2012 Audi A6 vs. 2011 BMW 535i Comparison Test
Who Will Protect the 5 Series Legacy?
By Erin Riches
Aug 1, 2011
BMW has defined the rules in the midsize luxury sedan class for some time now. If the executives in Munich decide the 2011 BMW 535i should be quieter, gentler and less focused on performance, we half expected everyone else to follow suit.
But Audi didn't. The redesigned 2012 Audi A6 3.0 TFSI Quattro goes through a corner like no A6 before it, accelerates hard in a straight line and feels a lot like the 5 Series we used to love. But this isn't some one-dimensional homage, as Audi has also loaded the A6 with leading-edge technology to appease modern car guys and their iDevices.
And just like that, the 2012 Audi A6 has become the most desirable car in the midsize luxury sedan class, leaving the 2011 BMW 535i in the unfamiliar position of 2nd place.
I'm Your Biggest Fan
With this redesign, the A6 finally joins the A4, A5 and A7 on Audi's MLB chassis. It mounts the engine longitudinally, but places it farther back behind the front axle to lessen the sensation that you're in a front-drive-based Audi instead of a rear-wheel-drive Bimmer.
Notably, this A6 has 3 fewer inches of front overhang, which translates to less mass up front and helps the car respond more quickly to steering input. All A6s with the 3.0 V6 also get standard Quattro all-wheel drive. Its torsen-type center differential biases 60 percent of engine torque to the rear axle, so it steers more naturally under normal conditions.
Even with its all-wheel-drive hardware, the 2012 Audi A6's curb weight is within the BMW's ballpark. The use of aluminum body panels and suspension parts holds our Audi A6 tester to 4,175 pounds — just 100 more than the rear-drive 2011 BMW 535i. The two cars are within an inch of each other in length, width and height, while the BMW has an extra 2 inches of wheelbase (116.9 inches).
I Heart Forced Induction
Anyone would have a tough time coming up with an engine worthy of competing with BMW's turbocharged inline six-cylinders. The smooth, refined engines deliver the goods when you floor the throttle, while serving up a sweet soundtrack of induction noise and exhaust snarl.
1st Place: 2012 Audi A6
The new A6 takes over as the sport sedan of the midsize luxury car class. It's as luxurious and tech-laden as any rival, yet rewarding to drive on a back road or anywhere else.
2nd Place: 2011 BMW 535i
BMW cedes its crown. The athleticism might still be there, but it's buried under layers of isolation measures that make the 535i feel like a downsized 7 Series.
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