Iñigo S. Roces / Brent Co | November 07, 2011 15:36
Performance and luxury without even asking
Stare at a poster for a boxing match and chances are, you'll be more fixated on 'Pacquiao' in big bold letters as opposed to the side attraction in smaller fonts on the bottom. The power boxers fighting for a minor title before the main event hardly get any attention, yet it's in these matches were the next pound for pound champion could be born.
It must have been how the new Audi A6 felt in a recent test drive event at the Sepang International F1 Circuit. AutoIndustriya.com was invited to this by PGA Cars on behalf of its Chairman, Robert Coyiuto Jr. to test both the A6 and the R8 V10. Naturally, the R8 was the reason we happily obliged.
Of course, it wasn't all about the R8. In the main exhibition hall, a brand new RS3 stood proudly on a stage, while out on track, apart from the R8's were over a dozen A6's, all in grey and all in the same 3.0 liter V6 quattro trim.
To prepare us for the drive, we were divided into several groups and put through a briefing seminar and several driving exercises in order to get us familiarized with the cars and the circuit.
The briefing clued us in on what's new with the A6; everything from tech toys, to now standard features that used to be exclusive to the A8, and formerly sports car exclusive features like torque vectoring and a customizable driving mode.
The awe begins the moment you enter with Audi's new asymmetric interior defies conventions. There are more daring shapes, more color and material combinations as well as numerous new toys. For one, there's the driver information system that sits in between the two dials, showing anything from navigation directions to your current fuel consumption. In the center, there's an LCD screen that lets you tinker with Audi Drive Select (the A6's performance presets), entertainment and climate. Down below, by the plush shifter, is the MMI Touch pad that lets you scribble letters with your finger much the same way you would in a Palm Pilot, all of which used to be exclusive to the A8. Then there's the quattro system that works in conjunction with ABS and ESC to propel drive power to where it's most needed. It may sound complicated, but all you really need to do is step on the gas and steer. And to make things even more exciting on the driving front, power is split 40:60 with the bulk going to the back for a more sporting experience.
As soon as the briefing ended, we'd hop into the A6 for the first exercise of the day and into an R8 for yet another. Naturally, the more handling intensive courses were reserved for the R8's while the A6 exercises touched on city and defensive driving exercises we were more likely to encounter.
Yet as enjoyable as the laps in the R8 were, the tests in the A6 served as excellent contrast. As comfortable as the R8 was, it paled in comparison to the A6's much more royal ride. Whether on the track itself or the bump access roads leading to them, it took a ride in the R8 to realize just how bad they really were. The R8's heavy weighted steering wheel (to prevent any foolish jerks) was offset by the A6's light-as-a-feather wheel that you could practically control with your pinky finger.
The exercises helped hammer home the point that the A6 was just as much a driver's car as it is a limo. A slalom test encouraged participants to rock the car left and right, weaving in and out of cones while at speed. Braking tests showed that even the hardest stomp on the pedal did little to unsettle the car or even lock the wheels. At the end of the day, a gymkhana course in a distant parking lot showed that it could be driven just as aggressively, if not more than an R8 with little worry about grip. All the time we were encouraged to try it out with Comfort, Dynamic and Auto modes just to see how each handled (the clever computer instantly activates Dynamic mode the moment it senses aggressive driving). Even in automatic, the gears begin to shift quicker with more determined throttle action. Traction and stability react within milliseconds of a slide about to start. The car is so light and the electronics so fast and fluid that even going through the course with poorly judged speed and entry points on purpose resulted in fairly respectable times thanks to the electronics. Without the briefing, we would have mistakenly believed we somehow managed to channeled the driving prowess of F1 legends.
Driving back from the gymkhana area to the exhibition hall gave us a chance to enjoy the plush air suspension ride, massage equipped seats and Bang & Olufsen sound system (all options). We were so engrossed, we forgot to try out the adaptive cruise control with auto stop while in the convoy. As a treat to those that came along, the last A6 was parallel parked, automatically. With the aid on and by driving slowly past the empty space, the car detected a spot and prompted the driver if he wished to park. With hands out of the window, he merely lightly touched the throttle to get it going while the vehicle took care of everything else.
At the end of the day, in spite of numerous laps in the R8, some journalists even remarked that they had more fun in the gymkhana with the A6. After all, real luxury is a car that can adapt to your every move, without you even having to tell it. And in that respect, the A6 performed flawlessly. If only they could bring us back to the airport too.