2012 Audi A6 Driving Impressions

The 2012 Audi A6 offers just two powertrains, the ageless 2.0 turbo and the newer 3.0 supercharged V6. It's all about efficiency, now.

We weren't able to drive the 2.0T, but we know that engine and it's flawless if you're content with 211 horsepower; it's certifiably smooth and relaxed at 80 mph. The CVT might be another matter. But if you don't need all-wheel drive, the 2.0T looks good, because you get the suspension, ride, style and interior for about $8000 less.

The supercharged V6 in the 3.0T feels like the perfect midsize luxury car engine. All the speed you need, silky fast acceleration (13.9 seconds in the quarter-mile, by the hotshoes at Car and Driver magazine), and a nearly spectacular 31.6 miles per gallon running with the cruise control set at 72 mph, on premium fuel. That's what we got, although the EPA's rating is 19 City/28 Highway. Puttering around town, we dropped as low as 16.

It's hard to get enough of driving the A6 with this engine, it's so smooth. The 8-speed Tiptronic transmission is seamless, in Drive mode (made by ZF in Germany). When shifting manually, you've got the neat racy paddles.

You can drive the A6 in a racy manner without holding back, except for safety of course. The unibody chassis is stiffer and lighter, with aluminum hood, front fenders, and suspension bits; and things like laser welds between the roof and side panels make a difference in rigidity. The Servotronic steering is electromechanical and speed sensitive, meaning it gets more precise as the car goes faster.

The versatile suspension stays flat and with you all the way. Our A6 was equipped with the optional Sport Package, including 19-inch wheels with summer performance tires and firmer suspension tuning. Over speed bumps and sharp edges at slower speeds, the ride can surprise you with a small shot now and then, but over unsmooth pavement at 50 mph there's no discomfort.

Quattro all-wheel drive seamlessly shifts power between the front and rear wheels according to the available grip. While cruising on the highway, the front/rear power distribution is split 40/60, but depending on traction demands it can vary from 15/85 to 70/30.

Drive Select, a standard feature, allows the driver to select from four modes (Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Individual) that adjust the transmission, power steering and engine to alter shift points, steering boost and throttle response. With this many options, one of them will be just right for what you're after. Maybe too many options, because you can spend forever trying to be a perfectionist, but that's another story.

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