Over the past three years, the fight for first place among the luxury carmakers has been heating up, with leaders Mercedes-Benz and Lexus being challenged by BMW – and now by Audi.
Audi’s 2012 A6 3.0 is the latest entry in the field, taking the battle to the valuable territory previously held by the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5 Series.
The base price of $49,900 is close to that of Mercedes’ E350 and BMW’s 535i. For the money, the buyer gets a comparably attractive, nicely appointed four-door sedan with good seat room for five passengers and 22 mpg combined fuel economy.
However, the Audi A6 also comes with a 310-horsepower, supercharged V6 engine and 8-speed Tiptronic transmission. It has excellent brakes that provide faster acceleration and a shorter stopping distance than its two direct competitors. And it comes standard with Audi’s class-leading quattro all-wheel drive system. Similar systems are extra-cost options on the competition.
The price of our test car had ratcheted up to $61,530, reflecting the customer’s ability to build these cars to almost any level of luxury desired. The additional money paid for a Sport package with bigger wheels and sport suspension, and a Prestige package including navigation, Audi Connect emergency contact system, and a sweet Bose surround-sound system.
Audi’s software interface system, developed in its Palo Alto labs, is the most advanced in the business and includes a character-recognition touch system as well as advanced speed recognition and 3D screen information.
And there’s more on the options list that our test car didn’t have, including a Bang & Olufsen audio upgrade for $5,900 and a safety systems upgrade, with adaptive cruise control and night vision, for another $5,800.
When we compare this new model, which will be at the Audi dealers as of this week, to its competitors, it’s easy to summarize our impressions.
What we liked
The Audi interior and the Audi electronics combine to make occupants feel as if they are in the comfortable media room of a wealthy, high-tech audiophile, rather than in an automobile. Power and handling stability combine to provide the driver with a sense of confidence, while passengers are free to enjoy the interior ambience.
What we didn’t like
We’ve never gotten used to the large, open-mounted front grille that is now Audi’s signature, though the grille on the A6 isn’t as overwhelming as the one on the A8. Audi also puts less emphasis on driving attributes like steering feel, which both Mercedes and BMW excel in, and advanced safety systems, the forte of Mercedes-Benz.
We wouldn’t take this car to the racetrack, but it would be our first choice for a day cruising on the coast or an evening at the opera.
Just the facts
Vehicle: 4-door, 5-passenger sedan with front-engine, all-wheel-drive chassis
Engine: 3.0-liter supercharged V6 with direct fuel injection, 310 hp, 325 lb.-ft. of torque
Transmission: 8-speed Tiptronic automatic
Length: 193.9 in.
Weight: 4,155 lbs.
Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, 22 mpg combined
Performance: 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds; quarter-mile in 13.4 seconds at 109 mph
Base price: $49,900
Price as tested: $61,530 with Prestige and Sport packages, LED headlights and Audi Side Assist