A road trip from Pune to Kodaikanal in an Audi A6 Matrix, when the headlights are put to the ultimate test
ON the outset there always seems so little that distinguishes one luxury car from the other, right? Look into the details though and the differences start emerging out of the haze of being pampered. Yes, regardless of the brand, every luxury car brings with it an astounding amount of plushness in the cabin and a whole lot of gadgets that you can play around with but beyond that there is always a certain trait that sets each one apart from the other. These can be specific to a particular product versus its respective competitors in the same segment or it could be about the brand itself. When it comes to Audi, the German automaker has made its mark in lighting technology and the perfect test of it for us was out on the highway on a roadtrip from Pune to Kodaikanal.
Dawn to dusk
Ever since Audi revisited their design language in the late 2000s, part of the focus has always been on the lights – first they brought Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) into the mainstream and now they’re in the process of making their Matrix headlights a common stay across their product portfolio. The A8 may have got them before any other model in India, but since then it has trickled down to the A6 and the Q7 too. Our chariot for the trip was the A6 Matrix and as we left from Pune at daybreak we couldn’t wait for the sun to go down, hoping that we’d be somewhere near Bengaluru by the time that happened.
The road ahead
The road to Bengaluru is pretty much a straight shot down NH4, which means we could really stretch the legs on the Audi A6 Matrix – all 190PS of power from the 2-litre TDI engine on tap with the car’s suspension lowered for that extra bit of aerodynamic advantage. The car kept extremely stable at triple-digit speeds as we made great time to get on to Nice Road just in time for dusk and that’s when the magic of the Matrix headlamps kicked in. With the road ahead lit up as bright as day, thanks to that magnificent array of LEDs, it completely negated the fatigue generally associated with nightfall – our eyes were less strained than normal and other road users couldn’t miss spotting the A6 even if they wanted to.
Two tanks later
The true beauty of the Matrix headlights shone through (pun intended) when there were cars ahead of us – the software taking over and cutting out the part of the LED Matrix that would, with conventional headlights, blind drivers of both oncoming traffic as well as those immediately in front of us. Passing through Hosur and then making our way to Salem via Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri was a breeze as the traffic that we encountered crossing Bengaluru eased up to some super-fast stretches of wide, perfectly paved roads. There on, it was a stress-free run through Karur before turning off towards Kodaikanal at Dindigul. By the time we were at the base of Kodaikanal, we had been on the road for close to 17 hours and had consumed under two tank fulls of the A6’s 75-litre capacity.
Bright and early
The climb up to the town of Kodaikanal was as rewarding as the drive that we had left behind – 400Nm of torque at the dab of the right foot, making for some effortless driving up the mountainside. The Audi A6 Matrix had taken us through a distance of close to 1300km in the most comfort possible – leaving us with enough energy and enthusiasm to explore the Princess of Hill Stations to the fullest. Like I said in the beginning, every luxury car can give you the luxury part of the equation, but taking away the mental fatigue caused by driving in the dark was solely the accomplishment of cutting-edge lighting technology that is Audi’s Matrix headlights!
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Future is now
With illuminating power that is said to be 1,000 times that of LEDs, laser lights are the next big thing in automotive lighting. Already finding duty in some luxury car models, the technology allows for headlights that are smaller in size and use lesser energy for brighter illumination, making them the future of headlights. It may not be too long before they become the staple in headlamps in both luxury and regular cars alike.
Decoding Matrix headlights
Conventional headlights have a single source of light – whether it’s a regular bulb or projectors. Audi’s Matrix headlight technology makes use of an array of powerful LEDs, all controlled by proprietary software. When the Matrix headlights are active, the system keeps all the LEDs focussed on high beam to see further and brighter in the dark. Armed with sensors that scan the path of the headlights, the software kicks in and shuts off parts of the LED array that would blind other drivers and oncoming traffic, thereby leaving the rest of the road brightly lit.
(A new pitstop for modern-day car and bike enthusiasts, this column features the latest machines, reviews, roadtrips
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— Muntaser Mirkar@BullSpeech