Review: 2012 Audi A6 3.0 TFSI quattro

By Kevin Miller

Something readers may not know about me is that I have an identical twin- or, I am an identical twin. My brother and I share the same DNA, the same “frame,” and look very similar to one another. While my brother and I are literally made from the same genetic material, we’ve grown to be distinct from one another in our professions and hobbies. While we’re essentially the same weight and height, I am an electrical engineer and auto blogger, who spends way too much time at a computer keyboard. My brother, on the other hand, is an Olympic rower turned collegiate rowing coach who bikes to work most days, so he has a distinctly more athletic appearance than I do.

Audi has a set of twins in its 2012 lineup which share characteristics not unlike my brother and me. The A6 and A7 share powertrains, wheelbase, and most interior parts including dash, console, technology, and seats. After having recently spent a week with the A7, getting into the A6 I saw far more similarities than differences between the two cars. The A7 has a sleeker shape with frameless door glass, a lower roofline, seats for just four people, and a hatchback. The A6 seats five, has slightly more rear legroom and headroom, and a traditional trunk lid.

The A6 also has a starting price about $10,000 less than the A7 ($7,371 less when equalizing features, according to TrueDelta.com), proving that high fashion costs more money than anonymous clothes. Especially in it’s as tested “Aviator Blue” (i.e. gunmetal gray), the A6 had both generic Audi-alike looks, and a generic German sedan look. While the tail lamps look like those on other Audi sedans, they also have a similar shape to the lamps gracing the rear of the current Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan.

That said, the A6 feels exactly like what a large European luxury sedan should be – but no more or less – special than that. All interior finishes are sufficiently premium, with the exception of the hard plastic which comprises the lower part of the center console between the front seats. Inside the A6 I drove was a somber environment, with all-black vinyl door panels and dark dash, seats and carpet- only broken by a swoop of trim which carries a line across the dash. The front console has two small cupholders immediately in front of the armrest, which itself conceals two small storage bins, one of which contains an iPod/USB connector.

The A6’s interior was sufficiently spacious for a large luxury sedan. Front seats are low and firm, offering adequate legroom, with 8-way power adjustment plus power lumbar; two memory positions can be stored for the driver’s seat. The back seat has comfortable accommodation for two (or tight quarters for three). At night, there is clever ambient lighting in the footwells and on door panels as well as the exterior door handles. Around back, the trunk is very spacious.

Audi has a tradition of building cars with modern, technical interiors, and the A6 carries on that tradition. The cabin uses soft-touch materials on the upper and lower dash, console, and doors. The instrument panel features clear, large speedometer and tachometer and smaller temperature and fuel gauges, plus a high-resolution color display which can display vehicle info (including speed), telephone, audio, or navigation information.

A high-resolution infotainment screen arcs up out of the dashboard when the car is started. The display of information in the A6 is truly impressive, even if the input or manipulation of information is not necessarily so. The A6 features class-leading technology with Google Maps-based navigation system and MMI-touch gesture recognition system for inputting destinations. As in the A7, audio controls in the A6 were unintuitive, especially the volume and track controls on the center console. The MMI knob advances through the menu structure with a counterclockwise twist, which seems opposite to convention. I had a difficult time with the iPod integration, needing to unplug and reconnect the device each time I started the car in order to make the sound come out (the screen would show the music was playing, but without any sound coming out of the speakers). I also experienced a failure of the screen to open when I started the car to reverse down a long driveway, so I had to rely on the mirrors and window rather than the backup camera for maneuvering the A6 out of the driveway. I covered the technology of these Audi A6/A7 twins pretty comprehensively in my A7 review; head over there to check out my specific comments about use of the system.

Audi’s A6 is a nicely-equipped luxury vehicle, yet some features don’t live up to luxury expectation. A small, non-panoramic sunroof was fitted to the test car. The 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat lacks adjustment for thigh support or bolsters. Too, the despite the fact that the A6 uses pushbutton start which enables the key to be kept in the driver’s pocket or purse, the A6 lacks standard proximity unlocking, meaning that the key (fob) must be used to unlock the car, but then stowed back in the driver’s pocket or purse.

The A6 is powered by a 3.0 liter supercharged TFSI V6 producing 310 HP, which is mated to an eight-speed (yes- eight!) tiptronic automatic transmission and Audi’s quattro AWD system. The transmission shifts smoothly and quickly in automatic mode, and can be manually shifted using the gear selector on the console or steering wheel paddles (which are not standard but were included in the $1500 20” Sport Package on the test vehicle). Manual shifts are rapid and precise, and occur promptly when selected by the paddle shifters. On the road, the A6 feels to me like it packs more than 310 HP; Audi claims a 0-60 mph time of 5.4 seconds, which is totally believable. The big sedan always feels connected and confident, with plenty of power. The powertrain has a dynamic mode in which downshifts come even more quickly, as does acceleration. While the A6 was comfortable and capable around the suburbs, it was involving and plenty of fun on my favorite curvy back roads. During my time in the A6, I covered slightly fewer than 200 miles, mostly around town. The average speed shown on the trip computer was 22 mph, with an average fuel economy of 17.2 MPG, which is less than the EPA city estimate in the 19/28/22 city/highway/combined rating.

