This sedan is a smooth op­er­a­tor

Re­designed four door is an easy rider and packed with loads of ad­vanced tech

Montreal Gazette - - DRIVING - BRIAN HARPER Driv­ing.ca

Audi has not one, but two new­for-2019 four-door sedans to con­sider: the more for­mal mid­sized A6 sedan and the larger A7 coupe-like hatch­back. Both share the same pow­er­train setup of a tur­bocharged 3.0-litre V-6 and stan­dard Qu­at­tro all-wheel drive. The A7 is def­i­nitely a grand tourer, ca­pa­ble of scoot­ing past trans­port trucks and buses in Dy­namic mode, but hap­pier glid­ing along in Com­fort mode at a more re­fined pace. Does the A6 de­liver the same ex­pe­ri­ence? Oh my, yes it does — just on a slightly smaller scale. I doubt if Audi would ap­pre­ci­ate me say­ing the car nearly put me to sleep, as that would im­ply it is bor­ing. But it is so re­lax­ing to drive that I found my­self in a deep state of mel­low. The tester wasn’t just any gar­den-va­ri­ety, base $75,800 A6. No, it was loaded with more than $21,000 worth of op­tions and sev­eral of these pack­ages se­ri­ously in­creased my feel­ings of bon­homie. First and fore­most was the $2,400 air sus­pen­sion, which does a su­pe­rior job of fil­ter­ing out any tar­mac nas­ties with­out com­pletely iso­lat­ing the ride ex­pe­ri­ence. The $3,600 In­di­vid­ual Con­tour Seat pack­age, which soothed my abused spine, will be a god­send to long-dis­tance trav­ellers. The cus­tom­ized con­toured front seats of­fer mul­ti­ple ad­just­ment set­tings and are fit­ted with ven­ti­la­tion and three mas­sage func­tions. The $5,100 Bang & Olufsen 3D sur­round-sound au­dio sys­tem al­lowed me to belt out my favourite Whites­nake Christ­mas tunes, drop­ping my blood pres­sure by at least 10 points. I wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily rec­om­mend to any­body con­sid­er­ing a solid, mid-sized Euro­pean tour­ing sedan that the now-$99,000 A6 is the né plus ul­tra of its class, but it’s up there. And be­ing far more cir­cum­spect with the op­tions list won’t change that fact. Canada-bound A6s come with a 335-horse­power, tur­bocharged 3.0-L V-6. No more su­per­charger and no more eight-speed au­to­matic, its re­place­ment a new seven-speed dual-clutch unit. In ad­di­tion, there’s the sedan’s new 48-volt mild hy­brid sys­tem, the same as in the A7. A belt al­ter­na­tor starter (BAS) works with a lithium-ion bat­tery. Dur­ing de­cel­er­a­tion, the BAS re­cov­ers up to 12 kW of en­ergy. In real-world driv­ing, the mild hy­brid tech­nol­ogy sup­pos­edly con­trib­utes to a fuel con­sump­tion re­duc­tion of up to 0.7 L/100 kilo­me­tres. A lot of ex­tra tech­nol­ogy for such a small im­prove­ment in fuel econ­omy? You de­cide. Oth­er­wise, the boosted V-6 is the def­i­ni­tion of smooth­ness. Yet, un­less you have the gas pedal pinned to the fire­wall (that will launch the Audi from rest to 100 km/h in about 5.2 sec­onds), get­ting the sedan mov­ing ini­tially takes a bit of ef­fort, as it weighs a hefty 1,935 kilo­grams, as much as many mid­sized crossovers. De­spite its av­oir­du­pois, the A6 likes the twisties, es­pe­cially when fit­ted with the op­tional all-wheel steer­ing, as well as dy­namic steer­ing (both part of the $2,500 Dy­namic pack­age). The rear wheels turn up to five de­grees; at speeds up to 60 km/h, they turn in the op­po­site di­rec­tion to the front wheels, re­duc­ing the turn­ing cir­cle by up to one me­tre. Above 60 km/h, the wheels turn in the same di­rec­tion, in­creas­ing sta­bil­ity. Dy­namic steer­ing varies the steer­ing ra­tio as a func­tion of driv­ing speed and the set­ting in the Drive Select sys­tem. It seems to be a sign of the times that Audi be­lieves its all-dig­i­tal MMI touch-re­sponse sys­tem is more of a defin­ing fea­ture than the A6’s me­chan­i­cal bits. OK, it is cool and more to the point, far eas­ier to op­er­ate than the pre­vi­ous ver­sion. Two large cen­tre con­sole dis­plays re­place most of the but­tons and con­trols. The driver man­ages the in­fo­tain­ment on the 10.1-inch top dis­play screen. The bot­tom 8.6inch dis­play is used for cli­mate con­trol, seat heat and ven­ti­la­tion and a few other ve­hi­cle func­tions. Audi’s vir­tual cock­pit, in the driver’s face with its 12.3-inch high-res­o­lu­tion dis­play, is a thing of beauty, show­ing the speedome­ter, tachome­ter and other in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing a re­dun­dant map in full-colour glory. Op­er­a­tion is via the multi-func­tion but­tons on the steer­ing wheel. There is also a head-up dis­play that projects rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion onto the wind­shield. The cabin is a mix of high-tech trick­ery and func­tional lux­ury, typ­i­cal of Audi. Yet, there is one com­pro­mise to the A6 if it’s to be con­sid­ered as fam­ily trans­porta­tion. Con­sid­er­ing the sedan is al­most five me­tres long, rear-seat legroom is on the skimpy side. Yeah, not ev­ery­body is six-foottwo, but then again, I was the short­est male mem­ber of my fam­ily. At least golf clubs can ride in com­fort; with its ca­pac­ity of 530 litres, the trunk will ac­com­mo­date two bags cross­wise. In a seg­ment dom­i­nated by the Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5 Se­ries and Lexus ES, the Audi A6 — which sits about mid-pack among the 15 or so com­pet­ing models — is more than a fresh­ened (though still fa­mil­iar and stylis­ti­cally re­strained) take on the up­scale, Euro­pean, mid-sized sport/fam­ily sedan. With height­ened lev­els of com­fort, safety and tech­nol­ogy and its smooth op­er­a­tion, the A6 is, rel­a­tively speak­ing, a su­pe­rior ride for the plea­sure seek­ers among us.

PHO­TOS: BRIAN HARPER/DRIV­ING

The 2019 Audi A6 is a re­fined and lux­u­ri­ous ride, writes Brian Harper, es­pe­cially when it’s gussied up with more than $21,000 worth of op­tional up­grades.

The A6’s vir­tual cock­pit is a thing of beauty, head­lin­ing the in­te­rior tech.

Canada-bound A6s come with a 335-horse­power, tur­bocharged V-6 en­gine.

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