2012 Audi A6 Review and Prices

Last Updated: May 19, 2011

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2012 Audi A6 Buying Advice

The 2012 Audi A6 is the best car for you if you want a redesigned midsize luxury sedan that delivers ample comfort with a dash of sportiness, a well-developed sense of European style, and a full range of high-tech amenities.

The 2012 Audi A6 is all new with fresh – though familiar – styling inside and out, new tech features, and a simplified powertrain lineup limited to a V-6 engine and standard all-wheel drive. The 2012 A6 kicks off the seventh design generation of a stylish four-door that competes with European luxury sedans like the BMW 5-Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, as well with Asian entries such as the Infiniti M and Lexus GS. The redesigned A6 line coming to the U.S. does not include the A6 Avant; that station wagon model is being sold only in overseas markets for model-year 2012.

Should you buy the 2012 Audi A6 or wait for the 2013 Audi A6? The 2012 A6 breaks from the gate as a comprehensively developed car, and buying one makes you first on your block with a brand-new model. Wait for the 2013 A6 if you’re inclined to bet Audi will add a fuel-economy-minded turbo four-cylinder engine option. Return of the Avant body style and addition of a gas-electric hybrid and a high-performance S6 model are among other likely future A6 developments, though if they’ll start rolling in as early as model-year 2013, only Audi knows.

2012 Audi A6 Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Audi A6 replaces an A6 design introduced for model year 2005 and facelifted for model-year 2009. At first glance the redesigned 2012 Audi A6 looks much like that facelifted 2009 version but assorted differences range from relatively minor to significant.

Though the 2012 A6’s wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear axles) increases by 2.7 inches, the car’s exterior dimensions change little. The most noticeable effect is to reduce the front overhang -- the part of the car that rides ahead of the front wheels. It’s about three inches shorter than before, which makes for a more proportionate-looking package.

Audi’s signature bold front grille remains, flanked by narrower headlamp clusters than before. The lamps incorporate LED daytime running lights, with full LED headlamps newly optional and billed as energy-savers. Despite its front-wheel-drive-based basic design, the 2012 A6 has the proportions of a rear-wheel-drive sedan. That’s evident in the relatively long hood, an important design cue because all of the A6’s key competitors are rear-wheel-drive based. The new A6 continues Audi’s recent sedan styling themes, with muscular arches over the front and rear wheels and a dramatic crease running along the body side and sweeping slightly upward to meet the rear bumper. The roofline remains mainly horizontal to help maximize rear-seat headroom; this also helps delineate the car from its swoopy “four-door coupe” showroom sibling, the A7.

The 2012 Audi A6 is a roomy five-seater, though interior measurements remain about the same as the outgoing model’s, despite the longer wheelbase (the length of which often determines the size of a car’s cabin). The trunk is deeper and wider than before, however, and gains some 2 cubic feet for a generous total of 18 cubic feet. Audi takes pains to use as much weight-saving aluminum as possible in the 2012 A6 and the car is some 66 pounds lighter than its predecessor, despite added hardware.

Audi’s been a pacesetter for cabin sophistication for years and the 2012 Audi A6 defends the tradition with a leather-clad passenger compartment neatly trimmed in aluminum-look and wood trim. Quality materials are used throughout. Instrument-panel gauges are large and legible, with an elegantly styled dashboard that wraps around the driver and front passenger. The steering wheel neatly incorporates controls for select functions without becoming too cluttered in the bargain. A locking glovebox provides a secure space for cameras and other smaller objects, and a fold-down rear armrest features another small storage compartment (cupholders for the rear console, however, are optional).

The interior can be further dressed up with assorted color and trim treatments, including an S Line sport package that includes extra-supportive sport seats and specific detailing. An optional ambient-lighting array features white LEDs that illuminate the door handles, door-trim panels, front foot-wells, sun visors, and the center console.

The most basic 2012 A6 versions have straightforward dashboard controls but things begin to get complicated when the car is equipped with the latest version of Audi’s MMI multimedia control system. This type of interface has become common among high-end luxury cars, essentially to help reduce dashboard clutter. MMI governs the audio and navigation systems and various vehicle-data and adjustments not with traditional buttons, switches, and dials but with a menu-driven control system. MMI’s cues and directions appear on a large color LCD display that folds from the center of the dashboard when the A6 is switched on.

Menus and functions are controlled by a rotary pushbutton that’s surrounded by associated function buttons, all of which are mounted on the center console between the front seats. While not as instinctive to operate as conventional analog controls, this latest version of MMI works well enough and the color display – a 6.5-inch screen is standard, with an 8-inch screen optional – is among the clearest, sharpest, and most informative in the business.

