Audi’s redesigned and recently relaunched A6 is superbly equipped to not just cope with but actively deal with the challenges presented by Canadian winter roads, managing them with the almost magical capabilities of its quattro all-wheel-drive system.
And it coddles its driver in heated leather seats while his or her hands are wrapped around its heated steering wheel’s thick rim.
But it offers up an unexpected little surprise and delight on a chilly winter morning when you discover the aluminum surface on the centre console covered in a transparently-thin rime of hoar frost, a delicate and ephemeral natural tracery that fades within minutes of being noticed.
It’s the kind of thing that if the A6 were built by a Japanese luxury brand, you might at one time have seen touted in Zen-like television spots along with rocks and trees and babbling brooks. In the Audi’s case though, you can rest assured it’s a purely coincidental phenomenon created by employing real aluminum instead of painted plastic. And something that would likely cause the A6’s German designers’ brows to crease in mild frowns.
Spend some time with the A6 3.0L TFSI and you get more than just a sense that Audi, in creating this latest-generation A6, hasn’t deviated from the almost passionately puritanical function over form approach it has traditionally adopted.
Which is not to say the A6’s form is at all hard on the eyes. On the contrary, but the A6’s about-the-same-sized bodywork was likely formed by as many hours in a wind tunnel as in the design studio. And while carrying Audi’s unique and by now well recognized new millennium look forward into a seventh generation, it’s understated enough that it doesn’t, at least in the test A6’s Dakota Grey paint, attract a lot of attention. The looks you do get though are likely appreciative.
The A6’s lightweight structure – at 1,835 kg, it’s 36 kg lighter than the previous generation – represents a no-nonsense approach, too, composed of 20 per cent aluminum and the rest steel with improved crash-worthiness designed in.
The interior has a function-driven look and feel as well. It’s roomy, but on the test car, which was equipped with the S Line sport package, I found the black and sturdy-feeling Nougat Brown leather a not particularly happy contrast. And the brushed and polished alloy trim pieces, while classy, perhaps gave it a little bit too severely techno-look (wood trim is available to those seeking a more traditional ambiance).
That can’t really be construed as a serious complaint, however, just a matter of individual perception. And there’s nothing negative to report about the well-shaped seats up front, or the fat-rimmed wheel, or the control layout that places most of the things you need to interact with on the sloped console panel that also holds the gearshift lever.
Rear-seat passengers don’t travel second class either. Their seats are heated, too, and there’s decent room in all directions. The 60/40 rear seatback opens a wide hatch into the trunk, which offers on its own 530 litres of cargo room.
And, as you’d anticipate from the A6’s $65,700 price, there are plenty of features from Bluetooth to heated power leather seats, an electrically adjustable wheel, dual-zone climate control and a good sound system. But, as you’d also expect, there are plenty of options available, and the test car came with $12,600 worth of them, including Bose Surround Sound, head-up display, navigation, adaptive cruise, ventilated seats, sexy LED headlights, night vision, active lane assist and much, much more.
All in all, it’s a cabin that will allow the owner who doesn’t really get worked up about performance to simply drive the thing about his or her daily business without giving the high level of competence it’s providing much thought. But for someone for whom how a car drives is important, it’s a great interface with the car’s mechanical package.
Under the hood is a 3.0-litre V-6 with direct injection and a supercharger, which combine to produce 310 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque through an eight-speed automatic to one of the best all-wheel-drive systems available.
With eight ratios to work with and all that power, the A6 can launch itself to 100 km/h in less than six seconds, quickly select a gear (or the driver can with the S Line paddle shifters) that will let you poke it into a hole in downtown traffic, or cruise effortlessly and efficiently on the highway.
Fuel economy ratings are 11.3 litres/100 km city and 7.4 highway. I averaged a touch more than 10 litres/100 km in semi-rural driving and, on my hilly stretch of four-lane at normal cruising speed, 8.8.
From behind the wheel, the A6 feels wonderful. The driving position can be set up perfectly, the gauges are framed by the wheel, all-round vision is good and the supercharged V-6 starts up with an eager rush. How quickly you move off depends on how exuberant you are with the pedal, but with quattro drive there’s no drama, just a surge of acceleration up through the gears.
And, as the weight comes on the steering, you feel how directly connected to the wheels it is and how readily the front end responds. The brake pedal has the same immediacy and a nice touch. The suspension connects you to the road, as intended, rather than isolating you, but also doesn’t punish you. It’s a car that would be equally at home on an icy cottage road, or cruising at 200 km/h-plus.
The premium mid-size category is the auto industry’s sweet spot and this latest A6 stands fender-to-fender with the best of its classmates.
2012 Audi A6 3.0L TFSI Premium Plus
Type: Sports sedan
Base Price: $65,700; as tested, $78,300
Engine: 3.0-litre, DOHC, V-6 (supercharged)
Horsepower/torque: 310 hp/325 lb-ft
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.3 city/7.4 highway; premium gas
Alternatives: BMW 5-Series, Infiniti M, Mercedes E-Class, Acura TL, Cadillac STS, Lexus GS