Audi S6 VS Mercedes-Benz E-Class
- Executive style
- Improved value
- Boy-racer performance
- Not SUV practical
- A touch thirsty
- Substandard warranty
- Numb steering
- Rear headroom in coupe/cabrio
- So-so warranty
Most buyers don’t care for sedans these days, but those in the premium market are still spoilt for choice, with new model after new model being launched.
The latest on offer is the new Audi S6, which once again attempts to mix executive style with boy-racer performance.
With its predecessor’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 succeeded by an engine that is 1.1 litres and two cylinders short, does it still serve up enough bang for your back?
Of course, the only way to find out is to put the new S6 sedan to test, so that’s exactly what we did. Read on.
|Engine Type||2.9L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium Unleaded|
To say Mercedes-AMG is popular in Australia is like saying the young people are fond of Drake, or that football fans seem to appreciate Ronaldo’s skills.
Per head of population we buy more of the three-pointed star’s go-fast specials than any other country on the globe. Typically, between 15 and 20 per cent of all Mercs sold here are of the AMG variety.
The ‘43’ suffix appeared on C and E Class variants, meaning a 3.0-litre, twin-turbo V6 had been slotted under the bonnet, providing enough grunt for day-to-day enjoyment without the hardcore edge of a big-banger V8.
But the boffins at AMG’s Affalterbach HQ can’t seem to help themselves because the E 43 has been replaced by, you guessed it, the gruntier E 53.
Powered by a 3.0-litre, in-line six-cylinder turbo engine, the 53-series delivers close to 15 per cent more power and a huge dollop of extra torque courtesy of its tricky ‘EQ Boost’ starter/alternator system.
So, has the civility and relative efficiency of Merc-AMG’s only slightly psycho E Class models been maintained, or has another beast been released?
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium Unleaded|
We adore the new S6 sedan. It looks great, feels comfortable and goes like stink all at the same time. What’s not to like?
It also helps that it is relatively good value, safe and practical by large-sedan standards, so it’s a bit of a no-brainer.
But will buyers be quick to dismiss the new S6 sedan because it’s not a more practical SUV? Time will tell, but we hope not.
Does the new Audi S6 sedan represent the best mix of executive style and boy-racer performance? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The Mercedes-AMG E53 is a supremely refined and satisfying performance/luxury package. For those who want the practicality and style of a high-spec E-Class, with an extra performance boost (but not the full-fat V8 drama) it’s got to be an appealing option. Plus, the high-tech hybrid drivetrain is brilliantly executed and seamless in operation.
Does the E 53 AMG do enough to warrant the hallowed Affalterbach seal of approval? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
To these eyes, the new S6 sedan is very attractive, albeit not outlandish, in keeping with its executive focus.
Up front, the subtly aggressive S body kit immediately comes into frame, with the bumper sporting sinister-looking side air intakes.
And, of course, there’s Audi’s signature Singleframe, which is not only large and in charge, but also finished in gloss-black, like many of the S6 sedan’s exterior design elements.
Below the heavily creased bonnet, the HD Matrix LED headlights look both angry and sophisticated, with their integrated LED daytime running lights (DRLs) providing a crisp signature.
Around the side, the S6 sedan goes about its business quietly, but its blistered wheelarches do add some bulk and help to accentuate its strong shoulder line.
Speaking of which, the rear end is arguably the S6 sedan’s best angle thanks to its wicked LED tail-lights, which have a segmented signature.
The chunky bumper below incorporates a diffuser element that houses the quad exhaust tailpipes, while a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bootlid spoiler rounds out the look.
Inside, the S6 sedan is a technological tour de force, with 10.1- and 8.6-inch touchscreens dominating its centre stack. The former is responsible for most of Audi’s latest multimedia system’s functions, while the latter takes care of the climate controls.
This set-up works pretty well, although a few too many taps are required for certain functions, and then there’s the issue of the glass display coverings, which are absolute fingerprint magnets alongside the gloss-black accents used throughout.
That said, the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and windshield-projected head-up display on hand are brilliant. In fact, they set the standard for the entire industry thanks to their design and breadth of functionality.
The S6 sedan does, of course, feel a little bit more special than the regular A6 inside, with the obvious additions being the front sports seats, which are covered in supple Valcona leather alongside the armrests. They even have diamond-stitched inserts.