The 2012 Audi A6 3.0 TFSI quattro Automatic Tiptronic Sedan has a starting price of $49,990. Options included $475 for Aviator Blue metallic paint; $4220 for Premium Plus package (18” wheels, Audi navigation plus with MMI Touch; Audi Connect; Xenon Plus headlights with LED DRLs, front and rear parking sensors; HD radio, and 7” color driver information screen); $1500 for Sport Package (19” wheels with summer performance tires, sport suspension, three-spoke steering wheel, and wheel-mounted shift paddles); and $500 Audi Side Assist. Including the $875 destination charge, total price was $57,470. TrueDelta.com calculates that an A6 like our tester is $4,147 cheaper than a comparably-equipped BMW 535i xDrive.

New for 2012, the A6 is a contemporary, competitive vehicle in the European luxury sedan segment. While the A6 is relentlessly well engineered and assembled inside and out, it seems to lack passion. It executes perfect downshifts, has a powerful, capable powertrain, and precise steering. Small details are present, like motorized front seatbelt tensioners to retract any tension in the belt, and built in hooks at the top of the trunk onto which grocery bags can be hooked. Despite all of its features, the Audi’s appearance is a bit anonymous, especially compared with its sibling A7. In this competitive segment which includes the BMW Five-Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Audi would do well to bring more emotion to the A6.

Audi provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Author: Kevin Miller

As Autosavant’s resident Swedophile, Kevin has an acute affinity for Saabs, with a mild case of Volvo-itis as well. Aside from covering most Saab-related news for Autosavant, Kevin also reviews cars and covers industry news. His “Great Drive” series, with maps and directions included, is a reader favorite.

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7 Comments

  1. Your brother sounds pretty cool!

  2. auto savant sounds more like auto ignorant sometimes

  3. Okay, so what would you recommend in this segment, then? I love the bmw’s styling, but it’s sluggish from start. The a6 doesn’t have this problem, but it’s kinda boring. The e series just doesn’t work for me. The Lexus sounds great and moves fast, but styling is boring and the nag system doesn’t allow input while moving.

    I want a sedan with some space and luxury, but also fun to drive. Any thoughts?

  4. I’m also interested in the answer to Steve’s question. What is your recommendation? I have the same dilemma.

  5. Buying a car in this class is a big money decision and all comes down to personal choice. Just because I felt the A6 lacked passion or thought the 535i too bulky doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same way.

    I’d recommend driving the E-Class, the 5-series, and the A6. Spend some time playing with the inerior’s features and their interface methods, as well as test-driving each over roads representative of where you drive.

    Then, test drive one or two “outliers”, maybe the A7 or CLS, maybe Saab 9-5 Aero or Hyuidai Genesis- just as a reality check. Then pull the trigger on the one you like the best- and enjoy.

  6. I recently bought a 2012 A6 3.0 Quattro. I test drove the BMW 535i and Mercedes-Benz E550 4Matic. The BMW was a sportier ride but the interior was spartan and stiff…almost sterile. The Merc was outstanding comfort but any add ons to get to the level of amenities in the A6 were exorbinant. We chose the Premium Plus package for all the core tech items and the overall quality of the care inside and out has been outstanding. The performance of the A6 is not as sporty as the Beemer but better than the Merc. The more we drive our A6 the more we discover about the little attention to details that Audi’s engineer put in our car. Some reviewers quibble over the layout of the MMI but once you adjust a bit you’ll discover that the knob and button placement is optimized in a circle around your arm/hand when it is rested on the adjustable arm rest and shifter knob. If you drive with both hands on the wheel, the exact same functionality of the center console MMI is replicated on the knobs and buttons on the steering wheel – you do not have to EVER let off the wheel to do any of the MMI functions. The Bluetooth/phone connectivity is great – the car uses the functionality (contacts, recently dialed, missed calls, etc) of the phone not the car. All materials in the interior are what you see, if it looks like wood it is REAL wood, if it looks like brushed aluminum it is brushed aluminum, and the leather is real not vinyl. Finally, small but telling details. When washing the car I began to appreciate the fit and finish. All areas where water can collect (gas filler area, wiper stowage, etc) have drain holes to whisk away the water. All door seams are filed smooth (no cuts from washing wheel wells, under doors, drying inside of door sills, etc) everything is smooth and well finished. All doors and trunk openings are triple sealed. I have owned new Tahoes, Honda Accords, and several other cars. The A6 is a beautiful piece of engineering that we love more and more the more we drive it. We are blessed to own one.

  7. BTW, thanks for an outstanding in-depth review. Unfortunately we did not see your review until after we bought our car but it would not have mattered. Your review was dead on with the exception of the quibble over the MMI. Any new owner should expect to have to learn their new car’s quirks. With something like this car the payoff is more than worth the effort. My only harsh criticism is the cup holders…I wish they were bigger, not 32oz Big Gulp big, just bigger than a cup of coffee big. Thanks again!

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