First Test: 2012 Audi A6
Modern Urban Transporter: We Put the 3.0T in Getaway Mode
It's far from Oscar-worthy, but the "Transporter" series of movies has its share of amazingly insane chase scenes starring an Audi A8. While we wouldn't advise channeling your inner Jason Statham in the all-new 2012 Audi A6, it's a modern urban transporter that will accomplish just about any job you ask of it with style and impressive performance.
Let's get a couple of things out of the way first: price and steering feel. These two bugaboos always seem to come up when discussing a new Audi. Total price for the 2012 Audi A6 3.0 TFSI Quattro Auto Tiptronic Sedan we had in for testing was $71,330. Before your eyes start watering, consider the Bang & Olufsen sound system rings the register at $5900. Yes, it's awesome. Could you live without it? Sure.
Harder to delete from the list would be the Prestige package ($6,880), with goodies including Audi's navigation with MMI touch and available Google Maps (critical stuff for accurate transporting) and a trick 7-inch screen that folds neatly into the dash. The package also comes with the Audi Connect system, which turns your car into mobile Wi-Fi hot spot. We tried out the T-Mobile-based service and had our iPad hooked up in minutes. The other big option hit is the Innovation package ($5800), which adds LED headlights to Audi's signature front light banks, a head-up display, and nannies including adaptive cruise control, side assist, and night vision assist for when you're making your getaway in pitch dark.
Still think it's too pricey? Let's compare, shall we? A 2011 BMW 535i starts at $50,975. Want all-wheel drive? That'll be $1300 more. A 2011 Mercedes E350 starts at $50,275 -- tack on $2500 for a 4Matic. The Quattro-fied 2012 A6 starts at $50,775. And of course, BMW and Benz have spendy option packages galore. Bottom line? Price is relative in the A6's class.
So we've tackled price. Time to talk steering. Like the Bangle butt, Corvette interiors, and beige Toyotas, bagging on an Audi's wheel feel is one of the most time-honored traditions in automotive journalism.
Esteemed senior editor Jonny Lieberman summed up his thoughts after his drive of the new A6 earlier this year: "Like the A4 and the A8, the adaptive [Servotronic] steering is the A6's weakest link. Overboosted and sloppy in Comfort mode; artificially heavy, uncommunicative and just plain sketchy in Dynamic mode; and God knows what you're going to get in Auto mode (overboosted and uncommunicative?)"
Associate editor and resident European car wonk Mike Febbo said this after a few days behind the wheel of the A6 tester: "The A6 steering is like a band with a musician missing. There is a layer of vibration that comes through the wheel that feels like road surface, then there is the resistance from turning the wheel, and you can feel resistance load-up from scrub radius/caster trail. But there is a layer missing. The road feel doesn't seem to change with big steering movements; you don't feel what the contact patch is really doing. There are two distinct feelings coming from the wheel, but they seem unrelated. There's drums and guitar, but the bassist just isn't tying it all together."
Try as Audi's engineers might -- and they are trying mightily with the A6's drive select settings and other countermeasures -- the bashing continues. There are limits to what a front-drive based car with a 55/45 weight distribution and an engine out in front of the half shafts can accomplish from a steering-feel perspective. But the A6 makes up for it with impressive track numbers.
The 2012 A6's supercharged, direct-injected 3.0-liter V-6 with 310 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque and eight-speed transmission combo helped propel the 4166-pound sedan from 0 to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds, and through the quarter mile in 13.4 seconds at 103.9 mph, smoking both the 535i (5.6 and 14.1 at 101.0 mph) and the E350 (6.6 and 14.9 at 94.5 mph). Here's how our test team got the numbers: "Easy to launch, after you've set the proper vehicle settings. Trans in sport mode, ESC off, vehicle in Dynamic mode. With the left foot on the brake pedal, go flat on the gas until the tach settles on 3000 rpm, lift off the brake and hold on."
Some have questioned Audi's decision not to offer a DSG transmission for the A6, but Febbo for one thinks Ingolstadt made the right call to go with the eight-speed auto. "The smoothness of the eight-speed transmission is the best argument against DSGs I have experienced. Shifts are quick in sport or manual mode (not nearly as quick as a DSG), and the smooth transition won't upset the car in the mid-corner shifts."
When it comes to slowing things down, the binders clamped down hard on Audi's 12.6-inch front, 11.8-inch rear discs, helping it hit the skids from 60 in a scant 108 feet -- impressive stuff for a car of its heft. Again, it bested the 535i (109) and the E350 (123). Over at the skidpad, the A6 hit .91 g average, and it busted through our figure eight in 25.4 seconds at 0.72 g, no doubt aided by its Quattro system with its 40/60 percent front/rear-bias torque distribution setup.
Despite his reservations about the steering, Febbo gives the A6 high marks for its overall handling prowess -- essential for high-speed avoidance maneuvers. "This thing is so predictable and inspires tons of confidence. The ability to put down power with all four tires and progressiveness of all the actions would certainly make it better for all but the best drivers... Even in the most aggressive situations when it's clear physics can still put the smackdown on electronics, the A6 still behaves predictably and safely."
So it has getaway speed, stops hard, and can handle itself pretty well. It also has a magnificently tailored cabin designed to transport you and your human cargo in safety, elegance, and serious comfort. Materials so soft you could use them for a pillow. One of the best analog/digital instrument panel executions we've ever seen. Walnut wood inlays and Bang & Olufsen speaker covers that are borderline works of art. More technology options than you could shake four sticks at, and a laundry list of safety features. We're betting Statham would approve.
|2012 Audi A6 3.0T Quattro|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$71,330|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||3.0L/300-hp/325-lb-ft supercharged DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4166 lb (55/45%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||193.9 x 73.8 x 57.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.8 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||13.4 sec @ 103.9 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||108 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.91 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||25.4 sec @ 0.72 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||19/28 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||177/120 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.87 lb/mile|