Then there’s the obligatory flat-bottom steering wheel (with paddle-shifters), which is trimmed in Nappa leather alongside the gear selector, upper dashboard, door shoulders and knee rests. Indeed, hard plastics are hard to find here.
Meanwhile, a black headliner adds to the sportiness alongside the black Alcantara door inserts, but the cabin is otherwise a familiar (read: classy) affair.
Keen car-spotters will pick the E 53 courtesy of its ‘twin-blade’ radiator grille (in silver chrome) with black mesh insert in place of the standard E-Class ‘diamond’ version, and a distinctive ‘A-wing’ front apron design.
AMG-specific side sill panels link the front fascia to a rear treatment including a high-set diffuser panel and quad exhaust tailpipes finished in high-gloss (black) chrome.
The interior doesn’t vary dramatically from other high-end E-Class variants, the biggest differences being grippier, leather-trimmed sports seats, dark ash wood trim on the dash, console and doors, plus an ‘AMG Performance’ steering wheel trimmed in nappa leather.
A twin (12.3-inch) screen ‘Widescreen Cockpit’ media and instrument array includes the ability to scroll through an AMG-specific digital display, scrollable through ‘Classic’, ‘Sporty’ and ‘Progressive’ configurations.
Via the AMG menu it’s also possible to call up read-outs including engine and transmission oil temp, acceleration (longitudinal and lateral), engine outputs, turbo boost pressure, tyre temps and pressures, as well the current vehicle set-up.
Measuring 4954mm long, 1886mm wide and 1446mm tall, the new S6 sedan is a large sedan in every sense of the term, which is mostly good news when it comes to practicality.
Cargo capacity is decent, at 520L, but can be increased to an undisclosed amount with the 40/20/40 split-fold rear bench stowed.
Speaking of the boot, there are four tie-down points and a cargo net to help secure loose loads, while a bag hook and a side storage net are also on hand, alongside a 12V power outlet. Bulkier items will, however, be confronted by a decent load lip.
In-cabin storage options are numerous, but not all are effective. The glovebox is well-sized, while the driver-side cubby is surprisingly large, but the central bin is shallow, mostly taken up by the wireless smartphone charger, two USB-A ports and the SD and SIM card readers.
A pair of cupholders is located in the centre console, with a 12V power outlet found in between, while the front door bins can accommodate one regular bottle each, just like their rear counterparts.
In the second row, there’s a fold-down armrest with two more cupholders as well as a shallow storage tray, while cargo nets are affixed to the front seat backrests.
The rear bench is pretty comfortable, with four inches of legroom available behind my 184cm driving position alongside decent toe-room. Headroom is also good, with about two inches on offer.
That said, three adults sitting abreast won’t enjoy the experience, due to the large transmission tunnel, which makes for limited footwell space. At least they’ll have access to a couple of USB-A ports and a 12V power outlet, below the central air vents.
For reference, child seats can be fitted to the outboard seats via top-tether and ISOFIX anchorage points.
Despite availability in sedan, coupe and cabriolet form, the E 53 launch drive program focused exclusively on the coupe and cabrio.
Like all E-Class models the E53 offers plenty of space up front, as well as a generous, lidded console box incorporating multiple USB ports.
A second flip-top section in front of the media controller houses a pair of cupholders, oddments space and a 12-volt power outlet, plus there’s a medium-size glove box, and the doors feature long bins including big bottle holders.
Rear room in the sedan is typically E-Class generous, with three adults across the back seat a genuine option on shorter journeys.
Adjustable air vents are welcome, and a fold-down armrest houses two cupholders and a lidded bin, with another two USB ports provided. Door pockets incorporate bottle holders and there are map pockets on the front seatbacks.
The sedan’s boot capacity is 540 litres, more than enough to swallow a pram and accompanying baby ‘stuff’, or our three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres). And the 40/20/40 split-folding seat back liberates yet more space.
Backseaters (two only) in the coupe and cabrio are well catered for. Legroom is surprisingly substantial, although with the roof up, at 183cm, headroom for me was just adequate. With the cabrio’s roof down however, that improved considerably. Worth noting that sensors in the front seats’ adjustment system stop them from hitting a rear passenger’s knees. Nice.
