sharpest switchbacks and winding roads. When pushed extremely hard the A6 did understeer on me but this was mainly due to me underestimating the never ending turns. However all you needed to do was let the sport differential do its magic and before long you were back on track and at the next bend.
The lines of the car are aggressive and stylish and give the new A6 a fresh look that borrows styling cues from the A7, A8 and even quattro concept. The vehicle is 1” wider than its predecessor and boasts a 3” longer wheelbase which was achieved by moving the front axles forward. Both of these changes result in a much roomier cabin, not to mention notably improved driving dynamics. Turn in on even the sharpest roads is immediate and crisp. The balance of the car is greatly improved and its tendency to under steer is nearly removed thanks to the new Crown differential, which is the heart of Audi’s new generation VI Quattro system.
One of the coolest features available is the optional LED headlights which will only be available in the North American Prestige package. They are maintenance free and offer a lighting array that is better than any xenon setup I’ve ever seen. The light that is created by the LEDs very closely resembles actual daylight. One of the new features that this setup offers is automatic highbeams. In other words, you turn on your high beams and let the car figure out when it needs to dim them based on traffic conditions. It’s able to automatically turn off individual LEDs to not blind oncoming drivers while keeping the road lit and giving drivers one less thing to worry about when driving in the dark.
The interior design of the new Audi A6 is stunning. It is a natural evolution from previous Audi designs. It is further refined and shows that Audi is progressing in all areas not just exterior. Every detail appears to be hand crafted and thoughtfully placed. The high tech components and added instrumentation all seamlessly blend in without being a distraction to the interior design. The optional wood trim looks like it was pulled out of a multi-million dollar yacht. The standard front seats are by no means ‘standard’, being trimmed in finest Milano leather upholstery and with the option of being electrically adjustable, heated, cooled or even offering a massage function.
As we have recently seen with the 2011 A8, Audi has made it a point to be a market leader in terms of technical innovation. They have packed this car so full of new features that we are going to do a follow up post outlining each new technical feature in greater detail. The heart of most of these technical components is the latest version of Audi’s MMI system featuring a 6.5″ full color LCD display that pops up out of the front dash. To interact with the MMI system you now have your choice of controls. You can use the standard knob and button interface, and you can take it one step further with the new touch pad that allows you to write out your destinations and entries. In fact it works so simply that you don’t even have to look down, you can just write with your finger tips and let the MMI system work its magic. It is genius really, and makes the MMI interface easy and fun to use.
Another great option that is available starting with the Premium Plus package listed below is the Audi Connect mobile data service. This essentially turns your new A6 into a rolling mobile 3G hot spot. We expect full support of 4G data connectivity too. Audi has announced a partnership with T-mobile to provide the data connectivity here in the USA. We hope that the new announcement of the T-Mobile buyout by AT&T makes this an even better deal with more coverage around the country. I can’t tell you what an amazing technology this was for us Americans as we were all stuck without any data or connectivity through our US based cell phones. I actually was able to make and receive calls on my Android device using Wifi calling feature while connected to the Audi Connect system. I was also able to surf the web, make posts to Facebook and upload images while on remote photo shoot locations. How cool is that!?
There are countless other technical add ons that are listed below. Some of the more notable ones include a automated speed adjusting cruise control system, lane departure auto correcting steering, accident avoidance auto braking, full color heads up display, automatic speed limit warning system, auto adjusting nighttime LED headlights and so much more. We already finishing up on a follow up article that will go through the A6’s technical advancements one by one in great detail. Stay tuned for that.
The 2012 Audi A6 offers three different trim packages. The basic package is the Premium package and includes the following options
- Leather seating
- Power seats with memory (3.0T: Heated)
- Folding 3-seat rear bench w/pass through
- 3 zone automatic climate control
- Halogen headlights with DRLs
- LED Taillights
- Wood trim
- Chrome exterior trim
- Chrome tailpipes
- Interior mirror w/auto dimming
- Keyless go
- Rain & light sensor
- Automatic headlights
- 4 spoke multifunction steering wheel
- DSP sound system
- Audi music interface
- SIRIUS satellite radio
- MMI Standard with 6.5-in. color screen
- 17” Wheels
The next package up is the Premium Plus package and includes all of what you see in the Premium package these standard options.
- 18” alloy wheels
- Xenon headlights with LED DRL
- MMI Touch
- Audi Connect (w/ 6 month trial data connection)
- HD Radio
- Hard drive (jukebox) w/single DVD
- Audi parking system (Sensors front + rear) with camera
- Exterior mirrors – auto dim/heated w/memory and manual fold
- CD changer (glovebox)
- Color driver information display
And then of course as you might expect, the Prestige package is the fully loaded version and includes everything listed here below.
- S-line exterior enhancements
- 18” wheels (different design)
- Keyless entry
- Power adjustable steering column
- 4 zone climate control
- BOSE surround sound system
- Climate/comfort seats (18 way adj, heated & cooled)
- Ambient light (door sills, center console, headliner)
- Cornering lights
And if the prestige package is not enough for you here are a few other options that you can add on such as the full LED headlights, Heads up display with night vision and Bang and Olufsen sound system.
Avant and allroad
After all this good news about new features, increased power, improved efficiency and seemingly endless technical advancements, I do have some bad news for you. I was told by, that Audi does not have any plan to bring the C7 A6 to the United States in Avant form. Since there will be no A6 Avant this also rules out a future A6 based allroad. However, before you start throwing things and cursing at me, let me walk you off the ledge a bit. The good news is that I have been told by my sources that we will in fact see another allroad very soon and it will be based on the B8 A4 chassis and will launch within the next year. I have owned 3 allroads, and I currently own a C5 S6 Avant. I am personally very disappointed in the lack of Avants, but I understand it is a business decision and historically the A6 Avant has sold very poorly in the USA with Audi only able to move a few hundred of them.
When you think about it, it’s not such a bad deal. The A4 based allroad is actually much closer to the size of the C5 allroad and Avant. Over the last several models Audi has increased the size of the A4 to the point that it is now similar in size to the C5 based A6 Avant and allroad. In fact recently parked my C5 A6 next to a brand new B8 A4 Avant and they are almost identical in size. I think that Audi has made a wise decision and from what I have seen of the B8 allroad in Europe, the next generation of the B8 A4 allroad and Avant is something that will make many of us “Avantaholics” happy!
So what is the verdict on this car? In terms of design alone, the new A6 has us beyond impressed. Once you consider the remarkable technological advancements packed into this car you start to really stand in awe. And when you contemplate the weight reductions and fuel efficiencies, you really start to understand how much of a big deal this car is. I believe that it will be responsible for a major part of Audi’s growth over the next few years and will make becoming the #1 luxury brand in the world not just a goal, but a reality. If this is the level of excellence we can expect from Audi going forward we have a lot to be excited about. The new Audi A6 is the definition of progress; it is “Truth in Luxury”.