Reviews

2012 Audi A6 Walk Around

The 2012 Audi A6 has a longer wheelbase (by 2.7 inches) but is shorter overall (0.5 inch), and also wider (0.8 inch), so it's better balanced and looks more athletic. It's taller (0.4 inch) but still has a beautifully low coefficient of drag of 0.26, compared to the old body's 0.29 cD. Great stats.

It's taken a few years, but we've gotten comfortable with Audi's big mouth. Fishmouth was a bold design, and they pulled it off. Others have copied it, so it must be a success. The A6 is totally relaxed with it, especially in charcoal. The A6 has a beautiful face now, with its big black grille.

Excellent execution of the shapely aluminum hood, horizontal air intakes, and wraparound headlamps, long sleek and sharp. Tidy red S on the A6 3.0T for supercharged. Shoulders like a racecar, aluminum front fenders. Beautiful window and roofline with cool little sharkfin antenna, another thing Audi invented. Little upturned tail. Audi all the way.

Interior

The Audi A6 seats five, although the rear center seatback doubles as a fold-down armrest so it's not contoured for a human back, and it straddles a driveline tunnel. Rear legroom of 37.4 inches isn't bad.

The A6 interior exudes style and class. One arc flows gracefully into the next, on the dash and door panels, from vents to grab handles. On the 3.0T, the wood is walnut, the trim brushed aluminum.

The leather is beautiful and grainy enough to feel, especially sliding in and out, leaving us longing for slick Acura leather. On a five-hour interstate run from Seattle to Portland, the A6 seat gets a B in the $50K class. The seats were redesigned with ergonomics in mind, says Audi, but still we couldn't find pressure points that felt perfect, with the standard 8-way power heated seats with lumbar. We all have different tastes and shapes, that's the hard thing about critiquing seat comfort.

We like the function and style of the Tiptronic transmission shifting paddles (Hyundai appears to have copied them in the new Veloster, but blew it by adding wings). The lovely tachometer and speedometer, with clean numbers and needles in organic white light, are the best. The information from needle-on-numbers goes straight to your brain, without the distraction of a fancy face on a gauge.

Between the tach and speedo there's a big space for stacks of digital information; instead of having to scroll through one report at a time, the A6 shows you three or four, including DTE, distance to empty, data that should be easy to find but often isn't. To get more info you easily thumb-scroll on the steering wheel (some cars make you dangerously reach around the steering wheel and push a button). You can also view the navigation illustrations there, a safe place to put that information because your eyes don't have to travel. Google Earth is too fun to watch while you're driving.

If only Audi would stop trying to reinvent things, for example human intuition. For more than a hundred years, people have turned knobs by cranking clockwise to increase and counterclockwise to decrease. Audi sees it differently on the satellite radio, as station numbers scroll up and down on the popup screen. Oh sure you can adjust, by remembering it works backwards each time, but it's one more distraction and interruption to your brain.

We called the navigation program Clueless in Seattle. Our passenger had a talking GPS on her $49 (with plan) cellphone, so we programmed the two systems together, to get from the airport to an address downtown. Two yakking voices in the driver's ear, telling him totally different things at different times. Most of the time the cellphone was right, while the car drove us in circles. Fifty bucks beats $57k, moral to the story somewhere. But apologies to the yakking voices. Sometimes you want to hear a comforting voice with guidance. The A6 makes it easy with a button on the steering wheel, so you don't have to reach to the nav system.

As for Audi's MMI, or Multi Media Interface (not Man Machine Interface as we keep thinking), it's not so bad, it's less distracting than a touch screen, because you don't have to reach; man and machine interface via a dial on the console at man's right hand. There's an amazing amount of information at your fingertips, for example Google Earth, T-Mobile in-car Wifi, even Google search. The dial is surrounded by four buttons like square corners, which go intuitive places, so you soon figure it out. It takes longer to figure out what the icon labeled Car means.

If point-and-clicking is too tedious, you can spell out your navigation requests on a tablet-like space with your fingertip. We were surprised by how well it read scribbling while driving. Slower than voice, but at least it understands you; and it's not really slower because you don't have to say it six times and finally give up in frustration after bringing it back from all the wrong places. We wonder what it does with misspellings.

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