If you’re in the market for a luxury sedan in the $50,000 range, your choices are rather numerous. And whichever vehicle you choose in that class, be it a Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus, Cadillac or Infiniti, you’re going to certainly get a lot of attributes.
Things like comfort, power and a smooth ride, combined with good road manners, and so on. Those should be a given, and things like media connectivity and voice-activated navigation are now also part of the must-have list as far as many buyers go.
Audi is just about to roll out its redesigned A6 as a 2012 model, and of course the new version has all the above attributes. To set themselves apart, they want to emphasize efficiency and technology. In past years, their Quattro all wheel drive system was their ace in the hole, but most other makers have now added similar systems to their cars.
For the efficiency side, new aerodynamic tweaks help the large A6 slip through the air very easily. Special attention was even paid to things like the shape of the exterior mirrors, underbody panels, and even the design of the taillight lenses. Every little bit helps these days.
Mechanically, the top engine in the car is a 3.0 liter V6 with a supercharger, good for 310 horsepower. No more V8s in Audi’s middle sedan, as worldwide concerns about consumption and emissions have left those often seen as wasteful. An 8-speed automatic transmission further aids in the fuel efficiency.
That engine and transmission – along with the Quattro all wheel drive – will be the first version of the A6 available. Soon there will also be a 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder (long popular in the smaller A4), and eventually a diesel engine choice too.
Still, the supercharged V6 configuration nets an EPA fuel economy rating of 19 mpg city and 28 highway. Not bad for a 4,045 pound sedan, which is actually 78 pounds lighter than the 2011 A6, thanks in part to the extensive use of aluminum body panels.
Okay, the efficiency part is dialed in. What about technology? Here too, Audi wows us a bit. They’ve integrated Google technology into the new A6 in order to enhance the connectivity for the driver and passengers. No, you won’t be able to surf the web while you drive, thankfully, but your passengers can. As part of an option package, the entire car becomes a Wi-Fi hot spot, and up to eight devices like laptops, iPhones and iPads can be connected to the Internet via the car.
For the driver, the Google web connection enhances the navigation system. The coolest thing from a visual standpoint is that the navigation display uses Google Earth in place of a standard drawn map. So when you’re looking for a location, you’re actually seeing a satellite image of buildings and landmarks.
And when searching for a destination (with the car stopped), you can access information on the place via the Internet for real-time vital statistics. For fun, I looked up the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. The display screen showed me the hours of operation, admission prices, what credit cards they accept, and even pictures of the museum so it could be easily recognized from the street.
After finding what you’re looking for via this Google navigation search, you can set the destination as you would in a traditional navigation system, and even call ahead (handy for getting a table at a restaurant) by one click of a button that places the call via your linked mobile telephone.
Audi will eventually update their other models with this system, but for now the A6 gets it exclusively. Of course there’s a monthly provider charge for accessing the web, and I’m told that should run about $30 a month.
Speaking of pricing, MSRP for the A6 3.0T with Quattro is $49,900. The Premium Plus package that includes the Google connectivity is $4,220, and my test car also had a sport package and a few other options, which brought the price to $57,470 with destination. The front wheel drive, four cylinder A6 2.0T will start at $41,700.
Sure, your choices are many when it comes to luxury sedans these days. But if technology is important to you, for now, Audi has the lead with its new A6.
I’ll see you down the road.
Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 8 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net Twitter: @dave_kunz