At first glance the new four-door Audi A6 executive saloon doesn't look a whole lot different from its predecessors but step inside and you'll find a treasue trove of tech to satisfy any gadget-loving motorist.
Much of the technology crammed inside, like the infra red night vision and the WiFi connectivity, was outed last year in the Audi A7 Sportback but with live traffic services added to the Google powered sat-nav and the new safety-conscious Audi pre sense accident prevention system, the A6 certainly pushes car tech one step further.
Audi A6: Car tech taken further
The sum of the Audi A6's tech smarts converge in the main Bluetooth enabled multimedia unit - the MMI Navigation Plus.
The MMI (multimedia interface) boasts an 8" screen, two processors, two card readers, a DVD drive, and 60Gb hard drive for storing music and contacts, all of which can be can be controlled by voice. An Nvidia graphics processor provides the power to create hi-res 3D maps from satellite and Google Earth images, bringing routes to life, modelling points of interest and adding detail to cityscapes.
The Google cleverness isn't just limited to Google Earth, the sat-nav also capitalises on the car's internet connectivity to put Google search tools at your fingertips - or vocal chords if you choose to use the voice controls. That means limitless options when it comes to finding what you really need, when you really need it.
Another great addition to the MMI is the new Audi Online Traffic Information system providing TomTom-grade sat-nav. Just like TomTom GoLive models, the Audi system uses mobile network data to spot high densities of handsets in one area and combines that with traffic information sources to provide real-time updates that help you see where the traffic jams are and find alternative routes.
Not content with telling you what's happening on the roads near you right now, the navigation system can also see into the future, analysing route data to predict the conditions your about to encounter on your journey. That info is then used to do nifty things like turning the intelligent LED headlights on when you enter tunnels or approach junctions.
Audi A6: Touch input
No leading-edge tech-laden car would be complete without some sort of touch input and - just like its sibling the A7 - the A6 has an optional MMI Touch touchpad control that lets you use your finger to write the letters of the destination or digits for phone numbers. It was surprisingly responsive and easy to use, largely due to the position of the touchpad in the left-hand-drive model being perfect for a right hander. It'll be interesting to see if that remains the case for right handers in a right-hand drive, where you'll be called upon to enter text with your non-writing digits.
Audi A6 WiFi: Driving the information super highway
Cars are no longer just about getting from A to B. We want to be entertained while we travel and with most of our media heading for the cloud and our socialising shifting online, web connectivity is now vital for us to get our fix be it Spotify playlists or Facebook updates. The A6 answers this need deftly, coupling a SIM card slot with a roof antenna to turn your car into a mobile WiFi spot with connectivity for up to eight devices at speeds up to 7.2mbps. If you don't have a SIM you can use the Bluetooth connectivity to piggyback your existing smartphone's connection.
In our test, simple tasks like emailing, Tweeting and web browsing were reliably speedy, if a little travel-sickness inducing, while streaming Spotify from an iPhone to the car's sound system was a synch.
Audi A6 Soundsystem: Bang for your buck
The top of the range sound system offered for the A6 is the 'Advance Sound Sytem' from Bang & Olufsen. Fifteen active speakers, two amplifiers and 1,300 watts of power combine with stunning dashboard tweeters and polished aluminium speaker trims to make it look as good as it sounds.
Audi A6 Car Tech: Safety
With the A6, Audi has introduced new tech-powered safety features, 'Pre Sense' and 'Rear Sense', to help you avoid and minimise the impact of accidents. Cameras placed in the front and rear detect when you are approaching (or another vehicle is approaching you) at a speed that means a collision is likely. That triggers a four phase response. First an alarm sound and a short breaking jolt to alert you to the danger, if you doen't respond, the car then automatically increases the breaking to 30 per cent. If there is still no response from the driver, the breaking increases to 50 per cent. Finally as the car reaches point of impact the breaking increases to near full and the seat belts automatically tighten to keep you well in your seat. Rear Sense works in the opposite way, increasing acceleration to minimise the effect of a rear collision.
We were a little sceptical about letting the car take control in dangerous situations but the simulation test we tried out made it clear that the driver remains completely in the equation. Pre Sense is really an early warning system that relies on the driver to take action. If they don't, the technology helps reduce the danger but it if you're doing 60mph round a corner into a parked lorry it's not going to stop you hitting it.
Audi A6 Car Tech: First look verdict
On the outside the A6 isn't a particularly lust-enducing car but then it's really aiming to offer a badge of refinement and sophistication rather than lick-me good looks. Once you're inside, however, it's a different story. This is a car with a big beating tech heart. The cabin is a pic'n'mix for greedy gadget lovers who want their wheels to be as future proof as the tech they carry in their pocket.
With an abundance of tech comes the danger of over complication but the A6's systems come with healthy dose of usability sense. The voice and touch controls make the sat-nav and media interface easy to navigate while the head up display, projected onto the windscreen makes it easy to follow what's going on without taking your eyes off the road.
The inclusion of Google Search and live traffic make the sat-nav system one of the strongest we've seen, while car control systems like lane assist and distance assist are perfect for a hassle-free ride.
The killer app for us though is the WiFi. Simple to connect and fast enough for most tasks, putting the web into you wheels is where the future really lies. All we need now is a full suite of smart motoring apps to use on the move.
Audi A6 3.0 TDI S-Tronic
Audi A6 3.0 TFSI quattro S tronic S-Line
Link: Audi A6