Mechanical: The 2012 Audi A6 offers one engine/transmission combination. Overseas editions offer multiple gas and diesel engines but U.S. models are limited initially to the supercharged 3.0-liter gasoline V-6 also found in the sportier A7 sedan. It generates 310 horsepower and a lively 325 pound-feet of torque, ensuring strong launches and plenty of passing power. Audi pegs 0-60 mph at around 5.5 seconds, impressive for a relatively small engine in large luxury sedan. By comparison, the base 2011 A6 came with front-wheel drive and used a 3.2-liter V-6 with 285 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque; quattro versions used a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 with 300 and 310, respectively.

The 2012 A6’s sole transmission is a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic. It includes Tiptronic manual-type gear control via the floor-shift lever or optional steering-wheel-mounted paddles. While official ratings weren’t available in time for this review, Audi says the new transmission helps the 2012 A6 realize a 6-percent boost in fuel economy over a comparable model-year 2011 version, which used a six-speed automatic transmission.

Standard on the 2011 Audi A6 is the automaker’s excellent quattro all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. In this application it normally splits engine power between the axles on a 40/60 front/rear basis designed to impart a sporty rear-wheel-drive feel. It automatically distributes power fore/aft as needed when tire slip is detected. A maximum 85 percent of the power can be sent to the rear wheels and up to 70 percent to the front. The setup contributes to excellent dry-road handling as well as added traction and control when the elements are inhospitable.

A structurally rigid design with a sophisticated four-wheel independent suspension and electromechanical variable-boost power steering affords dynamic handling and a smooth ride. The included Audi Drive Select Control system allows the driver to tailor steering, throttle and transmission response according to selectable modes for a more or less aggressive motoring experience. Optional is a sport suspension for more tenacious cornering abilities, though likely at the expense of a rougher ride.

While final 2012 Audi A6 U.S. specifications weren’t available in time for this review, standard driver-control features should include Audi’s Electronic Stability Program to help maintain secure passage through curves, traction control to enhance low-speed wet-road abilities, and antilock disc brakes with Brake Assist and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution for secure stops.

Features: The 2012 Audi A6 comes packed with all expected necessities, including leather upholstery, satellite and HD Radio, and Bluetooth hands-free mobile-phone connectivity. Safety features include torso-protecting front-side airbags and head-protecting side-curtain airbags that cover all outboard passengers; outboard side-impact airbags for rear-seat riders should again be optional.

The 2012 Audi A6 offers long list of available high-tech safety and security systems. These include a rear backup camera for easier and safer parking and Audi Side Assist blind-spot monitoring that alerts of unseen vehicles to the side and rear. The Audi Active Lane Assist system gives audible and visual warnings if the A6 driver inadvertently wanders over highway lane markers – and it will gently “nudge” the car back into its original lane via the electromechanical steering system. Among other functions, Audi Active Lane Assist can also help prevent skidding by briefly boosting or reducing the degree of power-steering support.

A newly optional color head-up display on the 2012 Audi A6 projects vehicle speed and other information onto the inside of the windshield in the driver’s field of vision. It can also be used to display an otherworldly infrared view of the road ahead, beyond the headlamps’ range, via a new Night Vision Assistant system that automatically detects and alerts to the presence of pedestrians. The 2012 Audi A6 also offers adaptive radar-based cruise control that can maintain a set distance from traffic ahead on the highway and can operate similarly in stop-and-go traffic.

Mixing dynamic and passive safety technology, Audi’s available Pre-Sense system works in conjunction with the cruise control, automatically initiating preventive protective measures – including tightening the seatbelts, closing the sunroof and side windows and priming the brakes to full stopping force – if it determines a collision is imminent. And an enhanced Audi Pre-Sense Plus option includes an automatic braking feature that automatically engages the brakes about half a second before a collision occurs.

As in the A7 and A8, the 2012 A6’s optional navigation system includes Google Earth maps, which provide a real-world view of the road in overhead or 3D views. It also affords destination input via fingertip handwriting-recognition on a small center-console touchpad; the pad also accesses six radio-station presets. Both the Google mapping and the handwriting-recognition can be described as gimmicks, though they’re sure neat to show off, especially Google Earth, which can zoom out to a global view or in to as close as 30 yards, providing a news-copter-chase view of one’s own commute.

Optional audio systems on the 2012 Audi A6 include a 14-speaker, 600-watt Bose surround-sound array and a top-shelf 1200-watt 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen surround system that features speaker covers finished in polished aluminum.

2012 Audi A6 Prices back to top

Prices for the 2012 Audi A6 weren’t announced in time for this review but we expect only a modest boost over a similarly equipped model-year 2011 A6. That suggests a 2012 A6 base price around $52,000. (Base-price estimates in this review include the manufacturer’s mandatory destination fee; Audi’s fee for the 2011 A6 was $875.)

