New Car Review: 2012 Audi A6

Side view of dark gray 2012 Audi A6
The 2012 Audi A6.

Thirty years ago, Audi changed the automotive world with the styling of the Audi 5000. A design so pure, so fundamentally right, that it essentially survives today...just refined and improved as time, and technologies change.

For a lot of people (and a lot of rival automakers) the Audi A6 is a benchmark for five-passenger family sedans. The only reason you don't see one in every driveway is that they don't come cheap...$41,700 is as low as they go (for the A6 Premium 2.0 TFSI). And the prices get higher along with the engine displacement, the number of cylinders and the number of wheels driven.

Closer side view of 2012 Audi A6
Side view of the 2012 Audi A6.

In the case of our tester, it was one liter of displacement, one additional cylinder and two more wheels putting power to the road. Audi sent us the A6 3.0 TSFI quattro (all-wheel drive) with Auto Tiptronic. Base price: $49,900.

As always, with Audi, what you get for that price adds up to good value. There's the 310-horsepower supercharged V6, an 8-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic, 17-inch alloy wheels, anti-lock brakes, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 8-way power heated leather front seats and a bunch of what are rapidly becoming the "usual" items (check Audi's website for the comprehensive list).

And then we got the options. $475 for the Aviator Blue metallic paint (which is gorgeous), $500 for Audi side assist (to keep you from drifting out of your lane into another car), $1,400 for LED headlights, $1,500 for the 19-inch Sport Package, which upgrades you to 19-inch wheels, summer performance tires, a sport suspension, a 3-spoke multi-function steering wheel and shift paddles...and $6,880 for "Prestige".

2012 Audi A6 interior.

"Prestige" is a package that gives you the sportier S line exterior treatment, upgrades you to 18-inch wheels (17s are standard, but if you remember an item or two back, this one jumped to 19s), Audi Navigation plus with MMI touch, Audi Connect, front and rear parking sensors, four-zone climate control, front seat ventilation, a Bose surrouns Sound system including HD Radio, Xenon Plus headlights with LED daytime running lights (again, another package bumped the headlights up to LEDs as well), adaptive headlights, power steering column adjustment, ambient lighting and a 7-inch color driver information system.

Total price with destination charge? $61,530.

If the list that pushed us over $60K sounds awfully tech-heavy...it is. But it contains two exceptionally cool things.

The 2012 Audi A6 navigation screen.
Yep...someone finally figured that an in-car nav display would look a lot better if you laid the Google Maps satellite view in with the map. Regular readers know we're not big in-dash navigation fans (expensive, rapidly obsolete, your phone does all that now), but if you have to have one, having one that allows you to see more than just some abstract lines on a colored background is a definite improvement.

The other? Well, the car has to have an internet connection to sync up the map and the satellite image, so Audi decided to share it. Equipped like ours, the A6 is a rolling Wi-Fi hotspot (that's the Audi Connect mentioned above). It comes with a complimentary 6-month subscription. So for that first half a year, the 3G signal feeding the nav system also puts a Wi-Fi signal into the cabin, keeping your cell phone data usage down (after that, you'll be paying).  It connects easily and works brilliantly.

So how's it drive? Phenomenally. Audis are usually near-perfect in terms of balance and handling (especially the all-wheel drive quattro) and the A6, lighter and more powerful for 2012, simply improves upon that. The interiors continue to be world-class.  And thanks to the 8-speed automatic, fuel economy is very good for this size and power.

Cheap? No. Reasonable? Barely, and that depends on your income. But worth it in terms of enjoyment and satisfaction? Absolutely.

2012 Audi A6 3.0 TFSI quattro

Base price: $49,900.

As tested: $61,530.

Likes: Styling, balance, interior design and materials, Audi Connect in-car Wi-Fi.

Dislikes: The climate control was fussy...shutting down after a few minutes and then re-starting. Might just have been our tester. But at $60K plus, buyers will be expecting...demanding...perfection.