DETROIT--It was no surprise that Audi unveiled a new A6 sedan at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show (the automaker's booth was ablaze with a gigantic A6 sign), but many people didn't expect a hybrid model to debut alongside it.
Let's start under the hood. The A6 can be had with any of five gasoline engines, three TDI engines, or a gas-electric hybrid power train. The hybrid blends Audi's 2.0-liter turbocharged, direct-injected gasoline engine with an electric motor to output 245-horsepower with an estimated fuel economy of 37.94 mpg. The hybrid power train features an 8-speed tiptronic automatic transmission that sends power to the front-wheels--Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive system is unavailable in the hybrid. The A6 hybrid can reach up to 62 mph on purely electric motivation or cruise at about 38 mph. It can also operate on gasoline only or a blend of the two fuel sources. Like any electrified car on the road today, the A6 hybrid features a regenerative braking system, with unique instrumentation to indicate whether the system is charging or discharging its lithium ion battery.
Across the rest of the line, fuel economy is up by up to 19 percent--not too shabby. Depending upon the engine choice, A6 owners will have the choice between a six-speed manual transmission, a continuously variable transmission (CVT), or a new version of Audi's S Tronic automatic transmission with front and all-wheel drive versions available for most models. All-wheel drive models get Quattro's torque vectoring on the rear axle; front wheel drive models get their own version of "torque vectoring," which uses ESP to bias-brake the front axle.
Outside, the A6 features Audi's trademark LED driving lights and indicators and can be had with optional LED headlamps. The sedan doesn't grow externally, but does feature a slight weight reduction--which probably helps with that fuel economy bump.
In the cabin, the A6 looks about like you'd expect an Audi to, featuring a clean, understated design. At the top of the center stack is a new motorized LCD that is commanded by the automaker's MMI controller and a handwriting recognition pad on the center console. Navigation with a Google Maps uplink is available, with data being provided by a Bluetooth connected phone. Interestingly, Audi says that the navigation system ties into other vehicle systems to provide information about the road ahead. For example, the system can activate cornering lights before reaching an intersection; the transmission can downshift for an upcoming hill; and the adaptive cruise control can slow the car for a dangerous section of road.
Also making a return appearance is the optional Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System.
Delivery of the 2012 Audi A6 gasoline and diesel models will begin in early 2011 at a base price of 38,500 euros (about 50 grand U.S.) with delivery of the hybrid model coming shortly after.