In Premium Plus trim (as CNET's car was equipped) and Premium trim, the A6 gets a base, nonbranded audio system. In Prestige trim, buyers get a base Bose system or can upgrade to a Bang & Olufsen system. The base system is still very good, with plenty of detail and balanced frequency response, but audiophiles will want to move up to the Bang & Olufsen system, which delivers superb music reproduction.
Choosing music from the various audio sources through Audi's cabin interface is very easy, as the responsive screen immediately brings up lists of artists, albums, and tracks. For music stored on the car's hard drive, you can use voice commands to request specific artists. This capability is not as complete as that found in some Ford and Mitsubishi vehicles, which let you use voice commands to request artists, albums, and track titles from MP3 players and hard drives.
Audi makes one of the best cabin tech interfaces in the business. The A6 is the third model to receive this interface, after the A8 and A7. Along with its console dial and elliptical onscreen menus, the system uses a brilliantly engineered touch pad. This little square of touch-sensitive material in the console changes mode depending on which cabin tech function you are using.
For example, on the radio screen the touch pad shows six numbers, corresponding to station presets. With the navigation system, you can drag across the touch pad to browse maps. And the most fascinating feature is its ability to recognize letters you trace when entering search terms or addresses. There is no need to take your eyes off the road, as the system confirms each letter with an audio prompt.
You can also use the onscreen interface to customize the car's performance. Audi Drive Select offers Comfort and Dynamic modes for the steering and drivetrain response. In Dynamic mode, the throttle feels much more responsive, although the eight-speed automatic transmission, even when in its own Sport mode, does not get drastically aggressive. The steering feel remains very light in all modes, allowing for effortless turning but not a lot of road feedback.
Impressively, the new A6 comes powered by a direct-injection supercharged 3-liter V-6, an excellently efficient engine that Audi also used in its. Mated to the automatic transmission, this engine produces 310 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. Even with that kind of power, the A6 turns in fuel economy of 19 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.
All this performance technology combines to make the A6 very easy to drive. The engine delivers immediate thrust, useful for merging onto the freeway and quickly passing slower traffic. The easy turning wheel makes city driving effortless. An automated parking system will be of huge benefit to people who have trouble parallel parking. A blind-spot detection system turns on lights in the side mirror casing to warn when it's unsafe to change lanes.
But aside from the light steering, the A6 also works as an excellent sport driver, helped considerably by the Quattro all-wheel-drive system. As we drove fast over a road with many tight turns, the smell of burning rubber wafted into the cabin. The car does have a traction control system, but it seems more focused on keeping the car on the road rather than stepping on its performance.
Audi's use of aluminum in the A6's structure helps keep the overall weight down, letting it dance through the turns. In manual mode, the transmission shifts satisfactorily, not with the hard changes of a dual-clutch system, but nowhere near as sloppily as a typical torque converter.
When driving the 2012 Audi A6 hard, we had to remember that it is not an S model. Its engine and Quattro all-wheel-drive gave it excellent sport characteristics, but its steering tuning and transmission suggested it wasn't built for the track. As an everyday driver, it offers good fuel economy combined with excellent power.
The cabin tech is also currently unparalleled. We found a few small areas that could be improved, but no other car maker has hit so many marks. The Google navigation system is obviously a high point, but the audio quality was also good, and could be even better with a higher-trim car. Although Pandora integration would be nice, the car offers enough audio sources for most people.
Audi also scores high on the tech meter with its cabin tech interface. The company designed an incredibly smart and usable system for the A6. The exterior design of the A6 may not be particularly eye-catching, but it offers solid, sedan practicality. All things considered, we give the Audi A6 our Editors' Choice Award.
|Model||2012 Audi A6|
|Power train||Supercharged direct-injection 3-liter V-6, 8-speed automatic transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||19 mpg city/28 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||23.4 mpg|
|Navigation||Hard-drive-based with traffic and Google integration|
|Bluetooth phone support||Yes, with contact list and voice command|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible single-CD player, MP3-compatible 6-CD changer|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Onboard hard drive, Bluetooth streaming audio, USB drive, SD card, HD Radio, satellite radio, auxiliary audio input|
|Audio system||12-speaker system|
|Driver aids||Night vision, adaptive cruise control, head-up display, blind-spot detection, automatic parking, rearview camera|
|Price as tested||$57,470|