<b>YONKERS, NY — The redesigned Audi A6 has been significantly improved and now ties the Infiniti M37 for the top spot in Consumer Reports’ midsized luxury sedans Ratings. The Audi was tested as part of a group of four luxury sedans in the magazine’s January issue.
The Audi achieved an Excellent overall test score of 93, the same as the previously tested M37. The A6’s big jump in score from the 79 of the last A6 tested is the result of an inviting combination of strong acceleration, agile handling, a comfortable ride, and a quiet, well-finished interior.
“The redesigned Audi A6 is an impressive car and a joy to drive,” said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center in East Haddam, CT.
The full report on midsized luxury sedans will be available on www.ConsumerReports.org on November 22nd and in the January issue of Consumer Reports on newsstands December 6. Updated daily, Consumer Reports.org is the go-to Website for the latest auto reviews, product news, blogs on breaking news and car buying information. Check out CR’s ongoing Twitter feed at @CRCars.</b>
Fuel economy has not been a high priority for luxury-car buyers, but erratic gas prices and higher federal fuel-economy standards on the horizon are increasingly making automakers look for ways to improve gas mileage even in this category. The four cars tested in this group—the Audi A6, Infiniti M35h, Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTec, and Saab 9-5—approach the goal in different ways.
Those include hybrid and diesel drivetrains, lightweight materials, seven-or eight-speed automatic transmissions, and supercharging and turbocharging which lets a car squeeze more power from a smaller engine. The result: gas mileage for these tested vehicles is among the best in the category, although the cars’ overall performance varies dramatically, from the top-rated Audi to the bottom-rated Saab.
The fuel economy champ in this class is now the E350 BlueTec, which received an “Excellent” road test score and is powered by a diesel engine. Its tested overall fuel economy of 26 mpg edges out the hybrid M35h’s 25 mpg. The trade-off is some engine noise at low speeds.
The M35h is Infiniti’s first hybrid and received an Excellent road test score. The gas-electric system helps deliver quick acceleration and fuel economy that’s on par with some four-cylinder family sedans, but its power delivery tends to be jerky and abrupt and its handling and braking are not quite up to that of the conventional M37. That detracts from an otherwise outstanding package.
The redesigned Saab-9-5 is disappointing in this rarified class. It shares a platform with the Buick LaCrosse and Regal, its former GM cousins, but the 9-5 doesn’t measure up well to those models or its competitors. Despite its excellent fit and finish and fairly nimble handling, it has a noisy four-cylinder turbocharged engine, a stiff ride, impaired visibility, and relatively slow acceleration. Overall, it doesn’t score high enough to be recommended.
Also included in the January issue is an Auto Test Extra test of the Mini Cooper Countryman S, a small SUV that has more room than the typical Mini but retains the Mini line’s sporty good looks, agility, very good fuel economy and fun-to-drive feel. It scored a Very Good road test score but suffers from a stiff ride, noisy cabin, and confusing controls.
This group includes recently introduced or redesigned midsized luxury sedans. The Audi A6 was redesigned for 2012 and the Saab 9-5 was redesigned for 2011. The Mercedes-Benz E350 Bluetec is the diesel version of the previously tested gasoline-powered Mercedes-Benz E350.The Infiniti M35h is the recently introduced hybrid version of the previously tested M37 sedan. The Mini Cooper Countryman was introduced in 2011.
None of the vehicles in the test group are Recommended. The 9-5 didn’t score high enough, and Consumer Reports does not have sufficient reliability data for it. The others are too new for Consumer Reports to have reliability data. Consumer Reports only Recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR’s Annual Auto Survey of its more than seven million print and Web subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.
Prices for the tested luxury sedans ranged from $46,655 for the 9-5 to $58,655 to the M35h. The well-equipped Mini Cooper Countryman S cost $32,500.
<b>The A6 succeeds in many areas; it’s agile, comfortable, quiet, and quick. It also rides smoothly, has a sumptuous and accommodating interior, and returns commendable fuel economy. Handling is nimble and the quick steering gives good feedback. The Audi A6 3.0T Quattro Premium Plus ($56,295 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 310-hp, 3.0 liter supercharged V6 engine that is buttery smooth and delivers excellent acceleration. It gets 22 mpg on premium fuel in CR’s own fuel economy tests, impressive given the car’s quickness and the added weight of its all-wheel-drive with premium fuel. The eight-speed automatic transmission has almost imperceptible shifts. Braking is Very Good. The interior is finely finished and includes many high-tech features.</b>
The E350 is a quiet and luxurious sedan with a very well-finished interior, comfortable seats and a substantial feel. Handling is agile for its size and the Mercedes is quiet and steady on the highway, but some diesel engine noise is noticeable at low speeds. The Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTec ($57,525 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 210-hp, 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 engine that provides abundant torque and returns an impressive 26 mpg in mixed driving. The seven-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly overall, except for the occasional bumpy shift. Braking is Very Good. The cabin is very well finished, but controls can be complicated.
The hybrid system of the M35h tends to be jerky and abrupt, detracting from an otherwise commendable driving experience. The M35h has nimble handling and a firm yet supple ride. It’s quiet inside, especially when the car is in electric mode, but the engine is oddly loud when it idles. The Infiniti M35h ($58,655 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 360-hp 3.5-liter V6 engine and electric motor that gets 25 mpg overall on premium fuel. Braking is Very Good. The seven-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. The cabin is rich looking. The hybrid battery robs a lot of trunk space.
Consumer Reports’ engineers see the 9-5 as a poor value, even given Saab’s typical generous price incentives. Handling is fairly nimble but the stiff ride feels jittery even on the highway. The Saab 9-5 Turbo4 Premium ($46,655 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 220-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers OK performance and 22 mpg on premium fuel but lacks the refinement of many V6s; a V6 is available with all-wheel-drive, but most 9-5s will have the tested four-cylinder engine. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts very smoothly and responsively. Braking is Very Good. The interior is nicely-finished but thick roof pillars and small windows impede visibility.
The four-door Countryman can seat four comfortably, unlike other Minis. It has quick steering, fantastic agility, minimal body lean and strong tire grip. A trade-off for its sporty charter is a stiff ride that is jittery even on the highway. Road and wind noise permeate the cabin. The Mini Cooper Countryman S ALL4 ($32,500 MSRP as tested,) is powered by a 184-hp, 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers very good acceleration and gets 26 mpg overall with premium fuel. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. Braking is Very Good. Lots of interior detailing forms a whimsical interior environment but the eccentric controls and displays can be frustrating. Only one suitcase fits in the back with the rear seats up, but folding the seats creates more room.
Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.