The New A6: Comfort and Communications Electronics

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March 18, 2004

MMI – Multi Media Interface

Introducing the MMI integrated user interface, Audi now offers an infotainment platform and control concept on the new A6 combining the advantages of simple operation, a perfect position, and consistent logic.

MMI thus relieves the driver of substantial routine functions and allows him to concentrate in full on his main task, that is safe and smooth motoring.

But this does not mean that the driver of the A6 has to forego the benefits of modern infotainment and communication systems. On the contrary – MMI even offers additional functions and provides the ideal basis for further options and services in future.

With MMI having already set the standard in the luxury class Audi A8, it is now continuing its story of success in the upmarket segment. In the Audi A6, MMI is available in three different configurations: as MMI basic (standard), as MMI basic plus, and MMI.

Control architecture

MMI – first and foremost, this is the driver control unit (MMI terminal) in the centre console with a rotary, push-in control button. The control keys arranged around the control button have specific functions in each menu.

There are also up to eight function keys on both sides of the terminal next to the return key for leaving the menu level. These function keys serve to directly select the most important main menus.

The individual functions are subdivided into four groups in accordance with specific requirements: the Entertainment sub-group comprises the RADIO and CD/TV functions, the Communication sub-group is made up of TEL and NAME (address book for telephone numbers and navigation functions). NAV and INFO (for traffic information) form the Information group, CAR and SETUP are the Control group.

The terminal is in exactly the right ergonomic position allowing convenient access to the control elements also while driving, and without requiring the driver to change his seating position.

The second central MMI feature, the MMI display, is fitted at the upper end of the centre console exactly in the driver’s line of vision.

The basic geometry of images presented on the display is exactly the same as the presentation of control keys and the control button in the MMI terminal, creating an intuitive link of visual perception, on the one hand, and movements of the driver’s hand, on the other.

This means that in operating the upper left control key, the driver automatically selects the function shown at the upper left on the display.

MMI basic

The Audi A6 comes as standard with MMI basic featuring the terminal, a 6.5-inch monochrome display, as well as an integrated radio and single-CD player. Music is played back in high quality by a 2×20 W amplifier and four two-way loudspeakers in the front doors. Like all radios, the basic system comes with speed-related volume control and, thanks to the diversity aerial, excellent radio reception.

Not only the radio and the presentation of traffic information, but also – like in the Audi A8 – numerous vehicle functions such as the interior light configuration, air conditioning, and various warning signals can all be controlled via MMI. The central control unit is networked with the car’s electronics via a MOST bus, thus being able to perform numerous other functions on request.

MMI basic plus

As an option, the MMI radio system can be further upgraded by additional components. A TP memory function, for example, is able to record traffic messages lasting up to four minutes.

Over and above the basic unit, MMI basic plus comes with a DSP sound system incorporating a total of 10 loudspeakers (three-way combinations at the front and two-way combinations at the rear).

MMI basic plus can also be combined with a CD-based navigation system featuring optical destination guidance using arrow pictograms and additional text information in the driver information system presented exactly in the driver’s line of vision. Destinations may be entered directly or, for particular convenience, via the NAME key in the MMI address book. Route planning takes all information provided by TMC traffic radio messaging into account.


Fitted as an option with the full range of features, MMI comes with a 7-inch colour monitor also in the new Audi A6. In addition to the high-quality audio system already featured with MMI basic plus, a double tuner and a six-CD changer are also included in the radio system.

Yet a further option also available in combination with MMI and MMI basic plus is the all-new BOSE surround sound system for particular listening pleasure, no less than five amplifier channels distributing sound around the listener like in a concert hall – and in the process creating an experience in sound which sets new standards even in the supreme luxury range. A further feature of the BOSE system is electronic compensation of the car’s specific sound environment.

Like in the Audi A8, MMI can also be combined with DVD navigation offering more than 10 times the memory capacity of a conventional CD-ROM and significantly reducing access time in the process.

