The new A6 Matrix, as they call it, has been given a thorough overhaul by its Ingolstadt based maker, along with a suffix that reminds us of the now somewhat forgotten, but once legendary Wachowski Brothers. Udaipur with its beautiful palaces, lakes and turban clad smiling faces was in stark contrast to the post-apocalyptic world depicted in the 1999 sci-fi flick. Nonetheless, with Audi asserting strongly that #ItJustKnows everything, I felt like one Thomas A. Anderson aka Neo as I ‘entered the Matrix’ for a drive.
Design and Styling
Let’s start off with those Matrix headlamps the new car derives the suffix for its name for. And like the digital world created by the all-encompassing software controlling the world in the aforementioned Hollywood flick, where there weren’t any lines to differentiate reality and magic, the A6’s technology is here to amaze you. Comprising an array of LED lights controlled by light sensors, the technology is capable of turning a select set of LED bulbs off so it doesn’t dazzle the driver in the car travelling in the opposing direction. Pretty cool, huh? We’ve seen the tech in action in a few other cars as well, including the R8, RS6, TT and the new A8L we just reviewed.
So along with cutting edge tech gifted by the flagship A8 L, the A6 also gets a sharper shape for those eyes. Audi asserts that shape of the DRL’s on the new headlamps resembles an arrow, though we struggle to find one there. It looks futuristic for sure, though.
The headlamps, however, aren’t the only big change up front. The bumpers, as is the case with almost all facelifts, have been completely revamped, and now feature wide side air scoops, with chrome laden horizontal slats running across them. They do manage to lend the car a sportier stance up front. The grille has been given its due revamp, and gets the Audi Singleframe treatment for this version. The seven horizontal slats on the previous model have been replaced by eight chrome drenched units.
On the sides, Audi haven’t tinkered much with the panels. The size of the new, 10-spoke wheels has increased from an earlier seventeen inch to eighteen now, along with a surprising improvement in the ride quality too, but more on that later. The new car is available only in the top-spec S-line trim, a badge for which finds its place above the front fender.
At the rear, the car gets sleeker, sharper, more horizontally oriented LED tail-lamps that mimic the frontal treatment with turn indicators now lighting up progressively in the direction you intend to take the turn. The exhaust pipes now take a sporty, trapezoidal shape with chrome tips, and they peep through a newly introduced grey coloured sporty faux diffuser which also features a honeycomb mesh. There’s also a newly introduced chrome garnish at the bottom of the trunk lid with A6 and 35 TDI badges placed on top of it on either side.
While the proportions and size of the A6 Matrix isn’t a departure from the model it replaces, the new version looks decidedly sharper, more modern and sportier. The good news is, a major part of those changes isn’t just cosmetic, with the Matrix headlamp trying its bit to solve the ‘dazzling’ conundrum auto engineers have been faced with for the longest of times.
Engine and transmission
Generally facelifts don’t have much to offer in this department. The new A6 is an exception, though. The 2.0 liter TDI engine under the bonnet is the same unit as the one on the previous unit, though some fine tuning has pumped up the power output by 7% while pushing the fuel efficiency up too by 5%. This simultaneous increase in power and fuel efficiency in most modern cars is a bit surprising, and in most cases can be attributed to the advances made in the automotive tech. The change, however, isn’t sometimes very perceptible from the seat of the pants, though.
The 2.0 liter diesel unit churning out 190hp of power at 3800 – 4200 rpm and 400 NM of peak torque between 1750 and 3000 rpm makes the new A6 capable of going from nought to 100km/h in about 8.5 seconds, while the top speed is specified at 232km/h.
Those numbers, while, much superior to most cars you’ll find on the road, don’t translate into a heady, enthusiast-oriented experience from behind the wheel. With its generous torque and efficiency oriented setup, the 35 TDI loves cruising briskly at speeds comfortably above the ton mark. It’s at its best between the 2000-3000 rpm mark where that four pot motor spins away merrily and quietly blurring whatever you see through the peripheral vision. It’s a capable family carrier, very comfortable, efficient and effortless – capable of shortening distances reasonably quickly. It won’t however, shove you back in your seats the way some of the bigger engines in the Audi family would, though. We were absolutely smitten by the performance of the 3.0 liter TDI on the Q5 Quattro we took out for a near 3000km round-trip. That engine, in our humble opinion, is a more natural match to the size and stature of the A6. All that said, however, price plays a significant role in this segment, too; and with the A6 delivering comparable performance and segment leading features at the least price, you cannot really complain.
The engine is mated to a new 7 speed S-tronic dual clutch transmission which appropriately replaces the Multitronic CVT on the previous version. S-Tronic is one of the most capable transmission systems out there, and we had big expectations with the change, though at the end of it we were a tad underwhelmed. The transmission does its duty splendidly for most part. Our only grumble being the relative reluctance of the transmission to drop a cog or two when summoned at lower revs.
Driving through some winding roads leading up to the picturesque Ranakpur, we were obstructed many a times with slow moving traffic, and had to align our speed to give way to oncoming traffic. Upon getting a clearance and burying the right pedal, however, the transmission showed some unwillingness in pushing the revs up instantly. To see the tacho needle trying to climb up lazily at 1500 rpm when the accelerator pedal is almost about to kiss the floor is rather uncharacteristic of that transmission. That wee moment of disinclination somewhat puzzles you – it’s not what you have known that dual clutch tranny for. The S-Tronic has a reputation for being one of the most blazingly quick, the most addictive and the most capable auto transmissions out there. Fret not though, Audi have provisioned for steering mounted paddle shifters as standard on this one, and that part works like a charm as it always has. Manual shifts are crisp, quick and reassuring, and is the recommended way to hoon this ride if you’re in a mood to carve those corners spiritedly.
