Inspector Gadget was the cartoon featuring a robot policeman who had a never-ending supply of gadgets. The A6 may not be catching bad guys but it has plenty of gadgets. In fact, when you talk about this car you almost need to divide it into two parts: the automobile and the electronics.
Let’s start with the easy part. The Audi A6 is a great car. My test model was an all wheel drive Quattro with the 310hp, 3.0 liter supercharged engine. which does the job very well. Casual when you want to be, but with plenty of horsepower to push you back in the seat when it’s needed. The 8-speed (that’s right, 8 speeds) transmission is smooth and flawlessly gets the job done. You can slip into Tiptronic any time you want and play with the paddle shifters as well. There wasn’t a day when I didn’t think the A6 was up to whatever road came our way.
Looks are another issue. The A6 was redesigned for 2012 and I love the aggressive front end. Those vampire-killing headlights give a menacing glare on each side of a huge grille that dips to the bottom of the bumper. Air inlets on the bottom of each side make it even more serious. My test model had the Prestige package (a $6,880 option) which gives it a meatier look up front along with some skirting along the side. But as much as I love the front end, the rest is kind of a yawner. Sometimes I thought it looked like just another Toyota Camry (I can hear the Audi fanatics gathering their pitchforks now). Clean, but nothing special.
One thing that did impress me was the size of the trunk. It’s huge. Massive. It reminds me of those big American trunks from the 60’s. 14.1 square feet plus the rear seats fold down for the really long stuff.
All right, now it’s time for the fun stuff.
To start with, the A6 is not a car you just jump in and drive away. I got about a 10 minute orientation, and it barely scratched the surface. The A6 has an LED display that pops out of the dash when you start the car. I love the fact that you can hide it away with a touch of a button. On the other hand, it doesn’t blend into anything when it’s out in the open.
Below the shifter is a pad with a series of buttons that allow you to choose between radio, phone, navigation and media. There’s an inner set of buttons surrounding a dial that help you navigate when you’re inside each function. There’s also a button that says “car” for setting your drive select.
But those are only for newbies. After you’ve driven the car awhile you can use dials and buttons on the steering wheel to move through the desired functions. There’s a secondary display between the tach and speedometer that tells you most of what you need to know.
I had the car for a week and don’t think I came close to mastering the gadgetry. For example, I found the climate control system a little annoying. I figure when I hit the auto button it should find the right temperature without disturbing my world. The A6’s never did. However, on the last day I discovered there was a separate setting for “footbox temperature”. Suddenly, I understood why my feet were so darn cold.
I also never got to the bottom of the Audi Drive select. It gives you the chance to configure the drive characteristics exactly to your liking. You can choose between Comfort, Auto, Dynamic or Individual settings. I still haven’t figured out my sleep number, so finding my individual settings for the A6 was something I never quite managed.
Even those anti-vampire headlights are gadgets. They adaptively pivot up to 15 degrees depending on your speed and steering wheel input. And they just look so darn cool.
The A6 also has Audi Pre-Sense. The basic version will sense when you may be on the verge of hitting something, tightening the seat belts (kind of like mom holding you closer) while closing the windows and sunroof. (You can learn more about Audio Pre-Sense by checking out this video.)
As much as I loved all the gadgets, I didn’t find them particularly intuitive. The navigation system (which taps into Google earth to show more than just maps) was more complicated than it was worth. A couple of times I just used my phone’s GPS because its voice activated system was so much easier. There is also an electronic scratch pad that allows you to write letters and numbers. More work than a good voice system, but still a lot easier than using Audi’s dial system to enter an address.
But once you have them sorted out, all those toys will allow you to make the A6 our own. You can leave the display up all the time, or keep it hidden. You get to decide what kind of ride you want and what gear you need. Heck, you can keep your feet warm or cold depending on your whim.
Of course, this high-tech individualization is not cheap. While the base A6 starts out at around $42,000, my fully equipped test car came in at just over $61,000.
Which means don’t buy the A6 unless you’re ready to use all of the toys. My wife still hasn’t figured out the remote controls for the TV and cable system. The A6 gadgetry could cause a techno-meltdown.