It used to be that the A6 was the overlooked middle child of the family. That's all changed for 2012 Audi A6.

Lighter and leaner yet roomier and more appealing, this 5-passenger midsize luxury sedan strikes that delicate balance between being handsome and being distinctive.

With a longer wheelbase and wheels pushed to the corners, the A6 shows a new sporty character that's worthy of running alongside rivals like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the BMW 5 Series. Add in full LED headlights and all signs indicate that the 2012 A6 has come of age.

The A6 has latest technology too -- Google Earth GPS navigation for example. It sets a new industry standard with real satellite images and 3D maps. This is a part of the Audi connect in-car Wi-Fi system that's a standard feature in the upper trims such as this Prestige model.

This feature is definitely recommended. My tech-loving friends will like that the Wi-Fi can connect up to five devices to the Internet.

And if that's not enough to persuade buyers to move up to the higher trims, this car also has a convenient handwriting recognition pad and voice recognition system.

But regardless of trim level, if there's anything disappointing, it's the abundance of plastic that doesn't seem up to the caliber of this car, which is not what one would expect, considering all this fine wood trim and soft leather.

The truth about driving the A6 is that it's a tale of two drivetrains. Those with Audi's quattro all-wheel drive and those without it.

We like that quattro normally sends 60 percent of the engine's power to the rear wheels giving the A6 the lively feel of a rear-drive model. All 3.0T models are quattro equipped and get a 310 horsepower supercharged 3-liter V6 mated to an 8-speed automatic.

Your other choice is a front-wheel drive 2.0T model with a 211 horsepower turbocharged 2-liter inline 4 mated to a continuously variable transmission. The 2.0T models are more fuel-efficient but there's a small sacrifice on the sporty side. It takes a couple of seconds more to get from zero to sixty.

Either engine can move the car with authority but when it comes to handling, the 3.0T drives more like it's reading my mind and for that you'll pay extra at the pump. The EPA rates the 2-liter models higher at 25 city/33 highway mpg versus 19 city/28 highway.

The A6 comes with the full complement of modern safety features including front, front-side and side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes and stability and traction control.

For leading-edge safety, the top-of-the-line 3.0T Prestige offers a Night Vision Assistant with pedestrian detection.

With a base price of $41,700 for a 2.0T Premium, an A6 is within reach where other luxury sport sedans might not be and even a well-equipped 3.0T Prestige comes in under $60,000.

The 2012 Audi A6 isn't some bargain priced wannabe luxury sport sedan but it's priced reasonably for what it delivers. The nice interior, powerful engine choices and refined style all add up to a car that's a legitimate player in the sport sedan segment.

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Scott Markle is an experienced automotive enthusiast and industry observer who is passionate about creating compelling content for car shoppers. He has fifteen years of experience building top-tier websites for the automotive industry and beyond, and was part of the team that launched AutoTrader.com.

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