How mid-size got its groove back

Behind the Wheel | Six Sigma: 2012 Audi A6

I fondly remember my father’s 1988 Audi 5000, both of them. After the first one he owned had run its course, he went about purchasing the exact same one again. Same color, same interior, same everything. It was then, despite its infamous foibles, that I was introduced to German engineering, a course on how to drive a manual, and a love for cars. Turning 16 couldn’t come soon enough, but two months before my birthday he got a Ford Taurus. I wept.

A few years later Audi renamed their entire lineup, the 5000 would eventually become the A6, and four generations later the car has never looked better. The 2012 Audi A6 ($41,000+) grows a substantial 3 inches from last year, taking some of its design cues from the all new Audi A7 and its menacing fascia ups the ante with a pair of LED headlight strips that were designed with lightning bolts as inspiration. Seriously.

A6 drivers also get to steal the A7’s power plant, a supercharged 3.0 liter 310 horsepower (325 lb-ft of torque) mill mated to an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission. A more miserly, Earth/wallet friendly 2.0 turbocharged engine is available, which is good for 211 hp/258 lb-ft and found in the A4. It nets a difference of about 6 mpg.

The Audi Drive Select that comes standard is, simply stated, a beautiful thing — allowing drivers to dial-in the steering, transmission, engine dynamics and suspension. The difference between “comfort” and “dynamic” is palpable. Hitting the button to change the temperament isn’t quite the same as sitting shotgun in Bumblebee while he transforms, but it’s not far off. Some of the other standard features such as push button start, iPod integration and LED tail lights once impressive are now standard fare in the A6.

However, once you check a few of the boxes on the options menu, you can take the A6 (and its price) to all new heights.

Adding the brilliant Audi Connect allows you to experience your navigation interface through a most-welcome Google Earth experience. It also adds the benefit of transforming the A6 into a $50,000 luxury rolling hotspot. Tick off the night vision option, and you’re provided with infrared technology that allows for 1,000 feet of down-road visibility in addition to alerting the driver when it identifies animals and people. Prefer to not worry about cruise control? Check off adaptive cruise control. Worried that passive cruising will make you a less engaged driver? Check off the optional Head Up Display that throws all the information from your gauge cluster onto the windshield to avoid the glance dance.

Despite its understated ride, the A6 is far from boring. It avoids flashy cues, but has great road presence. A car this size with 310 horsepower and Quattro is a great combination. Merging is delightful, there’s plenty of room for friends and the family, and the trunk swallows a vacation’s worth of luggage. Sure its price escalates to $70k just as quickly as the A6 can hit 60 mph, but that’s the price you pay for progress. Now, if I could only convince my 16 year old-self of the same thing…

Buy Now: $41,000+