published Saturday, January 7th, 2012

Audi A6 boosts carmaker’s U.S. sales for good reason

Our Audi A6 Quattro test car from Audi Chattanooga has a sexy new skin for 2012.
Staff photo by Mark Kennedy
Our Audi A6 Quattro test car from Audi Chattanooga has a sexy new skin for 2012. Staff photo by Mark Kennedy

FAST FACTS


Model: Audi A6 Quattro 3.0T.

Exterior color: Ice silver metallic.

Interior: Black.

Engine: 3.0-liter, supercharged V6.

Horsepower: 310.

Transmission: 8-speed automatic.

Dealer: Audi Chattanooga.

Price (as tested): $51,750.

Editor’s Note: Join Features Editor Mark Kennedy in this space each Saturday as he test-drives a new vehicle from a Chattanooga-area dealership.

I had a landlord years ago who drove home a new Audi sedan one day. As he was wiping down his new car with a chamois cloth, he told me one of his goals in life had been to own a piece of German engineering.

Now that German engineering has melded with a Dixie workforce at the new VW assembly plant here, some are hopeful VW’s luxury brand Audi might follow suit someday. Cross your fingers.

Meanwhile, there are signs Audi is already gaining cachet with America’s upscale import buyers. Audi’s redesigned A6 mid-sized sedan, assembled in Neckarsulm, Germany, is being credited with helping the brand’s U.S. sales surge 16 percent in recent months.

After test-driving a 2012 A6 Quattro at Audi Chattanooga this week, it’s easy to see why.

STYLING

Parked beside the outgoing model, our ice silver metallic version of the new A6 has tons more sex ap-

peal. In a luxury segment dominated by the BMW 5 series (which outsells the A6 at about a 6-to-1 clip), the redesign offers much-needed visual interest to go with the A6’s top-tier performance.

The horizontal lines of the new A6 even have names. The shoulder of the car is defined by the so-called “tornado line,” which transforms last year’s bar-of-soap exterior styling into something new and nicer. Another “dynamic line” lower on the door panels reflects light day and night.

Like all Audis, the A6 has a pretty face featuring the brand’s trademark trapezoid-shaped grille and four-ring emblem.

Attractive LED headlights bathe the road in high-intensity beams.

Inside, a dash makeover for 2012 has a simple elegance that’s hard to beat. The black-on-black interior in our test car was accented with brushed-aluminum inlays which look both classic and contemporary.

Tech fans will enjoy a retractable, 8-inch dash display that handles entertainment, navigation, communications and performance functions. (Hmm. Feels like a Jaguar XF.)

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

Our test car came equipped with Audi’s silky 3.0-liter supercharged engine, which makes 310 horsepower. Mated to Audi’s slick all-wheel-drive Quattro system, the top-of-the-line A6 is a near-perfect luxury car for the Chattanooga area’s mountainous terrain. Bring on the snow.

In rush-hour traffic on Highway 153 and Amnicola Highway, our A6 scampered up exit ramps. Even a stout, 30-mile crosswind could not buffet the rock-solid A6. The eight-speed automatic transmission shifted crisply.

Audi was an innovator in developing blind-spot technology, and our A6 test car’s “side-assist” option deploys radar to keep you safe from sideswipes. Warning lights on the side mirrors activate when cars appear in monitored areas. In Chattanooga’s twisting traffic, this option is one of the more practical safety features available today and likely will trickle down to mass-market vehicles in years to come. Adaptive cruise control and night-vision assistance are other available high-tech options from Audi.

Audi lets drivers dial in the A6’s driving dynamics to suit their preferences and road conditions. To control engine, transmission and steering settings, drivers can choose “comfort,” “balanced,” “dynamic,” or “individual” driving modes.

For those looking for A6 status on a budget, a four-cylinder, turbocharged, front-wheel-drive variant is available. The 2.0T A6 starts at about $41,000, about $10,000 south of our six-cylinder test car, according to John Adams, Audi Chattanooga sales manager.

BOTTOM LINE

Led by the gorgeous Q5 SUV and now the hot new A6, Audi is on a roll. Before they default to BMW or Mercedes models, more and more American buyers of European luxury imports will probably give Audi a look.

The new A6 is a big part of Audi’s growing arsenal in the war for market share. You heard it here first: The new A6 is cocked and loaded.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is the editor of the Times Free Press opinion pages and writes the Sunday “Life Stories” column. He also writes a Saturday automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for Best Community Lifestyles four times during his tenure. Before Chattanooga’s newspapers ...

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