This kind of capacity is able to cover almost the entire Western European road network on one single data carrier, relieving the driver of the annoying job of changing the CD when crossing borders. And even this is not all in an appropriately equipped A6, a further advantage being the much faster calculation of routes than with a CD-based system, maps being built up far more quickly and the system offering an additional zoom function allowing a smooth process of zooming in and out as well as the option to shift the map in all directions of the compass.

Yet a further advantage of DVD technology is that it is able to memorise far more special navigation destinations, providing rapid and convenient guidance if the driver does not know the name of a road.

Destinations and route options are entered conventionally via an MMI menu. And as an alternative, the driver is able to control the navigation function by means of voice control.

Air conditioning

All models in the new Audi A6 range come as standard with automatic, high-comfort climate control featuring an air recirculation and pollen filter as well as a sun position sensor. Temperatures may be set separately for the driver and front passenger and air vents are fitted on the rear centre console.

The occupants’ well-being is further enhanced by high-comfort automatic air conditioning plus. Incorporating a sun position-related temperature sensor, an air quality and a humidity sensor, this sophisticated system recognises the exact temperature level within the car and automatically sets the temperature chosen by the driver and front passenger.

Taking up a concept already well-proven in the Audi A8, the Audi A6 has perforated grids at the top of the centre console. This allows the driver and his passengers to enjoy efficient and pleasant ventilation provided by the high-comfort automatic air conditioning virtually without the slightest draught as another feature contributing to the occupants’ comfort and well-being.

At the rear there are additional ventilation grids in the B-pillars providing a low-draught supply of air.

A special residual heat function allows the driver to use waste heat from the engine for warming up the car after switching off the ignition.

Not only air temperature, but also air distribution and the intensity of air flow can be controlled separately by the driver and front passenger.

The centre nozzle also comes with separate temperature control operating independently of the remaining flow of air. The advantage is obvious: while, for example, the nozzles at the side feed warm air to the side windows to prevent them from misting over, the driver and front passenger are able to feed cool air from the centre vents to head level. And this, obviously, means a lot more driving pleasure for the driver and front passenger. Air flow as such is controlled by the set-up menu on the air conditioning.

Telephone systems

The new Audi A6 comes as an option either with full preparation for a mobile phone or with a telephone featuring Bluetooth technology fitted in the car. The customer opting for a mobile phone can connect his phone either by an electrical adapter or once again by means of Bluetooth technology. Featuring “intelligent” charge electronics and a connection to the exterior aerial, the adapter is integrated both elegantly and very conveniently in the centre armrest storage box.

Regardless of how the mobile phone is connected, all functions can be operated via the MMI control unit. The TEL key provides access to the operating menu as well as the telephone directory integrated in the SIM card. And last but certainly not least, the driver is able to operate the most important telephone functions straight from the optional multifunction steering wheel without having to take his hands off the wheel.

Like the Audi A8, the Audi A6 is now also available as an option with a dual-band permanently installed telephone featuring a cordless handset. Housed conveniently in the centre armrest, the cordless telephone is connected to the control unit by Bluetooth, with all control and function display features fully integrated in the MMI control unit.

There is also the option of connecting a second headset to the base unit – for example in a chauffeur-driven vehicle – thus transferring calls to the passengers at the rear without having to physically pass on the handset. Even conference calls are possible within the car.

Access and driving authorisation system: advanced key

The driver of the new A6 with automatic transmission only rarely has to really pick up and use his key, since the optional advanced key function serves to provide electronic access and driving authorisation.

To provide this function the key – which the driver may by all means leave in his pocket – houses an electronic pulse emitter transmitting a signal registered and verified by a proximity sensor in the door. As soon as the sensor confirms that the key being used is the right one, the doors will be unlocked automatically once the driver actuates the door handle.

Central locking may be activated and deactivated on any of the car’s doors. All the driver has to do is carry the key on him at a distance of approximately 1.50 metres from the car and actuate the door handle – the passengers may also open their doors first if they wish. Via MMI, the driver can also choose whether central locking should unlock only the doors actually opened manually or whether all doors should be unlocked.

