Audi wraparound dashboard is now standard across the range. Notice the sandwich layered wood trim (available as an option) which is distinctive to sailing yachts and was first seen in the A7. The A8's technology filters down to the A6 with the touchpad and the updated MMI interface along with manually adjustable dynamics (Audi Drive Select) just a few of the goodies on display. Inverted pitchfork like 5-spoke magnesium alloys are the tastiest yet on any Audi. Low profile tyres massively enhance handling but India spec will have smaller wheelsand higher profile rubber for comfortable ride quality
Navigation makes men monkeys. There used to be a time when men navigated by looking at the moon and the stars and it didn't matter if they arrived in America thinking it was India. Then there were maps and heroically mustachioed men in short pants were photographed poring over them intently before perishing in the desert. And then we gotnavigation, which almost had me missmy flight.
Load tour five, said the nice man in the red jacket. Then a fellow colleague said the tour four was spectacular, taking in roads steeped in the history of the Targa Florio. So I set the new Audi A6 for tour four and halfway up switched to tour five. And landed in the middle of a bloody mountain.How I got back to the airport is irrelevant (if you must know, I scrolled down and found the tour marked airport direkt). How I got lost too is irrelevant (I still don't know). What's relevant is what I did in those two hours to get from said mountain, up another, down a third, till I cut the afterburners at the coast at Palermo and ran away from the car after flashing every speed camera in Sicily. I drove far too fast at speeds that were last seen on the legendary Targa Florio.
Over that white knuckle drive the A6 finally came into its own. Up until then I couldn't shake off the sense of dj vu, like I'd driven the car before and it was just more of the same. A fellow journalist had commented over dinner on how he took a good half hour to get familiar with everything; I thought he was doing too much justice to the wine. Late in the evening before we had flown into Sicily, the worse for wear, loaded our bags into the fleet of A6s lined up at the airport, scribbled the destination on the touchpad and drove. It was like I'd done it a million times before. Found the Kiss Kiss radio station that has the least Italian jibber-jabber and made good time. And only on the final dash to the airport I realised why: before leaving I'd spent a week in the new A8.
I don't know how A8 customers will take to this but the A6 feels every bit like a shrunken A8 and that car is extraordinarily good. It also costs an extraordinarily large sum of money so the very fact that the A6 gives you (almost) everything for half the money is a resoundingly positive verdict for this story.
But let's start at the top and like with all Audis today it begins with the LEDs. It's the edgiest treatment we've seen to date on an Audi and that sets the tone for the edgiest, angriest Audi yet. The overall shape and silhouette have obviously stayed in step with the brand book but the surface treatment and detailing is much sharper and edgier. The step in the headlamp at the leading edge towards the grille (which has evolved from trapezoid to hexagon in shape) is a complex shape that is being seen for the first time on an Audi and because the lamps have shrunken in width the grille looks proportionately even larger. Any last vestiges of understatement are thus firmly out of the window and the A6 charges at you with a scowl on its face. Pretty it ain't but this is exactly what Audi customers, particularly in Asia, are demanding - they want to stand out in a crowd and the A6 does it for them.
As with every Audi the surface treatment is an engineer's wet dream. The creases on the hood, the crisply folded shoulder line, the shut lines, the way the body sits on its wheels, are exquisite. And the rear gets a spoiler integrated into the bootlid to emphasise (as if any emphasis was required) Audi's sporty direction for the new A6.
