Audi A6 with a big heart
It doesn’t seem that long ago when turning on the radio in a car was a simple operation. For decades that slim rectangular shape with a dial or two cemented its presence somewhere in the centre console. The small and indispensable unit was instantly recognisable as our source of music, news and entertainment. But lately things have begun to change.
Parked on Auckland’s fashionable Ponsonby Rd, I had stopped to pick up NZV8’s staff photographer Jared. He explained he would just be a minute grabbing the rest of his gear.
I acknowledged this was no problem as it would give me time to check the weather report, it looked good so far, but I was really hoping it would turn a little ugly.
Inside Audi’s new A6, as in many cars in this segment, you’ll notice the absence of that familiar rectangular device. Instead what you will find is Audi’s MMI (Multi Media Interface).
This system not only incorporates the radio but the CD player, telephone, address book and TV functions too. MMI also has the capacity to control air conditioning flow, interior lighting, sound tones and a full range of other set-up options.
I had only taken possession of the A6 about 10¯minutes ago from European Motor Distributors’ head office, where the very nice Rachel had given me the quick overview of MMI and the car’s basic functions. Now I felt like a contestant on a TV game show, trying to remember what I had seen a few minutes ago. Using the rotary wheel behind the gear lever you can scroll through the main menu and push down to select. Using the surrounding buttons you can return to previous menus. Sounds simple, and to be honest it really is. Just imagine an Apple iPod but with more menu options, that’s pretty much MMI. Needless to say finding the radio menu wasn’t difficult, but finding a station that was giving a weather report proved to more of a challenge.
With Jared’s gear all loaded up we were good to go. Starting the new A6 awakens Audi’s all-alloy 250kW (335hp) 4.2-litre V8. There’s no angry growl but instead the sound of a gentle rumble, just enough to let you know what’s under the hood. There’s another familiar piece of equipment missing from the A6’s interior, and that’s the hand brake lever.
Audi has cleverly replaced the ageing icon with an electromechanical brake operated by a toggle switch on the centre console. By lifting the switch you engage the brake, pushing down you disengage it. Pulling out into traffic be mindful of the sensitive fly-by-wire throttle, as ‘easy does it’ until you learn the feel of it is the best way to go.
If you need a quick getaway then a stab on the throttle will let the computer know your intentions. Power from the engine is delivered express service, which means you get it right away. Put this together with Audi’s class-leading 4wd Quattro system, and all you get is forward motion — and plenty of it.
Travelling 15¯minutes down the southern motorway on a quest to exit the inner city, we unwillingly took part in one of Auckland’s infamous traffic jams. This was going to be a rather boring article if we kept crawling along at 50kph. Gazing around the interior we started to notice this car has been designed to feed the driver, rather than for general convenience. The seats are comfortable without being too soft, and the all-important driving position suits just nicely. Burl walnut inserts and chrome trims are a nice touch, and with Audi’s usual standard of fit and finish it certainly makes the driver feel welcome any time.
As we started to get past the gridlock the traffic thinned out, and we could finally press on. Exiting the motorway on our way to quieter pastures the news just got better as drops of rain begin to scatter across the windscreen. As the saying goes, if you don’t like the weather here just wait 15¯minutes. Unfortunately we only had to wait another five minutes for it to all dry up. I’ve driven other Audis with the Quattro system, including the previous A6, and in the wet its grip is impressive to the point that you wonder when it’s finally going to give it all up.
It’s all thanks to the Torsen Differential, which uses a self-locking worm gear. Torsen stands for Torque and Sensing, and what it basically does so well is build up the lock effect only under drive power, the gearbox allowing different speeds of rotation when applying the brakes and cornering.
Heading for the hills it’s clear that the Audi technicians have been busy under the skin. According to the statistics Audi has increased the wheelbase by 83mm and the track by 67mm up front and 49mm at the rear over the previous model. These figures may seem trivial, but the rewards are increased interior space and smoother ride from the larger dimensions. The front end suspension is made up of an independent four link set-up, and the unique rear trapezoidal link is spawned from the
Negotiating the corners at speed and you start looking for the ‘Welcome to Quattro Territory’ signs. The chassis is more taut but not to the point where it is uncomfortable, however, the real gain here has been in the steering. Feedback is much improved and steering direction much more positive. Revising the ball joints and tossing the traditional vulcanized rubber isolators out in favour of a direct link has paid dividends. Press on around the corners and the A6 keeps asking for more. It’s only when you reach the summit and descend into a fast sweeper that the 50/50 drive split becomes evident with a push pull effect. It makes you wonder how much different things would be if it were 60/40.
Exit the corners and the new six-speed auto gearbox knows just where it wants to be to give the best forward momentum. There’s paddle shift on the steering wheel or optional tip shift on the gearshift if you want to take control. But if you use the D option and plant your foot, it seems to work just as well.
If you need to stop in an emergency then the new A6 won’t let you down. With power-assisted 347mm discs up front and 330mm discs at the rear there’s plenty of stopping power. Get one wheel on the slippery stuff and the electronic aids take care of you without any fuss or bother.
As we stop at a location to shoot a few photos I take the chance to step back and absorb the view from the outside. The blown out guards, extra width and length have certainly made the A6 look more muscular. There’s been some controversy over Audi’s new front face but it suits the car, giving it a much deeper front look. It just makes the previous split front look dated, and now there’s no mistaking that it’s an Audi.
Still, you get the feeling Audi’s new A6 is aimed at people who like something special but don’t want all the song and dance to let you know about it. Sure there are other V8 sedans you can buy with a lot more power in the engine room than the A6. But as the saying goes, if you don’t like the weather just wait 15¯minutes. Things may change dramatically.
Audi 2006 A6
Engine: Aluminium block, 4163cc, bore 84.5mm, stroke 92.8, compression 11.00:1, intake camshaft with continuous adjustment, five valves per cylinder, Bosch motronic sequential injection, fly by wire throttle control
Driveline: Six-speed Tiptronic with DSP (dynamic sports program), permanent all wheel drive with Torsen centre differential, Electronic Stabilisation Program (ESP), ASR traction control, Electronic Differential lock (EDL), hydraulic torque converter with lock up clutch
Suspension: Front: Four link suspension, upper and lower wishbones, anti roll bar, twin tube gas-filled shock absorbers
Rear: Trapezoidal link suspension, twin tube gas-filled shock absorbers
Brakes: 347mm discs front, 330mm discs rear, dual circuit brake system diagonal split, ABS, EBD, hydraulic brake assist, brake servo
Wheels/Tyres: 18×8 aluminium wheels with 245/40-18 tyres
Performance: 250kW @ 6600rpm, 420Nm@3500rpm
Words: Warren Do | Photos: Jared Clark