Jude P. Morte / Jude P. Morte | November 07, 2007 00:00
Baseline innovationAudi has always been known to live up to its tagline of "Vorsprung durch Technik," or advancement through technology. Whether it's the R8 sportscar or its A3 hatchback, each and every model from Ingolstadt (Audi's head office) in Germany - including base models - are full of technological headway that can wow even the most jaded technophile. With that in mind, this writer decided to assay the aforementioned maxim with a P 4.33 million base model A6 2.0L TFSI (turbocharged fuel stratified injection).
Although the C6 (chassis codename for the sixth gen A6) is visually an evolution of the previous model, the front end—especially the gaping maw-like grille—is the first thing that onlookers notice when it arrives. Unfortunately the same can't be said of the A6's rear, which looks like it has been unchanged since the first units of the previous model moved out of Ingolstadt. And for some reason, closing the doors takes effort, but is a given considering the heft of the vehicle.
Inside, the interior lives up to the Audi tagline. The multimedia interface system (MMIS) present in its high end 3.0L TDI (turbo diesel injection) sibling is retained, albeit with fewer controls and a smaller screen and smaller screen readouts. Still, the MMIS is easier to operate than BMW's first generation iDrive, but tends to be confusing at first usage. The unique parking brake lever (at the left of the automatic transmission or A/T stick) is easy to activate. Simply pull up the lever to activate, while deactivating it requires a light tap on the brake pedal and a push on the said lever. Power assisted seating (including for lumbar support) come standard, as well as the rear side window/rear windshield shadescreens, and audio controls on the steering wheel. Speaking of audio entertainment, controlling what comes out of the A6's speakers is easier with the MMIS system, but audio output needs help at the treble end. Also, the CD player/changer eats up a lot of space in the glovebox and door storage is small.
Drive this version of the A6 and you'll find out that bottom end response is sluggish, with a very high powerband entry (2750 rpm). Then again, its 3.0L TDI brethren is also prone to laggardness at the lower end of the tachometer. Partial boost comes in early at 3000 rpm and full boost comes at 5250-5500 rpm, but there's significant turbo lag. The seven-speed Multitronic a/t's gearing is fairly even, save for fifth. Far better to use third gear for travel on inclines, third and fourth gear for overtaking and passing. Nevertheless, fast gear changes can be achieved thanks to shift paddles behind the left and right arms of the steering wheel. Also, a large driver menu screen nestled between the rev counter and the speedometer constantly projects the gear currently engaged by the transmission, along with the radio station currently picked up by the A6's antenna. Interestingly, the car produced a tested 240 kph top speed and ten kilometers per liter on four days of mixed driving.
Handling is a given considering the A6's marque and its reputation for quality production. Nevertheless, it is a joy to behold, as traction only breaks at 85 kph onwards without traction control, with great grip provided by the Continental PremiumContact 225 55 R16s. The aforementioned traction control only wakes up during extreme yaw or pitch, and the antilock system comes alive only at three-fourths to full effort on the brake pedal. Better still, the A6's brakes grab hard, even with the slightest tap. The ride is much better than its 3.0L TDI sibling due to the smaller wheel and tire combo (the higher end A6 models tote 17-inchers). The electro-hydraulic steering is light, sharp (especially during turn-in) and responsive, allowing the driver to discern the tires' activity. Exterior lighting (including foglights) is bright, rivaling that of aftermarket high intensity discharge units. Probably the only bad part about the car is that the rearward vision is somewhat limited; this writer had to put down the rear bench headrests in order to see clearly what was approaching the A6 from behind.
Most auto manufacturers rarely give their models' entry level variants cutting edge wrinkles. But when it comes to the Germany-based automobile brand with the four interlocking rings, even their base models are technological wonders.