Enough talk about what cars of the future might bring.
The future is here.
It's the 2012 Audi A6. This car boasts all those long talked-about features cars could, should or will eventually have. It's a mobile hotspot. It boasts radar and night vision. It's got Google maps. And this sedan comes wrapped in leather and a wood-grain trim so nice that I want it as the floor in my house.
Put a gallon of gas in the tank and it will haul you 28 miles down the highway. It does nearly everything but fly.
Well, that's not entirely true. As graceful and serene as the A6 may look with those doe-eyed LED headlamps, it screams down the road.
Boosted by a high-tech 3-liter supercharged V-6 that generates 310 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque, the A6 quickly reminds the driver that performance was never sacrificed in this luxury sedan. The engine uses a supercharger placed in the middle of the V to create pressure up to 11.6 psi. Two intercoolers help and Audi's direct injection system keeps everything running smoothly. (There's a slight lag that's noticeable with aggressive driving, but that's just the surprise of acceleration.)
The eight-speed automatic transmission glides through the gears with precision and power. The A6 can go from red light to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds.
And then there's Audi's legendary all-wheel drive, simply known as Quattro. Working in conjunction with the adjustable suspension (there are four settings available from boy racer to fat cat; Audi calls them: comfort, auto, dynamic and individual, which you can adjust yourself.)
The chassis is as futuristic as any contraption H.G. Wells could dream up. The aluminum construction (Audi estimates that 20 percent of the A6 is aluminum) and hot-shaped steel help the A6 shed 78 pounds over its predecessor (though it has added a number of features over the outgoing model) and still have a stiffer body. Overall, the A6 tips the scales at just over two tons.
That weight is never noticeable on the road, where the A6 feels sure-footed and agile. It's still a big sedan; it just never acts like one.
Elegant interior at your service
The real pleasure of the A6 comes inside the cabin. It's filled to its roof liner with innovative technologies. While not all of them are new ideas, the A6 shows the world where Audi is going with its user-friendly and comfortable interiors.
Simply put, they are beautiful. Much like the A7, the A6's interior was designed to serve its occupants in elegance and style. The dash is set up with a gentle curved hood over the instrument panel and a 7-inch color information screen is placed right between the tachometer and speedometer. There's a simplicity to the car's interior design and materials that is unparalleled.
The wood-grain trim comes in two versions, one glossy and the other a rougher, more realistic wood feel. I have never gotten excited over veneers before, but this trim is unmatched on any production vehicle. It really might be from the future.
There's also an 8-inch color monitor that slides out of the dash and boasts every piece of information you could possibly want, including Google Earth.
The screen connects with the newest telematics system, something Audi has continually improved. Known as MMI, the system uses a number of input devices to operate everything inside the car. There's an easy-to-use wheel with buttons around it. There's also the new handwriting pad it's basically a touch pad that allows you to write letters, which the car will recognize. It will help you pull up phone numbers on the Bluetooth-connected phone or input an address. It takes a few minutes to learn, but well-worth the time investment. And if you don't want to draw, you can just press the button on your steering wheel and use the voice recognition system and tell the car what you want. Butlers aren't this responsive.
There's also Wi-Fi connection. Using a 3G connection, the car is always ready for anyone in the vehicle to go online. (It is not recommended that the driver actually go online.) The automotive hotspot is good for up to eight devices at one time. (The hotspot, however, is fairly small and requires a password; so don't try to tailgate an A6 and skim off its network.)
Sensors are everywhere
All of this technology is not merely there to entertain. Audi has incorporated a number of features to make every trip a little easier.
Audi has added a full color head-up display that can provide speed and other information right on the windshield. This car also comes with more sensors than a TSA checkpoint. The car monitors vehicles in front, behind and along the sides. If it senses the driver is not paying attention, it will warn you to the point of applying the brakes for you. (It includes a Stop and Go feature for drivers who can't be bothered moving their foot from the accelerator pedal to the brake.)
It uses radar for its adaptive cruise control, automatically adjusting the car's speed to the vehicles in front of it. There are ultrasonic sensors to help the driver park and a back-up camera. It also has an infrared camera and will digitally highlight people along the side of the road in case you don't see them.
Even those beautiful headlights, so nicely tucked under the hood, are as high-tech as they come. The full LED lights adjust to the car's surroundings to give the driver the maximum view on even the darkest night. They will automatically adjust to oncoming traffic and cars ahead of it. It's the most polite headlight system around.
Now a word of warning. Technology itself does not make a vehicle. Gadgets don't drive and there's a risk some will become outdated before the first model year is up. Anything can feel futuristic but fall flat. The trick is to enhance the driving experience, not distract from it.
The A6 blends everything together into a symphony of driving fun. This A6 will make many trips more interesting than the actual destinations.
Exterior: Excellent. Beautiful long lines with an aggressive face and sleek rear.
Interior: Excellent. Precise, comfortable and high-tech features enhance the drive.
Performance: Excellent. Well-mannered road attributes, powerful engine and ability to stick to the road at nearly any speed.
Pros: Great sedan with beautiful lines and great engine. Will certainly get you noticed.
Cons: Some features are complicated and might intimidate the less-than-tech savvy, and some you may never get a chance to use.
**** Excellent *** Good ** Fair * Poor