By Twain Mein

Audi introduced the mid-sized A6 sedan in 200. It had an optional 4.2 liter V8 featuring 300 horsepower, swollen fender flares to accommodate low-profile 40-series tires, and a more performance-oriented handling package to compete with the BMW 540i. The A6 4.2 was a practical and roomy sedan with all-wheel drive, luxury, and class leading handling and power. It was voted a Top 10  by Car and Driver in its inaugural year and in 2001. This 4.2 variant is the spiritual predecessor to the 3.0 TFSI (aka, supercharged 6-cylinder) I recently tested.

Audi's singleframe grille

It’s clear that in 12 years, Audi hasn’t sat idle. In fact, the new A6 3.0 TFSI blows away its predecessor. Though the new model has virtually the same price (refer to table below), similar power output and weight, the new car is 21 percent quicker while still featuring 22 percent better combined gas mileage.

 

2000 Audi A6

2012 Audi A6

Price (similarly optioned)

$54,000

$57,000

Engine

4.2L V8

3.0L supercharged V6

Horsepower

300 hp @ 6,200 rpm

310 hp 5,500 – 6,500 rpm

Torque

295 lb.-ft. @ 3000 – 4000 rpm

325 lb.-ft. @ 2,900 – 4,500 rpm

Transmission

5-speed automatic

8-speed automatic

0 – 60 (source = Edmunds)

6.8 seconds

5.2 seconds

Quarter Mile

15.1 seconds at 93 mph

13.6 seconds at 102 mph

Curb Weight, mfr claims

4,024 lbs.

4,045 lbs.

Overall MPG

18 mpg

22 mpg

EPA Fuel Economy Estimates

17 city / 24 hwy

19 city / 28 hwy

Think about that. The price is the same, but the new version has 20 percent better acceleration and gas mileage. It's remarkable how Audi has continued to refine and improve, and the  improvements haven’t gone unnoticed. The 2012 A6 TFSI was a finalist in Motor Trend’s “Car of the Year” and again voted a Top 10 by Car and Driver.

Styling

I'm partial to the muscular A6 C5 platform that lasted from 1997-2004. From 2005-2011, with the C6 platform, Audi lost its styling edge with a bulbous front nose and huge grille. Debuting the C7 platform, for 2012, Audi has refined the A6 and given it a better-looking front end that incorporates its now signature LED lights and singleframe grille. The cheeky eyebrow LEDs, massive grille and slab sides that stretch out over the body are pleasing upgrades over last year’s model. The result is a purpose-built vehicle that hints at high speed cruising. The overall effect is handsomely executed, though not quite as dramatic.

2012 Audi A6

Driving impressions

While the looks are a pleasant improvement, driving this car is another story. It is the perfect Jekyll/Hyde. Around town, it is docile and relatively quiet. But hit the accelerator, and it positively takes off with a nice growl from the engine and exhaust. Handling is excellent as the adaptive suspension tightened the shocks while the engine squirted it from corner to corner. The 8-speed transmission is flawless and likely contributed to the amazing 22 mpg we saw.

For a large sedan, the A6 actually feels narrower than the Cadillac STS wagon we recently tested. Nevertheless, the A6 is easier to hustle along back roads and is easy to place into turns. The Audi’s adaptive suspension, which leverages electronics and hydraulics, is able to magically dial out body roll. At the same time, it provides a velvety ride under most circumstances. I was only able to “fool” the system in parking lots with speed bumps; on occasion, the suspension would crash a bit, especially if coming at a speed bump from an angle.

Leather-wrapped, three-spoke, multifunction steering wheel with shift paddles

Interior comfort and ergonomics

The interior is typical Audi — no sacrifices and indulgent.

The seats are supportive and beautifully appointed. Gauges are easy to read and controls fall easily at hand. Moving aft, there is excellent legroom and head room for rear seat passengers; plenty of space for folks six feet tall.

The much maligned MMI interface has been simplified and they now have “short cuts” available for things such as commonly used radio stations. And yes, pairing an iPhone to the Bluetooth system was quick and welcomed, providing drivers with hands-free phone operation that we have now taken for granted.

Value

Compared to its 2000 year predecessor, this newest model really is an incredible evolution. Even though the sticker price has remained largely unchanged, the capabilities, efficiency, and refinement of this new car are remarkable. You get a lot of content and advancements for, essentially, the same price for a car that was offered 12 years ago.

Seven inch color driver information display

Conclusion

The 2012 Audi A6 TFSI serves its heritage proud. It is more than just an incremental improvement; it is a dramatic and palpable improvement in power, fuel efficiency and handling. It provides a handsome option to those normally predisposed to BMWs with excellent acceleration, handling and gas mileage.

2012 Audi A6 quattro

Engine: 3.0-liter supercharged V6 engine with FSI direct injection
Horsepower: 310 hp 5,500 – 6,500 rpm
Torque: 325 lb.-ft @ 2,900 – 4,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with Tipronic
Fuel consumption: 19 city / 28 hwy / 22 mpg observed
Base price: $49,900
Price as tested: $57,470

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