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As Audi continues its relentless march on the turf occupied by BMW and Mercedes-Benz, it's also whipping its lineup into fighting shape with a uniform look and more evenly divided price points. That shape-up works fine for the more attainable A4 and the social-climbing A8, but we're left wondering whether the plainer 2012 Audi A6 has been left behind.
Now that the A7 hatchback has wedged its way handsomely into the equation, the A6 has less to make it distinctive, even in its own family. The formal roofline can't compete with the A7's Kardashian rear; even the cockpit's a carbon copy, nothing solely its own. The best A6 is the supercharged version--but again, its 310 horsepower, all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission are identical to the A7's drivetrain. To justify the cheaper A6 four-cylinder, for thousands less than the A7, you'd have to accept the shortcomings of its continuously variable transmission, overlook the "smaller" A4 sedan's quite large cabin, and pass over the fact that the A6's fifth passenger seat is a token distinction over its sibling rival.
The A6 kills in tech features, but it's nothing we haven't seen before in the A8 and A7. Google Earth navigation maps leave us goggle-eyed at their marketing and digital brilliance, and in-car wireless Internet access isn't an Audi invention--it's just common sense, for any family with iPads or commuters with hotspot-seeking passengers. The A6's rearview camera and blind-spot monitors are worth adding to the standard Bluetooth connection, and if your budget's up for it, so is the dazzling Bang & Olufsen 15-speaker sound system, offered only on the V-6 Prestige model.
With the attractive, expensive A7 a small reach up in price, and the roomy A4 widely bargained down, the A6 has some sales work cut out for it. We can think of only a few user cases for it, including technophiles who won't have a normal heartbeat until they too have Google Earth and wifi in their cars before everyone else, and design snobs who carry Dwell in their messenger bags, and care more about the dash font than the way the A6 dashes from crest to curve.
With nothing but a more conservative shape to call its own, we'd say those buyers are bound to be few and far between. Mercedes and BMW sell style-conscious spin-offs of their core sedans, but those vehicles--the CLS and the 5-Series GT--don't detract so much from the mainstream E-Class and 5-Series. The A7 wholly renders the A6 less appealing and not much less expensive, giving you far more reason to look elsewhere--even within Audi's own showrooms.
- The small miracle of supercharging
- Great four-cylinder fuel economy
- Striking interior styling and materials
- We're goggle-eyed over Google Earth mapping
- In-car wireless Internet means quiet passengers
Next: Interior / Exterior »
- Four-cylinders are CVT-only
- Nowhere near as appealing as the A7
- Steering better, still not transparent
- Fifth seat isn't, really
- Are you ready for a $70,000 A6?