In terms of storage and convenience, there’s a pair of cupholders between the seats, adjustable air vents, map pockets, and some oddments space near the outside armrests.
Boot capacity in the coupe is 425L and 385L in the cabrio, with the rear seat splitting and folding to offer through-loading space. An electrically controlled, retractable separator in the soft-top’s boot defines the space filled by the roof when folded (which still leaves 310L).
Tyres are run-flat on all variants, so don’t bother looking for a spare of any description.
Price and features
The new S6 large sedan is priced from $149,900 plus on-road costs and is far better value than before, even if it does command a $33,900 premium over the regular A6's flagship variant.
Compared to its predecessor, the new S6 sedan is $21,480 cheaper, while Audi Australia claims it has also added $20,000 worth of kit.
Standard equipment not already mentioned includes metallic paintwork (our test vehicle was finished in Tango Red), dusk-sensing lights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, soft-close doors, auto-folding side mirrors with heating, rear privacy glass and a hands-free power-operated bootlid.
Inside, satellite navigation with live traffic, Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay support, digital radio, a 705W Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system with 16 speakers, a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry and start, power-adjustable front seats with heating, a power-adjustable steering column, four-zone climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and LED ambient lighting feature.
Of note, buyers can opt for the $7700 Dynamic Package that bundles in speed-sensitive electric power steering, a rear limited-slip differential and all-wheel steering. It was not fitted to our test vehicle.
In terms of rivals, the BMW M550i sedan is identically priced, while the Mercedes-AMG E53 sedan is much more expensive, at $173,800. The S6 sedan arguably has the former beat on value but loses the performance battle due to its 390kW/750Nm 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8.
Pricing for the Mercedes-AMG E 53 ranges from $167,129 (plus on-road costs) for the sedan, through $172,729 for the coupe, and $181,329 for the cabriolet.
Then the cabrio is something of an outlier, with the BMW M4 Competition ($165,615) again a smaller but faster and cheaper option. In the hunt for other performance-focused 2+2 convertibles, you’re into the entry-point of Porsche’s 911 line-up with the Carrera Cabriolet ($248,350) representing a close to $70k premium.
All variants are suitably well equipped. On top of the standard performance and safety tech detailed in later sections, the E 53 is fitted with dual-zone climate control, 13-speaker Burmester audio (including digital radio and Apple CarPlay compatibility), keyless entry and start, nappa leather trim, sports seats, ‘AMG Performance’ (flat bottom) sports steering wheel (also trimmed in nappa leather), adaptive LED headlights (plus active high beam), and 20-inch alloy wheels.
Also included are the Widescreen Cockpit display (twin 12.3-inch screens covering multimedia and instruments as well as ‘Linguatronic’ voice control), sat nav, ambient interior lighting (64 colour options), active cruise, a configurable head-up display, electric front seats (heated with memory), wireless phone charging, wood grain interior trim, electric steering column adjust, rain-sensing wipers, and a panoramic sunroof.
All that stacks up well for a contender in this part of the market. You pay the big bucks, you get all the fruit.
Engine & trans
Compared to its aforementioned predecessor, power is unchanged, while torque has increased by 50Nm.
This unit is mated to a 48V mild-hybrid system that includes a trick Electric-Powered Compressor (EPC), which helps to reduce its turbo lag.
A reliable eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission is responsible for swapping gears, while drive is sent to all four wheels via Audi’s rear-biased quattro system.
This combination helps it sprint from a standstill to 100km/h in an impressive 4.5 seconds, while its top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h.
Already used in other AMG models, including the entry-level version of the just-released flagship GT 4-Door, the E 53’s (M256) in-line six is a 3.0-litre all-alloy unit featuring direct-injection and a single turbo, supplemented by an electric compressor (turbo if you prefer) which builds up charge pressure prior to the main turbo coming on song. Turbo lag, be gone!
The EQ Boost starter-alternator is housed in an electric motor fitted between the engine and transmission, driving a 48-volt electrical system to support the additional compressor as well as the car’s traditional 12-volt functions (lights, cockpit, multimedia and other control units) through a DC/DC converter.
Maximum torque (520Nm) is available from just 1800rpm all the way to 5800rpm, with peak power (320kW) taking over at 6100rpm. But the EQ Boost’s hybrid party trick is the ability to drop in a brief full-throttle burst of 16kW/250Nm. Whoosh.
