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On the road with Audi

Tofino bound.

Sometimes it’s the journey. Sometimes it’s the destination. Sometimes it’s both.

Tofino is a natural paradise in itself but it’s worth a visit simply for the drive. To drive on Highway 4, snaking marvelously across the lake-strewn spine of Vancouver Island, is probably the best drive in British Columbia. Aside from being astoundingly picturesque, the road calls for a car of style and substance. Tofino shows really well in summer, but the town is fascinating all year round—it all looks better when cold and wet, grey and green, quiet and ancient.

The 2014 Audi A6 TDI is the vehicle I kept between the lines for this extended-weekend road trip and while Active Lane Assist was designed as a safety feature, I let the car drift towards the lane markers. The system works as it was meant to, alerting me to lane-drift situations as it supplies subtle corrective steering to put me back to the centre of the lane. (When the system identified that I intentionally steered toward the opposite lane, it would not intervene.) When combined with the adaptive cruise control, which automatically regulates the distance between me and another vehicle, I was set to take in the dazzling display of Mother Nature’s finest from behind the wheel. The five-hour journey from Vancouver to Tofino starts with a ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo. Once disembarked from the ferry you will go through several small towns: Nanoose Bay, Ladysmith, and Parksville. Heading west along Highway 4, the road becomes the Pacific Rim Highway and what follows is a drive on a single-lane twisting road with magnificent sights along the way. Blink and you might miss the sight of a mama bear and her cubs in a stream.

Audi has been perfecting diesel engine technology in cars since the 1970s. Its latest generation can be seen in the turbo diesel lineup (TDI). Vehicles include the A3, A6, A7, A8, Q5, and Q7. In the A6, the 3.0L diesel makes 240 horsepower and 428lb-ft of torque, which is dispatched through its smooth-shifting, eight-speed Tiptronic transmission programmed to slip into the next gear as early as possible to maximize fuel efficiency (8.7 litres/100 km city and 5.3 litres/100 km highway). The A6 TDI provides loads of power and torque all throughout its rev range, making highway pass manoeuvres gratifying tasks. Audi says the A6 TDI is good for a 5.7-second 0-to-100 km/h sprint—a stat that I would not argue with. Powerful and smooth (in part thanks to the optional 20-inch wheels wrapped in Pirelli P Zero tires), the A6 TDI has just the right amount of guttural “I’m-a-diesel” noise when you’re in a throttle, and then it hums along serenely everywhere else.

The diesel has been equipped with a start-stop system that shuts the engine down when you come to a complete rest, restarting instantly when you remove your foot from the brake pedal. Audi’s navigation system is one of the best because it uses Google Earth’s mapping software to always give current route information. There are various optional packages and some newly available features such as the LED headlights with high-beam assist. The A6 optional features include an impressive 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen Sound System, as well as Drive and Vision Assistance packages. The Vision package brings a heads-up display allowing drivers to monitor speed without taking their eyes too far off the intended path and a night vision system to identify warm-blooded objects that might otherwise go undetected. As expected, quality of interior materials is top notch and the cabin is comfortable and plush.

On the final stretch into Tofino you will catch a glimpse of the ocean as you descend the hill towards Long Beach. It’s a welcome sight and means you’ve arrived on the far west coast. This glorious road trip is not meant to be rushed—you’ll want to take multiple stops along the way to explore and worship B.C.’s rugged beauty.