Option pricing on the 2012 A6 should be similar to the 2012 Audi A7’s. That means ’12 A6 buyers can expect to pay around $5,800 for a package that bundles the adaptive cruise control, Pre-Sense, Side Assist, Night Vision, power heated folding side mirrors, LED headlamps and the head-up display. Heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel should cost around $450. A package that includes MMI navigation, front and rear parking sensors and other amenities should be priced at about $3,600.

2012 Audi A6 Fuel Economy back to top

EPA fuel-economy ratings for the 2012 Audi A6 were not finalized in time for this review but expect a rating of around 19/28 mpg city/highway. By comparison, the 2011 A6 sedan with quattro, the supercharged 300-horsepower V-6 and six-speed automatic transmission rated 18/26 mpg. 

Among key rivals, the BMW 535i sedan with a turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder with 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque and linked to an eight-speed automatic rated 19/29 mpg with AWD for model-year 2011. And the 2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic AWD sedan with a 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet and a seven-speed automatic rates 17/24 mpg.

2012 Audi A6 Release Date back to top

The 2012 Audi A6 should be available beginning in September 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Audi A6 back to top

Expect this redesigned seventh-generation Audi A6 to remain in this basic form for several years, with a minor refresh coming no sooner than model-year 2015. The U.S. version will probably offer a second engine/transmission combination in addition to the V-6, likely to boost the automaker’s corporate average fuel economy.

To that end, Audi’s overachieving 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct injected four-cylinder engine (211 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque)  and gearless continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) could join the A6 line sooner rather than later. Adding one of the European version’s turbodiesel engines is possible though not likely in the short term.

A gas-electric hybrid A6 is in the works, probably for model-year 2013, though a U.S. release has not been confirmed. An A6 hybrid could pair the aforementioned 2.0-liter four to an electric motor generator to deliver the combined equivalent of 256 horsepower and operate solely on battery power at speeds up to 62 mph, on gasoline power, or on a combination of the two as necessary. Audi initially projects a 0-60 mph time just over seven seconds for the A6 Hybrid with a combined city/highway fuel economy rating as high as 38 mpg.

European buyers can also choose a redesigned A6 Avant, and while that station wagon is not currently slated for U.S. release it may come stateside at some point in the coming years if there’s a demand for it. Likewise, a higher-performance S6 variant isn’t currently in the cards, though this could change. If that’s the case, expect it to come powered by the Audi A8’s 4.2-liter V-8 and include assorted performance-minded tweaks, including a sport suspension.

2012 Audi A6 Competition back to top

BMW 5-Series: Redesigned for model-year 2011, the always-impressive BMW 5-Series sedan and Gran Turismo hatchback should carry over with only minor changes for 2012. This remains one of the most pleasurable-to-drive midsize cars in the world, rewarding an enthusiastic driver with top performance. A 240-horsepower six-cylinder engine should again be standard on the 528i, with a 300-horsepower turbocharged six in the 335i and a 400-horsepower twin-turbo V-8 in the 550i for added thrust. An eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel-drive will likely again be standard, with the 535i alternately offering a six-speed manual and AWD. Myriad high-tech convenience and driver-control systems should again be available. Base prices are anticipated to range from around $46,500-$64,000.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class: With a midcycle makeover expected for model-year 2012, the E-Class should remain elegant and luxurious, with a measured degree of sportiness. Expect rear- and all-wheel-drive sedan, wagon, coupe, and convertible versions to continue with Mercedes’ usual engineering excellence and close attention to build quality. A new range of engines should include a 302-horsepower V-6 and a 402-horsepower 4.6-liter V-8 engine. The top E63 AMG models should be fitted with a 518-horsepower 5.5-liter V-8 with start/stop technology. Most models should come with a seven-speed automatic transmission.  Other relatively minor updates should include standard daytime LED running lamps and a revised steering wheel and audio system. Base prices should range from around $51,000-$90,000.   

Infiniti M: Redesigned for model-year 2011, this sporty sedan should continue for 2012 with only modest changes as a more-stylish Asian alternative to the European competition. It should again come in a 330-horsepower V-6 M37 version and a faster 420-horsepower V-8 M56 model, with both offering rear- or all-wheel drive. Meanwhile, an M35h gas/electric hybrid-powered model pairs a 3.5-liter V-6 gasoline engine with an electric motor/generator to boost both its power and fuel economy. Unlike many hybrids, which use a gearless CVT automatic, the M35h drives the rear wheels via a conventional seven-speed automatic transmission for more-spirited performance. Base prices should range from around $49,000-$60,000.

2012 Audi A6 Next Steps