This is an all-new model, the seventh generation of the A6, and is the first to reverse the trend for weight gain shaving off nearly 80kg in the base variants. The (steel) body of the A6 uses a hybrid construction with 20 per cent in aluminium including strut domes, axle components, cross members, fenders, hood, boot and doors. Adding to the weight reduction are light-weight high-end steels and hot-shaped steels that are shaped by heating up to a 1000 degrees and then shaped in a water-cooled pressing die to give it high tensile strength. Adaptive air suspension with electronically controlled damping is standard with five-link front axle and trapezoidal link at the rear
The pursuit of greater efficiency has seen fuel consumption come down by nearly 21 per cent. At launch India will get all the engines in the range which includes three diesels: 2.0-litre four-cylinder with front-wheel drive and 176PS, 3.0-litre V6 TDI with FWD and 204PS, 3.0 V6 TDI both quattro developing 245PS and two petrols - 2.8FSI with FWD and 204PS the direct-injection super-charged 3.0T with quattro and 300PS. All engines get stop/go as standard and energy recovery which utilises the kinetic energy of the car during deceleration and temporarily storing it in the battery. Even the air-con is claimed to be far more efficient than before and to make sure you monitor the efficiency, the trip computer display between the dials also has an efficiency mode to show what ancillaries are consuming how much fuel.
That's not it. The sporty promise of the exteriors isn't without substance and the A6 gets drive select as standard which allows toggling between comfort, dynamic or individual modes where the character of the steering, suspension and engine/tranny can be individually tailored. In operation that's identical to the A8 but in addition the A6 also gets an efficiency mode which sets everything including the suspension, air-con and cruise control to the most efficient mode - something we Indians will love!
I did not bother with the efficiency mode. Neither did I get to sample the front-wheel drive cars. What I did get my hands on was the V6 petrol and it's a rev-hungry flier with a claimed 0-100kmph time of 5.5 seconds and a limited top speed of 250kmph. It is mated to the S-Tronic twin-clutch gearbox (why can't they just call it DSG) which, while retaining its lightning quick shift times, has gotten even more refined.
I also got the chance to drive the 3.0 V6 TDI with quattro and performance over the earlier 3.0 has improved with the 0-100kmph sprint dropping to 7 seconds. The engine itself is hugely refined and the bottom end torque will make it better suited to Indian conditions than a high-revving petrol.
Set the drive mode to sport and the A6 lives up to its sporty promise with outstanding road manners. Quattro split is 60:40 to give the car a more rear-biased feel (torque is only channelled to the front when slip at the rear is detected) and together with the less nose-heavy layout, the A6 resists understeer surprisingly well. As I discovered on my charge down the epic Targa Florio road, the grip is terrifically good and there's bags of it to spare. Quattro also gives confidence to push hard irrespective of the road surface. In terms of ability the Audi is unquestionable but where the 5 Series will score is in the involvement and fun-to-drive character. The 5 Series can be played around with, the A6 is a mighty tool to clobber any and every road with.
But it's the interiors that is the A6's strongest suite. The sense of occasion and sheer quality that's the highlight of the A8 permeates down to the A6 to result in a cabin that's more opulent and well stacked than the 5 Series and has more contemporary flair than the E-Class. The cabin architecture is similar to the recently launched A7 (which is coming to India in May) and with the unique aspect being the edges that flow into the doors to give a wrap-around feel. Like the A8 the screen slides out from its slot in the dash, the B&O tweeter towers rise spectacularly, the dials are large and sporty looking analogue units with a large screen between them and there's the touchpad which allows scribbling of phone numbers or navigation destinations. The car can turn into a mobile wireless hotspot but that will be activated in India after widespread 3G roll-out. Indian cars won't have the option of a head-up display due to our harsh sunlight.
Similar to the A8 comfort seats with massage function will be offered as an option (expect to pay at least two lakh rupees more for it) but if our experience with the A8 is anything to go by this will be well worth the money. Though the A6 is shorter in length there is now more space in the cabin, enough to rival the E-Class.
The A6 will be launched in India towards the end of the year - late August to be precise - and assembled at Skoda's erstwhile facility in Aurangabad. From launch itself all four engines will be offered so the range will start at Rs 40 lakh going up to Rs 55 lakh and that will prove to be tough competition for the Merc and BMW. The A6 is already the world's biggest selling car in its class and big strides forward have been made with the new A6 allowing Audi to finally shrug off its SUV tag.
The only thing that's missing in the package is functional navigation with Audi claiming Indian maps aren't up to their standards. Maybe that's not such a bad idea.