Lexus IS VS Audi S6
- Good value
- Great after-sales
- Dodgy entertainment system
- Executive style
- Improved value
- Boy-racer performance
- Not SUV practical
- A touch thirsty
- Substandard warranty
This generation of the Lexus IS has been with us for a while now, and it has a lot more to contend with than it did on its debut. The Infiniti Q50 has come and gone, but a new Audi A4 (soon to be refreshed) and a very impressive new BMW 3 Series made life difficult. And that's before everybody wakes up to Genesis, which could bloom into a real threat.
Lexus has carved itself a bit of a niche in this country, going after just about every luxury segment worth chasing (and one or two that possibly weren't...) but the IS has been getting on with the job of presenting itself to customers who have either tired of German luxury or just weren't interested in the first place.
The third-generation IS must soon be heading for replacement, so it's worth having another look to see how the Japanese challenger fares.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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|
It's difficult to place the Lexus against any of the Germans because it's a different sort of car. Its intent is probably closer to the Benz C-Class than the more overtly sporting BMW 3 Series or the all-rounder Audi A4. All three of those cars are way ahead for cabin, chassis and engine technology (depending on spec levels, of course).
None of them feel as solid or, ultimately, as tightly built as the Lexus. The IS has a very consistent idea of what it's meant to be and it goes all the way back to the LS400 - something identifiably similar but different enough to lure you to Japan.
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 first IS is still - remarkably - a common sight on our roads and couldn't be more different to the current generation. This car is low and sleek, with fast glass and big bold statements, like the huge spindle grille. That grille was a bit weak when this first generation arrived, but the mid-life facelift fixed that, but didn't touch the headlights, which still look a bit melted. Then there are the "big tick" daytime running lights, which don't really work with the headlights. It's all a bit odd.
Inside, things are very grey and sober. Obviously, it's astonishingly well-built, but there are just too many carefully labelled buttons and way too many switches you can spot in your neighbour's Toyota Corolla. They're not bad buttons, they just don't fit with the vibe of the rest of the car. Everything is clear and crisp, though, and the materials feel and look fantastic. It feels properly expensive.
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.
For some reason, the IS has always had a tight rear seat, despite its growth over the years. Handily, one of my neighbours has the iconic original IS200, and there isn't a big difference between the two cars, despite being separated by two decades.
This IS has such a flat windscreen that you have to be careful not to whack your head when you're getting into the front seats. The glass is super-fast and no doubt that pushes the cabin space towards the rear. The front seats are uncommonly comfortable and you also get heating and cooling, so you're covered all year round for posterior thermal comfort.
Front and rear passengers enjoy a pair of cupholders each and a bottle holder in each door.
The boot swallows a suspiciously identical-to-the-Euros 480 litres.
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.
Price and features
At $59,340, the IS300 Luxury opens the range, stacking up well against the obvious luxury competition. That scores you a 10-speaker stereo, 17-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, heated and cooled electric front seats, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, active cruise control, sat nav, auto LED headlights with auto high beam, headlight washers, keyless entry and start, partial leather trim, power everything, auto wipers, and a space-saver spare.
The standard complaints about the Lexus entertainment system still apply - it's hard to use, is devoid of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and takes longer than it should to learn where everything is. The sound, however, is excellent from the 10 speakers, the screen is huge and (mostly) pretty and the sat nav works quickly and without fuss.
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.
Engine & trans
Under the long bonnet is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine with a very reasonable 180kW and 350Nm, carrying the code number 8AR-FTS. An eight-speed automatic sends the power to the rear wheels and will propel the 1680kg machine to 100km/h in seven seconds flat.
You can tow 750kg with an unbraked trailer and 1500kg braked.
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.
The sticker on the windscreen suggests you might get 7.5L/100km, drinking premium unleaded. Unfortunately, and despite my fervent efforts, the best I could manage was a far more sobering 12.7L/100km.
That's not a great result, and it's quite similar to the 200t I drove a couple of years ago. Even with stop-start.
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.
From the driver's seat you get that very appealing sense of solidity that you get in every Lexus, even the baby SUV UX. That's partly because when a car weighs this much, it helps soak up the bumps. Lexus has a particular ride quality, even in its sportier variants, that makes you feel safe and cosseted.
The steering's weight is light, but not so light you can't feel what the wheels are doing, yet it's not overly chatty.
But the main contributor to the feeling of solidity and safety is realising how unbelievably quiet and smooth the IS is. Even the turbo four is the most distant of whirrs (without sounding bad), smoothly dishing up the power and torque. I'll admit to more than mild surprise when I saw the 0-100km/h time of seven seconds - it just doesn't feel that quick, but the speed does indeed pick up.
The eight-speed automatic could be more decisive - I often found myself grabbing a lower gear because the transmission had been a bit tardy picking the right cog. It could also drop into third or fourth a little too firmly when in Sport mode. It wasn't bad, it just felt like it was making a last-second decision to pick the gear and then ramming it home a touch enthusiastically. In normal city driving, however, it's smoother than the butter through which a Barry White track is being played.
As a sporty sedan it does okay, too, but the suspension is really set up to keep everything calm and comfortable. The electronics cut in early and often on slippery surfaces and even Sport mode is pretty tame. And that's perfectly okay.
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.
The IS lands with eight airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, brake asssist, forward collision warning, forward AEB with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, active-safety bonnet and tyre-pressure monitoring.
There are also two ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchors.
The IS scored the maximum five ANCAP stars in December 2016.
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.
Lexus offers a slightly unusual four-year/100,000km warranty, which I guess is a good way to separate yourself from the Euro competition, who are stubbornly sticking with three years. Added to the warranty is four years of roadside assist.
Also throwing a punch at the Euro manufacturers' generally lacklustre after-sales offering, Lexus offers to either come and fetch your car from you for servicing or will give you a loan car for the day. And you'll get your car back freshly washed and vacuumed, too.
All of this (and a reputation for bulletproof reliability) is intended to lure you away from the Germans.
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.