The 2012 Audi A6 luxury sports sedan recently earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) top safety award. The award recognizes vehicles that earn the top rating of "good" for front, side, rollover, and rear crash protection. Vehicles must also have an electronic stability control (ESC) system. The seventh generation Audi A6, brand new for the 2012 model year, did all that and then some.

In the Institute's roof strength assessment, which determines how well the occupant compartment would hold up in a rollover crash, the roof of the A6 endured a force equal to 4.9 times the car's weight. Vehicles with a strength-to-weight ratio of 4 or higher earn a "good" rating (the current federally-mandated minimum standard is 1.5 times the weight).

Moreover, roof strength performance for the A6 is an improvement over the previous model, which withstood a force equal to 3.8 times the car's weight in the same test, earning an "acceptable" rating.

It's interesting to note that the 2012 model is also notably lighter than the 2011 model. With a body created from lightweight construction of aluminum panels with steel frames, the six-cylinder powered 2012 A6 3.0T is 78 pounds lighter than the 2011 model, and the four-cylinder 2.0T weighs a whopping 165 pounds less.

On top of that, the 2012 A6, with a starting price of $41,700, is loaded with innovative safety equipment. Audi used extensive data from its Audi Accident Research Unit to put the A6 though 4,000 crash simulations to guarantee that every component of the vehicle was designed and manufactured to the company's demanding standards. For example, one system, Audi pre-sense plus, will initiate protective measures if an imminent collision is detected. If a head-on collision occurs, energy-absorbing structural cross members in the front of the vehicle direct energy to two longitudinal members that deform in a controlled manner.

Electronic stability control has been standard equipment in all of Audi's cars for many years, but newer federal regulations require all 2012 passenger vehicles to have ESC. The system detects when a vehicle isn't going where a driver is steering, like in a skid, and then applies the brakes to individual wheels to bring the vehicle back in line.  

Recognizing Audi's achievements in safety, Adrian Lund, President of the Institute, says, "The performance of the new A6 demonstrates Audi's long commitment to engineering vehicles with state of the art safety. Buyers of the A6 are getting a vehicle that earns top marks in protecting people in the most common kinds of crashes, and that has electronic stability control, the most important feature for keeping people out of many kinds of crashes altogether."

Earning a "Top Safety Pick" designation marks a strong start for the redesigned 2012 Audi A6.

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Holly Reich writes about cars, travel, lifestyle and more. Her work has been featured in publications that include: Elite Traveler, The New York Daily News, The Washington Post and The Boston Herald. She contributes monthly to Motor Matters syndicate and her blog, "Riffs on Rides," appears on uptownlife.net.

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