Using advanced key, the driver of the Audi A6 is also able to release the steering and clear the car’s ignition electronically and wirelessly before setting out. Provided the driver sitting in the car has the key on his person, all he has to do to release the steering is press the starter button, at the same time activating the ignition and clearing the electronic immobiliser. Then he can fire the engine by pressing the starter button on the centre console; the only requirement he has to observe for safety reasons is to have the automatic transmission selector lever in either P or N and to press the brake pedal.

To start the engine the conventional way, you can of course still turn the key in the ignition lock as in the past.

Getting out of a car equipped with advanced key, all the driver has to do to lock all doors is press a small button under the door handles. This will again activate a dialogue between the key and the car sensor to make sure that the doors are not locked by mistake.

This sophisticated system ensures not only extra comfort, but also additional security, the conventional mechanical ignition lock being replaced by an electronic variant. Modern advanced key technology identifies the key in all-electronic process guaranteeing that this is indeed the right key for the right car in the interest of enhanced security.

Light and rain sensor

All new Audi A6 models come as standard with a combined light and rain sensor automatically activating or deactivating the low-beam headlights or – in the wet – the windscreen wipers and controlling wiper speed.

Hidden discreetly out of sight, the system sensor is integrated in the interior mirror support at the top of the windscreen where it does not in any way obstruct the driver’s view.

Two light sensors operating independently of one another determine both ambient brightness and light conditions in the direction of travel. Taking light and weather conditions as well as the speed of the car into account, a microprocessor determines in a continuous, ongoing process whether it is necessary to switch on the low-beam headlights. The system as such is activated by turning the light knob to the “Auto” position.

Another feature standard on the lights sensor is the coming home/leaving home function switching on the car’s exterior and interior lights in the dark as soon as the driver unlocks the doors by remote control before getting in. After the driver has locked the doors, in turn, the system switches off the lights with a certain, pre-determined time-lag the driver is able to choose at random on the MMI control unit.

Determining the degree of moisture on the windscreen, the rain sensor triggers a wipe command and activates the wipers at the right speed. Again, controlling the system is a very easy process merely requiring the driver to move the wiper stalk on the steering column into the intermittent position in order to permanently activate the rain sensors. Then the system will automatically be reactivated every time you start the engine.

Coming in 2005: adaptive cruise control

Like the Audi A8, the new A6 comes as an option with an “intelligent” co-driver: radar-aided adaptive cruise control automatically maintaining the right distance from the vehicle ahead. Supplementing the optional cruise control function, this system significantly enhances driving comfort by automatically controlling the speed of the car relative to the vehicle ahead and the distance chosen.

Offering a high standard of convenience, adaptive cruise control assures a significant enhancement of driving pleasure particularly on long journeys along country roads or in dense traffic on the motorway, making life much easier for the driver.

Again hidden discreetly out of sight, the system sensor is fitted behind the trim grille on the coolant air intake. Emitting radar signals measuring the distance to the car ahead, the system is able by means of its built-in computer to determine from any changes in measurements whether that distance is growing or decreasing, then intervening appropriately on the accelerator and brake pedals in order to control the speed of the car.

Developing this new system, Audi’s engineers have consciously limited the intensity of both acceleration and brake forces, focusing clearly on comfort and convenience requirements. Whenever the driver approaches another vehicle at a high differential speed, adaptive cruise control thus requires the driver himself to respond appropriately, taking the specific situation and the differential speed into account.

The driver is able to choose the basic adaptive cruise control configuration by MMI in order to meet his specific wishes and preferences. He chooses which of four predetermined programs is to be activated automatically whenever the system is rebooted after starting the engine. These individual programs then determine both the distance to be maintained to the car ahead and how dynamically the distance control function is to operate.

The current status of the system as well as the speed chosen are shown to the driver within the speedometer. Other important information is presented in the driver information system display, the system as such operating in the speed range from 30 to 200 km/h.

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