Cruise the roads of Mumbai and its hard to not notice the sheer number of SUV's that bear the famous four rings on its grille. However unlike SUVs, Audi has been grappling to grab a sizable slice of the equally lucrative and competitive mid-level luxury car segment. But the carmaker plans to change that, we spend a few days with the latest weapon in its arsenal with which the Ingolstadt-based carmaker plans to embed the characters 'A6' firmly in a world dominated by 'E' and '5'.
Compared to its predecessor the A6 Matrix has a more aggressive and sportier stance. A result of the 3D chrome grille, sleek LED headlamps, 18-inch alloys, dual rectangular exhaust pipes and swooped up LED tail lamps. Though much sharper the A6 Matrix still retains the elegance that its predecessors offered. The highlight of the car, which Audi has actually included in the branding, are the Matrix headlamps. To put it simply it's a brilliant piece of technology, the headlights use an array of LEDs, which are controlled by sensors that not only light up the road ahead and on the side when cornering, but a camera detects oncoming cars and depending on your speed each lamp adjusts its luminosity so that the oncoming car driver is not blinded by the strong light. Did I say that the LEDs make up for even sexier daytime running lights?
Step inside the A6 and you are greeted by the plush interiors. The dominant beige color makes the already spacious cabin feel even bigger. It is perfectly complimented by the fine grain wood inlays on the dashboard and the chrome accent knobs and buttons. Clad in Milano leather the front seats are electronically adjustable and come with memory function. Part of the upgrade is an even more intuitive MMI interface which now offers an 8-inch slide out screen. Media can be played back via Bluetooth, USB, CD / DVD or the onboard 10 GB hard drive. The A6 Matrix has a treat for audiophiles it comes loaded with a Bose surround system which has a total of 14 speakers embedded in the car which will beautifully bring to life an orchestra, an EDM arena and everything in the middle. Navigation and advanced voice dialogue system are also a part of the MMI interface which can be easily controlled via a click wheel and a touchpad with character recognition. There is also a remote control for the backseat passenger to control the MMI interface truly 'Like a Boss'. Speaking of the boss, the rear passengers have ample leg, shoulder and headroom and while they bask in the soft leather seats the four-zone air-conditioning gently cools their space with the temperature and fan speed of their choice. Front or rear, the cabin in true Audi style is luxurious and equally functional.
" Luckily for me navigating a 1.8 tonne car in the chaos that is Mumbai traffic was a breeze."
Available in just one trim, the A6 Matrix is powered by a 2L turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel motor that is paired with an S-Tronic 7-speed automatic gearbox and I must say that is a match made in heaven. The engine is to say the least 'supremely refined' to the extent that it does not feel 'diesel' at all, there is absolutely no vibration and even to a trained ear the only sound it leaves in the cabin is a faint hum when idling and even at high speeds. To test it for city driving we drove the car in peak traffic from Andheri to Parel, a route that disrupts the zen of even the most peaceful souls. Luckily for me, navigating a 1.8-tonne car in the chaos that is Mumbai traffic was a breeze. The first thing you notice is that for a car of this size the steering is extremely light. Apart from navigating through all the obstacles that the roads throw at you even parking in tight spots was effortless. Then there is the S-Tronic dual clutch gearbox which is not only one of the smoothest in the segment but in the industry as well, it picks the right gear and that too very fast, this combined with an impressive torque makes overtaking fun and easy.
The feeling of being relaxed after a 90 minute (22 km) journey was truly surprising, but something even more surprising than that was this was a practically bump free ride. What happened to the infamous potholes? Equipped with the adaptive air suspension the Audi A6 Matrix just floats over most of them, depending on the driving style and the road conditions, the system automatically adjusts each of the individual dampers every couple of milliseconds so that each wheel tries to absorb any and all irregularities on the road. With a press of a button the car can also be raised by a couple of millimeters, so that the speed breakers don't scathe its under belly.
Driving the A6 Matrix on the highway is equally fun. The car churns out 190 HP and 400 nM of torque and according to Audi the car goes to 100 from a standstill in 8.5 seconds. Press the throttle hard, and the acceleration is poised with minimal turbo lag There are three driving modes: comfort, dynamic, auto and the configurable individual mode. Comfort is ideal for city driving the steering is light, gearshifts are fast and the suspension is relaxed, with dynamic the steering becomes heavier, gears are held on to longer and the suspension becomes stiffer making this mode ideal for spirited driving. The A6 Matrix is an excellent cruiser even at a speed of 135 km/hr the engine would comfortably hum at 1600 RPM in the 7th gear. It is this refinement that makes cruising so much fun, we did it for over 400 km without breaking a sweat and it is efficient too. the A6 Matrix delivered an astounding 18.7 km on the highway and 11.5 km to the liter in the city.
The A6 Matrix impresses when it comes to safety as well, there are eight airbags spread across the cabin for all the passengers, ABS and electronic stabilization control. Aiding the driver there is a rear camera and hydraulic brake assist along with hill-descent control.
Overall the Audi A6 Matrix is a wonderful car: it has a very elegant and appealing design, it is spacious, packs in a generous set of features, the engine actually sets a benchmark when it comes to refinement, it is fast and green too. The ride is comfortable and so silent that once in you are cut off from the outside world. Even through a looking glass it's hard to find fault with the A6 Matrix except that performance enthusiasts will surely miss the petrol, 3 liter V6 and the Quattro drive variants. With such features and a compelling price of just Rs 49.5 lacs (ex-showroom), it will surely take some of the light away from the Mercedes E Class BMW 5 series and the Jaguar XF.