The tacho is redlined at 4800 rpm, which is also the point till where the tacho needle swings up to before upshifting in dynamic mode, pedal to the metal. There is no dearth of torque on this mill, with a strong mid-range allowing you maintain good speeds with minimum load on the engine. It gets a tad noisy post the 3000 rpm mark, though the sound never turns bothersome.
An efficient, torquey and more powerful powerplant, the new 2.0 TDI unit on the new A6 is very well suited for the majority of the audience.
Driving dynamics, ride and handling
The first thing you notice as you put that thing in motion is its incredibly light steering feel for such a big car. The A6 Matrix was an absolute breeze weaving through the narrow, chaotic streets of Udaipur featuring dogs, elephants and everything in between. The steering doesn’t weigh up well enough even as you build speed, though at no point does the car’s stability appear to be affected by the fact. Since we were driving through the city in comfort mode, we shifted to dynamic on the fabulous NH 76 so as to add some lead to the helm. We did feel some weight, though it wasn’t much.
An astonishing aspect of the new Audi A6 Matrix, though is its new Adaptive suspension and the resultant ride quality that’s nothing short of exemplary. While the car absolutely demolishes the challenges thrown by even the most vicious potholes in comfort mode, even dynamic mode is incredibly absorbent. Once off the butter smooth NH 76, you have to take the state highway 32 for Ranakpur, which is a narrow, winding road with deceptive, never-ending undulations – the type that would rock the occupants inside if you try driving over them too fast. The A6, even in dynamic mode, took everything in its stride delightfully well, even with some spirited driving on our way up.
While one may be inclined to write tomes on the connected feel of the steering and a sport suspension as a true enthusiast, it’s actually an absorbent suspension you need on most Indian roads to go fast without causing damage to a car. Sure, there is body roll, a bit more than what we expected in dynamic mode, but an Audi with a 35TDI badge isn’t exactly meant to be entirely performance oriented. The light steering is devoid of any feel, though it’s fairly precise.
The A6 Matrix in effect, thus isn’t the sharpest tool to dart around switchbacks, but it would brave all the hostilities presented by the relentless Indian roads to give you and your family a ride that would leave you dumbfounded. And that’s what really matter for a premium family sedan in this segment, more so in India.
Interior and equipment
Audi has made some noteworthy stylistic and feature related changes inside the cabin as well. The MMI infotainment system gets upgraded to the Radio Plus version with some new features and now gets a voice dialogue system. The new voice dialogue system allows you to either use some simple pre-listed voice commands using its own program, or connect your phone (Android or iPhone) and use the voice assistants on the respective phones with the car’s microphone and audio. Sound output is provided by a 600 watt Bose system which has been designed specifically for this car and with a good audio source, sounds great all the way up to full volume.
Another important change is the new drive selector lever. As the Multitronic CVT transmission from the previous version gets replaced with an advanced S-Tronic, so does the selector lever with better ergonomics. Steering wheel gets pedal shifters as standard.
The dashboard for the new car has been overhauled too with new styling and trim. The wood inlays on the dashboard are now in fine grain Ash Natural Brown, with no lacquer so one could see and feel the quality of the wood clearly. The thumb wheels for air vent control and seat configuration controls now get aluminium accents for a richer, more premium feel. Features like eight airbags and handwriting recognition get carried over from the previous version.
Audi Drive Select lets you choose from Comfort, Dynamic, Auto or Individual modes. The big change here is the introduction of the Adaptive Air Suspension which can now dynamically change its stiffness based on the drive mode selected or the road surface. The power retractable eight inch central screen gets a new navigation system.
The new screen makes use of the fast Tegra 30 graphics chip from Audi’s partner Nvidia. The screen also displays the happenings behind the car through a rear view camera when you put it in the reverse gear.
The new A6 gets a central arm-rest with some space inside for the powered front seats which are supportive, well bolstered and feature a memory function for passenger too.
There is a four zone automatic air conditioning system which includes rear A/C vents both between the front seats and in the B-pillars. Audi claims that the car also has sensors which detect the position of the sun and increase the intensity of the air flow from the air vents on the side where the sunrays are falling directly. The face-lifted A6 Matrix can also be ordered with ventilation and massage function for the seats.
The car gets its upholstery in Milano leather which can be had in three colors – black, beige or the newly introduced Nougat Brown. Co-driver seat is adjustable from the rear to maximize legroom, while ambient lighting, auto dimming interior mirrors and a sunroof come as standard. We do miss a panoramic sunroof, but looking at the other features and the price of the car, we really can’t complain.
The boot is a generous 530-liters, though we could have done with a few more cubby holes for stuff like cell-phones and wallets.
The interior of the Audi A6, especially for the price is packed to the gills and is built to exacting German standards. There isn’t really anything we can complain about, especially with the magical ride insulating the occupants completely from the taxing Indian terrain.
The new Audi A6 looks much sharper, more modern and resultantly a much stronger value for money proposition in its Matrix avatar. It may not be the most powerful, or the sharpest car to drive in the segment, but it outclasses the competition with its generous set of features, while still being available at a segment beating price. It’s not the car for the out and out enthusiast, but if a spacious, utterly comfortable and feature laden mid-size premium car is what you’re looking for, we’d very strongly recommend you test drive this one. The Audi A6 Matrix will cocoon you in its loving arms and create a virtual reality that disconnects you from the cruel realities of our world – somewhat in a way those human farm cells did in its namesake movie.
Price as tested : Rs 49.5 lakh ex-showroom
Audi A6 Matrix Image Gallery