Drive goes to all four wheels via a nine-speed dual-clutch auto transmission and an AMG Performance turned version of Merc’s ‘4Matic’ all-wheel drive system, using an electro-mechanical clutch to distribute torque between the permanently driven rear axle and variably driven front axle.
The new S6 sedan’s fuel consumption on the combined-cycle test (ADR 81/02) is 8.4 litres per 100 kilometres, while claimed carbon dioxide emissions are 197 grams per kilometre. Both figures are pretty keen given the level of performance on offer.
Audi says the aforementioned 48V mild-hybrid system reduces fuel consumption by 0.4L/100km thanks to its coasting ability, which sees the engine turn off for up to 40 seconds between 55km/h and 160km/h. It also engages idle-stop from 22km/h.
In our real-world testing, we averaged 14.4L/100km over 100km of driving skewed towards country roads over city traffic, with limited highway time. It’s worth noting that my spirited driving inflated this result. That said, while its fuel consumption is not as bad as it appears, this is still a thirsty sedan.
For reference, the S6 sedan’s 73L fuel tank takes 98RON petrol at minimum.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is line-ball for sedan (8.7L/100km), coupe (8.8L/100km), and cabriolet (9.0L/100km) variants, emitting 199, 200, and 204g/km of CO2 respectively in the process.
Start-stop is standard, minimum fuel requirement is 95RON premium unleaded, and you’ll need 66 litres of it to fill the tank.
The S6 sedan has no right being this good in a straight line and around corners…
Much of its success is owed to the 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6, which is now one of my favourite engines being built today. Simply put, it absolutely hammers.
Punch the accelerator from a standing start and it doesn’t take long for 600Nm to be on tap all the way through, and just a little bit beyond, the mid-range.
Occupants are firmly pressed into their seats as the S6 sedan sprints towards the horizon with vigour. Soon enough, 331kW arrives and hangs around until just prior to the redline.
Needless to say, this acceleration is addictive, and the EPC deserves some of the credit, as it effectively mitigates any dreaded turbo lag and ensures the engine is always seemingly on boost.
But we also need to acknowledge the eight-speed torque-converter automatic, which is a real beauty. Gear changes are nice and smooth, which is great, but what’s even better is their relative quickness – dual-clutch transmissions be damned!
Of course, extra performance can be extracted by switching between the engine and transmissions’ settings but, rest assured, they both stand up, no matter what.
However, we’d suggest spending time in the former’s most aggressive setting, as it unleashes the sports exhaust system, which sounds unreal.
Upshift with intent and you’re met with a booming ‘brap’. Downshifts and the overrun will even gift you a series of pops. In fact, the S6 sedan soundtrack sounds strangely similar to that of the five-cylinder RS3, and we have absolutely no problem with that.
Better yet, the S6 sedan has an appetite for corners, with its neutral handling a standout, partly thanks to its hard-working rear-biased quattro all-wheel-drive system, which works in tandem with all the other electronics to ensure there is plenty of grip at any given time.
This controlled driving pleasure is enhanced by the electric power steering on hand, which has a variable ratio. At low speed, it’s nice and light, but those after more heft can always switch to another one of its settings, which become progressively heavier… arguably too heavy.
Feedback through the wheel is also good, while the steering itself is pretty direct, lending itself to sporty driving, which, of course, is half of the S6 sedan’s mantra.
Coming into corners, braking performance is solid, thanks to the massive 400mm front and 350mm rear discs with red callipers, so the driver is brimming with confidence at every turn, even though there’s an unladen weight (with 75kg driver and luggage) of 1985kg to manage.
But let’s not forget the S6 is an executive sedan, so it has to ride like one. Thankfully, it does. The independent five-link suspension has air springs and adaptive dampers, which serve up comfort in spades, especially at high speed.
Its firm tune does come into frame when travelling on unsealed or uneven roads, with this exacerbated by the large 21-inch alloy wheels, which have a penchant for catching sharp edges.
It only takes a few kilometres behind the wheel of the Mercedes-AMG E 53 to recognise that it fulfils its job description pretty well.
With claimed 0-100km/h acceleration sitting in the mid-4.0sec zone (coupe 4.4sec, sedan/cabrio 4.5sec) it’s fast, but not brutal. It growls without rising to the full-blown roar that’s become the aural signature of the current 63-series AMG V8s.
