New Car: 2012 Audi A6

About a decade ago, when Mercedes-Benz was plagued with quality problems and BMW was about to launch its curiously styled E60 5-series, the Audi A6’s rise to European executive-sedan favorite began. Behind its trademark grille lurked powerful engines (with 580 hp eventually available in the RS6); all-wheel drive was standard in many versions, and the fit and finish and attention to detail—especially in the interior—was enough to make the competition weep.

While we’re not so sure the wild, pseudo-sporty styling of the latest Mercedes E-class was a step forward, BMW has washed away a lot of sins with the current F10 5-series. Audi, therefore, needed to raise the aesthetic bar again with the next-generation A6—hopes were high, considering the beautiful A5 and A7 models by which the car would be bracketed. Audi has proven time after time its styling leadership among premium brands. Was the boxy and conservative design of the new A8 a singular aberration?

We are afraid not. Laying eyes on the A6 in a hidden studio near Audi's headquarters in Ingolstadt, Germany, we couldn't help but feel disappointed. But let's describe it in more detail first: The front end is dominated by Audi's new corporate grille, and it serves up a new headlamp treatment, one similar to that seen on the Sportback concept but not on the production A7 Sportback. The hood bulges slightly, as on the A4, and the longer wheelbase provided by a front axle that’s been pushed forward gives the new model a more muscular stance than its predecessor's. Order the radar-based cruise-control/distance-keeping system, and you get two black orbs where you expect the fog lights.

The side view is dominated by Audi's typical arcing greenhouse, a sharply folded upper character line, and a sloping trunk. The unobtrusively styled door handles of the predecessor have given way to bulkier units. The rear quarter is characterized by lighting units similar in shape to the A8’s, and a trunklid with the suggestion of a rear spoiler. It's an altogether pleasant shape, but a very conservative one as well, and it seems to us like someone chipped away at the A8’s boxy lines to reveal a bloated A4 underneath.

"The A6 never was a radical car," we are told by Audi, but that's not true; just look at the extremely aerodynamic Audi 5000 C3 (a direct A6 predecessor), or the Claus Potthoff–styled C5-generation Audi A6, with its almost TT-like trunk. We doubt that the S-line package, which Audi will offer later, makes much of a difference. On the A7, for example, it actually detracts from the visual experience. Perhaps it's a better bet to wait for the Avant if you want visual satisfaction.

As on the A8, the lighting technology is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the vehicle's exterior. Halogen front headlights are standard; xenon (with an LED light strip) and full-LED headlights are optional. With full LEDs, the A6 displays a particularly cold and technoid style, but in the quest for originality, the contour of the LED daytime-running-light strip changes direction perhaps one too many times. The rear lighting units are characterized by a wide, U-shaped lower strip—a new, but not an easily comprehensible, element. Audi will offer a number of aluminum wheels, from 16-inch to 20-inch diameters.
Thanks to: Car and Driver
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