Editor's note: This review was written in November 2011 about the 2012 Audi A6. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what's new for 2013, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.
I have recurring dreams that I can fly, but not with a mechanism so harsh as wing flapping. Rather, in my dreams I fly in an effortless glide, as if floating through the air. Driving the Audi A6 sedan was as effortless as my flying dreams; if I didn't know better, I'd say the car flew … er … drove itself.
While flying in real life can be a panic-inducing event, flying through life in a 2012 Audi A6 was pure pleasure — save for a multimedia system as complicated as navigating airport security.
The A6 sedan comes in two versions: the front-wheel-drive 2.0T, with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, and the 3.0, which has a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 and standard Quattro all-wheel drive, for $8,200 more. See the two compared. I tested an A6 3.0 with enough options to bring the sticker price to $61,530.
The 2012 A6 is completely redesigned, but to my eye the exterior looks more or less the same. Either way, it looked good enough to turn its fair share of heads during my one-week test drive. (See the 2012 and 2011 models compared.)
The best part of the A6 — its sexy, flirty-eyelash LED running lights — remain the same on this year's model. When following my husband home from an after-work dinner one evening, he called me to claim (or rather brag) that my car was making eyes at him. (When you consider his South African accent, though, you can't really blame the car for flirting. I kind of get it.)
The low step-in height makes getting in and out of the A6 easy for everyone in the family, especially little ones with little legs. If you're hefting a toddler up into a forward-facing seat, just watch her head on the roofline.
While the interior of the A6 may seem fairly basic at first glance, that's a good thing. It's neither visually overwhelming nor flashy enough to distract from the beauty and luxury that is Audi.
In the A6, Audi's Multi Media Interface includes a touchpad. That sounds pretty cool, and I admit it is fun to play around with, but while plenty of people will sing the praises of Audi's MMI system, I've never been a fan. There are just too many options for toggling though screens and menus. I prefer total simplicity when it comes to in-vehicle operations; I like the ability to see something on the screen, touch it and get to the next menu. In MMI, you can enter information by "writing" letters on the touchpad; you can touch commands on the screen itself (the most useful, intuitive way to use the system); you can toggle though menus using a mouse-like joystick controller and four menu buttons surrounding it; or you can use dial-like buttons on the steering wheel. Just like helping a toddler get dressed in the morning, sometimes too many options are a bad thing. Instead, just lay out two options: Jeans and a T-shirt, or a dress? Fewer options can be more empowering.
The A6 functions just fine for smaller families. There's enough legroom in the backseat for young, school-aged kids and their backpacks. I have a 9- and an 11-year-old, and they fit great, but teenagers might be cramped. My two daughters in booster seats fit in the outboard seats with room to spare, but when my stepdaughter joined us for the weekend there was just barely enough room to squeeze her in the middle seat without a booster. It would definitely be too tight for daily use, but it was fine in a pinch.
The driver and front passenger both get pampered in the available heated and cooled seats, though when blasting the cooled seat on its highest setting the fan is quite loud. I always ended up turning it either down or off after just a few minutes.
There's enough storage space inside the A6 for just the basics: Two cupholders up front for the driver and passenger, and two more in the backseat's center armrest. That's it, and they just barely cover the bases. The center console is just large enough to squeeze in a few small snacks to keep the kids' blood sugar up during a long morning of errands. In-door storage bins in all four doors help out, as do a bin in the rear armrest and net pockets on the back of both front seats.
The A6's trunk is pretty large and will fit everything from several carry-on suitcases to a family's weekly grocery and Costco trips. It was perfectly serviceable for me, but the trunk's volume has actually come down from 15.9 cubic feet in the 2011 model to 14.1 cubic feet now, putting it in line with the BMW 5 Series. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class has 12.4 cubic feet, Mercedes' E-Class has 15.9 and the Jaguar XF sports 17.7 cubic feet. While the A6's trunk does pop open via both the key fob and a latch inside the driver's door, for $60,000 I would have liked an actual power-operated trunk that both opens and closes with the press of a button.
Speaking of buttons, the A6 comes standard with keyless access and start, eliminating the need to dig to the bottom of your purse for your keys to unlock or start the car. Can I get a "whoop whoop!"?
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Puny-Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
Behind the Wheel
Though the Audi A6 is a full-size sedan, it certainly doesn't feel like one when you're driving it. The A6's steering makes it absolutely effortless to maneuver, whether making minute steering adjustments at high speeds or cranking the wheel to pull into tight parking spaces. It feels weightless, and the mere thought of turning seemed to be enough to will the A6 into place. The A6's 310-horsepower, supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 gets an estimated 19 mpg in city driving and 28 miles per gallon on the highway, so I suppose in reality it must weigh more than the feather it feels like. In comparison, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class gets 18/25 mpg, while the BMW 5 Series gets an EPA-estimated 21/30 mpg.
Audi's all-wheel drive transfers power away from slipping wheels to more solid ones, so getting my kids up our neighborhood's steep hill and off to school in the winter would also be effortless.
With the A6's optional adaptive cruise control, the car maintains a preset distance to the vehicle in front of it, even slowing to a complete stop and then, with your help, starting up again as traffic starts to flow. When you do actually need to brake for yourself, the braking feels easy and responsive.
The 2012 Audi A6 was rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, reflecting top scores of Good in front, side and rear impacts, as well as in rollover tests.
The A6 has 10 airbags: two in front, knee airbags for the front seats, seat-mounted side-impact airbags for all four outboard seats, and side curtains that cover all the side windows. As federally required starting with all 2012 models, the A6 has antilock brakes and an electronic stability system.
For parents out there stuck in the seemingly endless phase of installing child-safety seats, you'll be glad to know that the lower anchors in the A6's Latch system are a breeze to access and use. A hard plastic cover keeps the lower anchor disguised when not in use. The cover pops off to reveal the anchor, so whether you're using manual Latch hooks on a nylon strap or stable ones that latch when pressed into the hook (like a seat belt), you'll have no trouble.
For bigger kids in booster seats, the seat belt receptors are on stable bases, so kids can easily press their belts in to fasten on their own. However, since the receptors are nearly flush with the seat cushion, you could run into the problem of a booster seat wanting to inch its way over, occasionally obstructing the buckle.
My test A6 came equipped with both blind spot monitors and a backup camera, which are not only optional convenience features but also safety features. The backup camera was a huge help on numerous occasions trying to back out of my home's oddly curved driveway. Not only does it show what's going on behind the car (great for spotting rogue kids hanging out in the driveway rather than at the bus stop), but also the on-screen guides showed my vehicle's projected trajectory as I turned the steering wheel.
Audi's blind spot monitors are also a great help, especially if your view is further obstructed by oversized child-safety seats or high-back booster seats. The system "watches" your blind spot for you and illuminates a light in the side mirror when a car is hanging out where you might not be able to see it. If you signal to merge into that lane while a car is in your blind spot, the light will flash to catch your attention.
The A6 also has an optional night vision feature that watches the road using thermal imaging technology, highlighting people and animals on a screen. It even uses an audible tone to alert you of any potential pedestrian dangers.
Get more safety information about the Audi A6 here.
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