But don’t take that to mean meek and mild. It’s properly rapid and the sports exhaust, particularly with the drivetrain mapped to the ‘Dynamic Select’ system’s ‘Sport+’ mode leaves you (and everyone in a 200-metre radius) in no doubt that you’re driving something special.
Dynamic Select allows individual calibration of the engine, transmission, suspension and steering. Around town with everything dialled in to ‘Comfort’ the E 53 is as refined and compliant as any other high-spec E-Class.
Despite the standard 20-inch rims shod with low-profile run-flat rubber (245/35 front, 275/30 rear) the ‘AMG Ride Control’ adaptive damping combines with the overall air suspension system to provide excellent ride comfort.
Find a twisting B-road and push into ‘Sport’ or Sport+’ mode and the car’s character changes distinctly. All 520Nm of maximum torque is available from just 1800rpm right up to 5800rpm. And while that’s plenty, pin the throttle and an additional 250Nm (and 16kW), courtesy of the EQ Boost hybrid system joins the party.
Press on and as peak power (320kW) takes over at 6100rpm you’ll notice the horizon is approaching rapidly. The additional electric compressor means power delivery is beautifully linear, and the hybrid boost is undetectable.
The nine-speed dual-clutch auto is as smooth at parking speeds as it is at maximum attack. Manual changes (up and down) are rapid and positive, accompanied by entertaining blips and bangs from the exhaust in the more aggressive drive modes.
The coupe is the lightweight of the trio, weighing in at 1895kg, with the sedan and cabrio sending the needle roughly 100kg further to the right. But despite that not insubstantial kerb weight, and the all-wheel drive set-up, all feel light and nimble for their size.
While the variable steering adjusts seamlessly as lateral forces increase, no matter which mode is selected, road feel is modest at best. But the AWD system shuffles drive to the right wheel without fuss and power down out of quick corners is satisfyingly solid.
With all this performance, on-tap braking is critical, and the standard set-up is perforated and internally ventilated discs all around (370mm front, 360mm rear) clamped by four piston calipers at the front and single piston floating calipers at the rear. After an ‘enthusiastic’ session on the launch drive they remained progressive and strong.
The multi-adjustable sports front seats are comfy when they need to be, and with the side bolsters adjusted inwards, secure and grippy as G-force builds. Top-notch ergonomics complement this satisfying and well resolved dynamic package.
Advanced driver-assist systems extend to autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keep and steering assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality, high-beam assist, driver attention alert, hill-start assist, tyre pressure monitoring, surround-view cameras and front and rear parking sensors. Yep, buyers aren’t left wanting here.
Other standard safety equipment includes six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), electronic stability and traction control systems, anti-skid brakes (ABS), brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, among others.
You’d expect any current passenger model wearing the three-pointed star to be on the leading edge in terms of active and passive safety, and the E Class range scored a maximum five ANCAP stars when it was assessed in late 2016.
The E 53’s crash avoidance tech includes ABS, EBD, brake assist, AEB, ESC, traction control, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, fatigue detection, a surround camera system, tyre pressure monitoring, and traffic sign recognition.
And if a crash is unavoidable all models feature dual front and dual front side airbags, a knee airbag for the driver, plus full-length curtain airbags… even a first-aid kit.
The sedan features three top tether points and two ISOFIX child restraint anchor positions across the back seat, with a two-and-two count in the coupe and cabrio.
The S6 sedan comes with Audi Australia’s three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which falls short of the premium market’s relatively new five-year standard that was set by Genesis and followed by Mercedes-Benz.
Three years of roadside assistance is also bundled in, although this term can be extended up to nine years if the vehicle is serviced at an authorised dealership, which is great.
Speaking of which, service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. Capped-price servicing plans are available, costing $2350 for three years/45,000km or $4110 for five years/75,000km. They’re pricey, but you weren’t expecting the opposite.
Mercedes-Benz offers a three-year/unlimited km warranty, with 24-hour roadside assist included for the duration. Not exactly leading edge when you think about Kia at seven years/unlimited km and Tesla’s eight-year/160,000km cover.
Scheduled maintenance for the E 53 is set at 12 months/25,000km, and service plans are offered at silver and platinum levels for up to five years/100,000km.