The Indian automotive industry is extremely volatile. The complex tax structures, the transition to BS6 emissions norms etc has forced some manufacturers to make some of the historic decisions. According to media reports, 90% of Audi’s sold in 2015 were Diesel, A couple of years later the gap narrowed with 70% of them being Diesel. But fast forward to 2020, in what seems to be surprised every single Audi sold today is a petrol-only Avatar.
There are multiple reasons behind this decision, the dieselgate, the narrowing price gap of petrol & diesel and of course the transition to BS6
Will the 5th generation of Audi A6 petrol be a trump card for the German carmaker to revive or is it a victim of impulsive decision?
The Audi A6 follows the mantra of clean and slated design language of the German carmaker. There is a large beautiful grille that occupies half the real estate. The LED headlamps offer a great throw at night. The high beams, however, could have done slightly better justice to the car of this price bracket. The LED fog lamps feel very stylish and you get the front parking sensors too with super cool headlamp washers.
Moving to the side of the Audi A6, you instantly realise that it’s not the long-wheelbase version. More, so if you are familiar with the E class LWB. The 18” alloys look stunning and go well with the design language of the A6. There is a neat touch of chrome around the silhouette. The car does look imposing and we feel this is the best angle to view the car.
Going back to the rear and you realise that Audi has put in some serious thought in crafting it close to timeless perfection. The LED tail lamps and the thin chrome strip running across the backyard take the elegance to a new level. The boot space reads 530 litres on paper and is actually deep and wide enough to be a good long-distance companion. Thankfully, the space saver is tucked inside.
I wouldn’t shy away from the fact that if I had to pick one brand from the German-trio as my retirement home, it would certainly be the Lord of the rings. Be it the simplistic cabin of the Audi Q3 back then or the uber-luxurious A6 which takes the business class experience a notch above. The twin-screen setup which is the architect of the victory in this Yacht on wheels will absolutely not go unnoticed. The primary 10-inch touchscreen is outsourced with the job to control various functionalities of the car like the multitude of driving modes ranging from Economy, comfort, sport and individual. The music system controls, navigation etc are controlled with the same dominating screen. The lower glass housing does everything to ensure the mercury levels in the opulent cabin is aligned to the individual passengers’ needs. The multiple layers of the dash, and the use of different materials, make it looks distinctive and fresh. I just love the gloss black panel above the glovebox and the way it blends into the large central touchscreen unit.
The steering feels great to hold and houses control for most of your on-the-move requirements. The paddle-shifters try very hard to remind you that the A6 too could be a potent driver’s choice as much as it is for the driven. To justify the price tag the A6 splurges you with the rarest of the customization options including the instrument cluster options.
The 16 speakers 700 watt Bang and Olufsen music system deserves a special mention and undoubtedly it’s excellent at what it does. The drive selector seems very modernistic unlike the traditional sticks of older Audis. The space below the armrest doubles up as a wireless charging pod but I felt it to be tad inconvenient and the larger problem being there was no space to store some basic accessories like wallet and I had no option but to use the same real-estate under the arm-rest for it.
The Audi A6 is one good looking sedan. And in this generation, it will make people notice it. Inside the cabin, it offers a premium experience and will make onlookers envy the high-tech setup. It is focused towards the driver with all three screens facing him/her. What it lacks, however, is any sort of entertainment for the rear or front passenger. And while the infotainment system performs all of its duties flawlessly, and looks cool while doing it, it lacks depth to deliver a truly geeky experience.
There is a wooden finished trim running across the plush cabin with the rings embedded in it. Small touches like the beautiful craftsmanship of the wooden lid above the cup holders for your espresso reminds you of your return on investment of those 78 big ones. There are an electronic parking brake and auto start/stop button which is used to shut the engine off at traffic signals. As expected in a car of this price bracket, you get up to 2 settings for the memory seats which increase the convenience. There is a sunroof that does a good job to fulfil your daily dose of vitamin D.
