What is it?
A facelift of the Audi A6. Although Audi has decided to throw a new suffix – Matrix – on to the end of the car’s name, be in no doubt that a facelift is what it is. The classic traits of any facelift are ever present. New bumpers front and rear – both of which look very aggressive in the standard-issue S-Line specification by the way – new alloy wheels, new headlamps and tail-lamps, new upholstery colours, a new gear knob, and a bit more equipment. But there’s more to this one than just surface treatment.
Those alloy wheels are a size larger now (18 inches), which not only gives the car a much more planted look, but should also impact its dynamics. The headlamps are not just full-LED, but are of Audi’s ‘Matrix’ variety – hence the new model name. They use an adaptive high-beam assist that detects oncoming cars and shuts off individual LED diodes so as to not blind them; we’ve seen it on the A8, R8, RS6, RS7 and TT before. The other new Audi trend implemented here is indicators that sweep in the direction of the turn, which are quite cool, as are the new smoked tail-lamps. I’m also a fan of the faux diffuser in the rear bumper and the rectangular twin exhausts.
Inside, there’s a new un-veneered wood trim that looks really classy, and you can choose from a handful of leather colours too. There’s the latest MMI system with better connectivity and a full colour screen between the dials, which pumps out its tunes from a 10GB onboard hard-drive through a 600W, 14-speaker Bose 5.1-channel sound system. The A6 now gets rear side airbags, for a total of eight, which Audi says is class-leading. This is a small change, I know, but it’s very welcome – USB ports in the central cubbyhole, which means no more silly accessory cable required to plug in your iPod. At the back, you can now control the front passenger seat through a dedicated set of buttons. And finally, that new gearlever – it looks a little plain but is much nicer to use than the old unit. The lever isn’t as innocuous as it seems though, as behind it hides an all-new gearbox. Yes, Audi has finally ditched the tired old Multitronic CVT for an up-to-the-minute seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch gearbox, something the A6 always deserved. The motor it’s connected to is a 2.0-litre diesel (or 35 TDI in Audi’s unfathomable new naming practice). The good news is that it now makes more power and torque; the bad news is that it’s the only engine you can get for now. In fact, Audi has elected to offer the A6 Matrix in one singular trim level too, which limits your choice.
What’s it like to drive?
The new engine first, and though it uses the same 1,968cc displacement and single-turbo layout as before, power is up from 174bhp to 188bhp and torque from 38.7kgm to 41kgm. And of course, there’s the new gearbox, but power on the four-cylinder car still goes to the front wheels only – there’s no Quattro AWD on the A6, and it will only likely return if and when Audi decides to launch V6 and V8-powered variants; shame. It does, however, get Audi Drive Select as standard, which means you can choose between Comfort, Dynamic, Auto and Individual driving modes, to alter engine, gearbox, steering and suspension behaviour.
The first impression you get when you put your foot down, however, is that it’s no more powerful than the last car; in fact it feels a little overwhelmed this time around. Look down at the rapidly building numbers on the speedometer, however, and you’ll realise that it really isn’t. The power is all there, but the character of this motor has completely changed. A strong mid-range punch is a characteristic of older, less powerful versions of this engine, but the new one is so smooth and linear that it just masks its power completely. I have no doubt it will turn out respectable acceleration times when we give it a proper test sometime in the future. While that might be a little disappointing for enthusiastic drivers, you have to admit it’s better suited to application in a luxury sedan. It also feels a lot more refined than before, and the loud clatter typical of this 2.0 TDI engine is only seriously audible outside the car.
Though the old Multitronic was one of the best CVTs around, there was still no escaping that annoying rubberband effect, especially when you wanted a quick burst of power, say, for overtaking. The new dual-clutch gearbox, then is a very welcome change, and though it can be a tad hesitant to respond to kickdowns, the shifts themselves are very quick; just try and use the paddles and you’ll know what I mean.
Standard on the car is adaptive air suspension, which is a unique feature in this segment. Not only does it let you raise the car if you encounter a bad road, but it also changes character depending on which mode you’ve chosen in the Drive Select menu. The differences don’t seem obvious at first and the ride overall is very compliant either way. It’s only when you go faster that you notice Dynamic mode offers a little bit of relief from the mild float you get from Comfort mode on the highway, or body roll in corners. Interestingly, the larger wheels don’t seem to have impacted the ride much at all. The steering, as ever, isn’t high on feedback, but the added weight in Dynamic mode, though a touch artificial, is certainly welcome.
Should I buy one?
It is a little disappointing that Audi decided to launch the A6 Matrix with just one variant. It’s not even the fact that the option of more power would have been welcome, or maybe petrol refinement, or even Quattro AWD, it’s the fact that you have no choice at all. Perhaps some buyers don’t want Matrix LED headlamps or adaptive suspension, and would have liked to pay less as a result. Or perhaps some would have willingly paid more for a 3.0-litre V6 diesel (not sure what they’d call it in Audi speak) or a Bang & Olufsen sound system, like you could get in the previous car. We can just hope that Audi introduces more variants in the future.
However, look at how the A6 Matrix 35 TDI is specced and you’ll agree it’s clear Audi has done its homework on the Indian customer. The four-cylinder diesel is the most popular engine, and with the added power has come better efficiency too. The new dual-clutch gearbox is better in every way than the CVT, the added connectivity and safety features are just what people want these days. The adaptive air suspension delivers superb ride quality, and whether you find them gimmicky or bleeding cool, you have to hand it to Audi for bringing its latest headlamp tech to a more mainstream segment. At Rs 49.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) with all these goodies packed in, the A6 Matrix does come across as really good value too, and for what is already one of our favourite cars in the class, that just makes it even more enticing.