Sharply-cut, the A6 foundation vehicle is given a subtle tailoring. Photo Gallery
Stuart Martin road tests and reviews the new Audi S6 with specs, fuel economy and verdict.
Slingshot. Staggering. Subtle even. The S6 prompts several adjectives - as well as a few terms a number of people consider unsuitable for publication.
No wild wings, belly-scraping ride heights or straining at the leash - the fastest S6 ever launched by Audi slides in beneath five seconds for the trip to 100km/h but push a few appropriate buttons within and it might well be hard to believe that it's capable of such ferocious feats.
The new Audi S6 starts at $168,900, which is a $30,000 drop from the old V10 car - just 50 will be offered here and there's plenty on the features front to make the pricetag seem a little less steep. The leather-clad interior is comfortable and a quality cabin and it has a head-up display, a Bose infotainment system, digital TV, powered bootlid, heated and power-adjustable front sports seats, quad-zone climate control, side and rear sunblind, satellite navigation, auto-dimming mirrors, parking sensors front and rear, a reversing camera, automatic headlights (with rain-sensing function), rain-sensing wipers, electric automatic park brake and power-adjustable folding exterior mirrors.
It sits on 20in alloy wheels with 255/35 Pirelli P-Zero tyres, with a seven-speed auto, adaptive air suspension, LED head and tail lights, auto-dipping high-beam system and the clever quattro sports differential.
The heart of this executive machine is a four-litre V8, fed by two twin-scroll turbos to produce 309kW and 550Nm, the former hanging around from 5500 to 6400rpm and the latter on offer from 1400 through to 5200rpm. The muted but monstrous V8 has a cylinder-dropout system that shuts down cylinders 2, 3, 5 and 8 whenever the system sees a need, which allows it to lay claim to a frugal (for its performance potential) fuel use figure of 9.6 litres per 100km, a 24 per cent drop on the old 320kW/540Nm V10 (lighter yet slower) S6.
Getting all that grunt to ground in the new car is a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and a rear-biased (but variable) quattro all-wheel drive system that includes the clever rear diff. The quattro sports rear differential delivers drive to both rear wheels as required, which gives the S6 phenomenal drive out of corners. The adaptive air suspension varies the damping and ride height according to driver preference (unless left to its own devices in auto mode) and delivers a much improved ride quality - not brittle and wooden like some of its Audi S-car forebears.
Also on offer is a start-stop fuel-saving system, active engine mounts to counteract the vibrations developed in four-cylinder mode (it works well) and an active noise control system that cancels unwanted cabin noise (detected via tiny microphones hidden in the vehicles headlining).
Sharply-cut, the A6 foundation vehicle is given a subtle tailoring to quietly suggest to those at the traffic lights that they really shouldn't bother. The S6 has a twin dual-pipe exhaust set-up either side of a small under-bumper diffuser, a tiny bootlid rear spoiler, alloy mirror housings, ample front air intakes and a wheel-tyre package that ups the styling ante just enough.
Five stars from NCAP are worn by the alloy and steel A6 and have been for more than a few years, so the S version is a fair chance of doing similar things - it has the presafe accident preparation system, tyre pressure monitoring, dual front, front and rear side and full length curtain airbags. The all-wheel drive system, stability and traction control and anti-lock system for the six-piston front, single-piston rear brakes all add to the bank-vault feeling of security on the road.
I slid into the comfy "tombstone" sports seats expecting two things - serious straight line speed, a haycart ride quality and no feel through the steering. The new S6 was more than happy to oblige on the first count - floor it and the melodious but far too remote V8 sings as it slings you toward the middle of next week. The Audi claim for the sprint to 100km/h is 4.6 seconds with an
electronic limit of 250km/h - so I'm told - but there's nothing in the real world to suggest that time is optimistic.
The adaptive suspension has been given a whole new dose of smarts that has improved the ride quality - comfort mode is almost exactly that (it's still on the firm side) but even in the dynamic mode there's little about which to complain. The trick rear diff gives the big German an inordinate amount of exit speed - it can feel a little nose heavy on the way into a corner but fires out of them with gusto - so a A-to-B hills drive is completed in double-quick time should the need arise.
Sadly, the steering remains inert, although there's better weighting but still an absence of info for the driver, something that is not a complaint when it comes to the instrumentation. The dash and centre stack offers ample functionality without too much confusion, with a top-notch sound system; the MDI cable-connected iPhone didn't want to talk to the sound system, unless it was through the Bluetooth.
In cruising or commuting mode, the S6 is quiet, refined and comfortable, with little to betray when it's in four-cylinder fuel economy mode. There's decent rear space, with headroom a little tight for those north of the old six-foot mark, but four adults would have no reason to complain, with climate controls for all four and rear sunscreens for the rear occupants. Bootspace is good at 530 litres, a long but shallow load space that can swallow a solid amount of gear without issue.
Extroverts might want to look elsewhere in the Audi range for vehicles that scream to be looked at, but the new S6 is a subtle machine - too demure if you like to hear the orchestral noises that emanate from an engine bay. The pricetag is sharp, there's plenty of gear and it's a seriously swift sedan - there's no excuse for late arrival at meetings in this one.
Audi S6 sedan
Price: from $168,900
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited km
Resale: 48 per cent (Source: Glass's Guide)
Service interval: 15,000km/12 months
Safety rating: five star
Spare: temporary spare
Engine: 4-litre V8 two twin turbo, 309kW/550Nm
Transmission: 7-speed double-clutch automated manual; AWD
Body: 4.9m (L); 1.9m (w); 1.4m (h)
Thirst: 9.6 L/100km, on test 14.6; tank 75 litres; 225g/km CO2
BMW M3 DCT sedan
Price: from $149,000
Engine: 4-litre,V8 petrol, 309kW/400Nm
Transmission: 7-speed twin-clutch automated manual, rear-wheel drive
Thirst: 11.9L/100km, 95RON, CO2 285g/km
BMW M3 - See other M3 verdicts
Mercedes-Benz C63 sedan
Price: from $153,900
Engine: 6.2-litre, V8 petrol, 336kW/600Nm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Thirst: 12.1L/100km, 98RON, CO2 283g/km
Mercedes-Benz C63 - see other C63 verdicts
Jaguar XFR sedan
Price: from $210,400
Engine: 5-litre, V8 petrol, supercharged, 375kW/625Nm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Thirst: 12.5L/100km, 95RON, CO2 292g/km