Audi gets the no-frills petrol edition which is essentially a Turbocharged Fuel Stratified injection commonly abbreviated as TFSI. While the engine does the job that you would expect from a 4 pot churning out 245 horses, enthusiasts will crave for 2 additional cylinders which were available in the earlier A6. If numbers isn’t all, this is probably the most refined petrol engine I have driven this year. The motor barely makes a sound and there is no vibration from the engine once it gets pumping. Get on the gas and it’s quick to pick up speed. The A6 takes just 4.4 seconds to get from 20 till 80kmph. Power is available in the rev band and it never makes you work for it. But while it is effortless, it isn’t exciting. Even a kickdown will be rather calm and won’t push you back in the seat. The front wheel drive layout does mean you have to deal with torque steer. The engine sounds sweet but the cabin insulation gets the better of it.
The motor is also surprisingly efficient for the amount of power it makes, returning 9 kmpl in the city and a surprising 14 kmpl on the highway part of our test. Part of this is down to the mild-hybrid setup in the A6 that consists of a starter motor and additional battery that powers the start-stop system and also maintain any cruising speed below 160kmph for up to 40 seconds with the engine switched off.
Tap the throttle and the car literally sprints and pushes you back around 2000 rpm. One thing that you instantly notice is the exceptional refinement levels. The engine feels way more powerful than it actually is. The steering is light in the city and lets you amble around town and even park in a tight spot with ease. However, it is quite lacklustre compared to its oldest rival, the 530d.
The ride quality on broken roads at early double-digit speeds is compliant. But if you plan to get ambitious with the throttle input when the road isn’t prepared for it, the A6 will give you a good reason to complain. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely no way, the bumpiness will traverse through the 18 inches of rubbers sourced by Michelin to the plush rear seat. With the low centre of gravity is a good recipe for high-speed cornering, you have another reason to drive the car at crawling speeds on speed breakers else, you might end up scraping one of those large, uninvited speed breakers.
The suspension is beautifully balanced to take on everything from speed breakers to potholes. The fat rubber on the tall wheels make a hell of a combination to keep you comfortable and worry-free. And even though there is no air suspension on offer, the setup is extremely quiet and won’t leave you complaining. It’s only over broken patches of roads when it gets unsettled a bit. Everything else, the A6 can eat for breakfast
While the Audi A6 wasn’t really known as a luxury car that you could take it to the racetrack on a weekend and take it to the office the next day, but when you pay 78 big ones there isn’t harm in expecting a bang for your every single buck. To arrive at a conclusion, we drove it through the umpteen sharp turns of National Highway 17 that leads us to the outskirts of the beautiful small town, Hassan.
It’s agile around corners too and keeps body roll nicely controlled. The only fly in the ointment is the missing quattro system — with this much power and torque going to the front wheels you do tend to experience both understeer and torque steer if you start to get heavy footed with the throttle around a set of corners. Like most Audis, however, the steering feel is too light, even in Sport, and though it’s great while driving in the city, around bends it saps some of the joy out of the driving experience.
Honestly, the conclusion was fairly simple. The Audi A6 felt calm and composed at triple-digit speeds, there were no evident signs of nervousness, no matter what. Having said that, we did feel that the 2 extra cylinders are the missing ingredient that is falling short in the recipe to make it one of the strong contenders in the pit lane of Buddh international circuit. If you are a Quattro fan, you would be left with dismay as the A6 missed out on this Audi’s breakthrough technology.
In terms of safety, the A6 has you covered with 8 airbags, disc brakes on all four corners, ABS, EBD, ESC, and traction control. There are even an active lane departure warning system and a hands-free parking assistant.
It’s important for every car to have a USP to sell well in India unless you’re a Maruti Suzuki. While the BMW 530d is a ballistic missile, the E class LWB is a house on wheels but the Audi A6 fits in as a jack of all trades and master of none. If there’s something that’s really in the favor of A6 it’s the rather attractive price tag compared to its rivals.
Coming back to where we started off with, the A6 certainly does not really seem to be a victim of an impulsive decision of the petrol-only strategy from the German carmaker and rather feels like the trump card Audi has been long-wanting, especially with the A6 bearing the additional responsibility of being the cheapest Audi you could buy in India minus the recently Q2 which we expect to get our hands on, sometime soon.
If we get a chance to be optimistic, we really wish the Audi A6 gets 2 additional cylinders or the power of Quattro to make it an even better contender in the luxury shopping space of one of the most dynamic auto markets in the World.