It’s been said that power corrupts. Well, if that’s the case, consider me corrupted. If I had the Audi S6 in my possession for much more than a week, my license would be in peril. Since I’ve already suffered the indignity of surviving without a driver’s license when I was young and stupid, I had to temper my enthusiasm so as to not repeat that painful experience. With 420 ponies on tap, you can only imagine how hard that task was. The Audi S6 bribed me with horsepower and acceleration and handling prowess in an effort to sway me into describing it with glowing superlatives. Yes, I took the bribe. While I drove it my mind was filled with words like amazing, incredible, phenomenal, holy shi… Umm, well, maybe I should save that last one for my private correspondence. Suffice it to say, I hold a high opinion of the S6.
It starts with Audi’s A6 luxury sedan, a nicely sized car that can be had in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive configurations in your choice of 211 hp turbocharged 2.0l I4 or 310 hp supercharged 3.0l V6. Base prices start at $42,200 for the CVT 2.0T FWD, or range from $44,400 to $50,400 for base “Premium” equipped Tiptronic 8-speed Quattro versions depending on engine choice. They include such niceties as a glass sunroof, automatic lighting, Audi drive select, three zone climate control, heated 8-way power, leather finished front seats and electronic stability control to name just a few of many. Jumping to “Premium Plus” costs $4300 and adds larger wheels, a larger full color driver information screen, MMI with Navigation, heated, auto dimming, manual folding outside mirrors, Audi parking system with rearview camera and HID xenon headlights. Audi’s A6 “Prestige” package is available on V6 cars only and upgrades to four zone climate control, adaptive headlights, Bose audio with subwoofer, front seat ventilation, power tilt/ telescoping column and “S line” exterior components, which are different bumper covers and grille, for an additional $2350.
The S6 can only be fitted with the “Prestige” package and ups the power, and the price, with the addition of the 420 hp twin turbo 4.0l V8, 7 speed S-tronic transmission with sport programming and manual shift mode, 19 inch split spoke wheels and humungous 15.7″ front and 14.0″ rear brakes. It also gets 12-way power “S sport” seats with S6 embossing, Valcona leather seating with diamond stitching, S6 specific front and rear bumpers, aluminum door sills with backlit S6 logo, heated outside mirrors with alu-optic finish (looks like aluminum), Bose surround sound audio system and adaptive air suspension with S6 suspension tuning for a base price of $71,900 before options, and there are some pretty pricey options on this list.
The Audi S6 bribed me with horsepower and acceleration and handling prowess in an effort to sway me into describing it with glowing superlatives.
The CF test car was loaded with Audi’s “Innovation package”, a $5650 package that adds adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, Audi pre sense plus, active lane assist, side assist, head-up display, power folding action for the outside mirrors, infra-red night vision assistant, and the fascinating top view camera system. This system works with the rear view monitor and the cameras for the lane keeping and adaptive cruise systems. It shows an image of the car and the area directly surrounding it as it would look from directly overhead and, like the rear view, overlays the image with graphics to show where the front corners of the car will be as you back up. So, if you are backing out of a parking slot at the mall and the red graphic crosses an obstacle you’ll be able to see it instead of guessing where the front bumper is. Other added options are the $1400 LED headlight kit, 20 inch rims with 255/35 summer tires ( Dunlop SP Winter Sport 20’s in this case) for $1000, Carbon Atlas inlays for $500, and $475 Phantom Black pearl effect paint. The other big ticket option was the 1300 watt, 15 speaker Bang & Olufsen Advanced sound system for $5900. With an $895 destination charge this S6 rang up at $87,720.
Smitten as I am, I’m not blinded. The S6 isn’t a perfect car. The good news is that the imperfections are minor and all but one made themselves known in the mundane moments of the driving experience. When I was driving with gusto, the S6 comes closer to the epitome of my idea of a luxury sports sedan as any car I’ve ever driven.
Smitten as I am, I’m not blinded. The S6 isn’t a perfect car.
When it comes to looks, understated describes the appearance of the S6 perfectly. Some cars get glances from all kinds of people. Some cars only draw the attention of people who drive cars from the same manufacturer. Other than one kid in a krauted out Golf, the S6 drew absolutely no attention to itself. Call this minor gripe number one. Its got a much more aggressive design than the A6 with its large bumper openings and dramatic LED lighting, but unless its dark outside the lights aren’t showcased and the classic yet simple creases of it’s bodywork don’t scream “attention getter”. From my point of view, if I spend almost 90 grand on a car, I want some Billy Squier action. Stroke me, stroke me, tell me I have a nice car. Once you get inside the car, it shows off a little more. The bolstered Valcona leather sport seats are comfortable and grab your butt like a Slovakian cyclist, except the seats don’t need to apologize for it.
The rest of the interior was covered in more leather or soft touch plastics wherever it wasn’t outfitted with Carbon Atlas inlays. While the dash itself was a predominately black affair, the Lunar Silver door panel inserts and seats brightened up the interior all day and received the help of cool white ambient lighting at night. The seats are decorated in a diamond tufted stitch pattern that you won’t see in anything else short of a customized hot rod, and it lends a unique persona to the S6’s interior. Minor gripe number two: The Lunar Silver seats are gorgeous, comfortable and supportive, but they were already showing signs of dinginess at about 3500 miles. I know this is a press car that gets used differently than a regular customer car, but it is the color Audi chose to showcase and it appears to be high maintenance. Other hues may not have this issue. If I need to have the seat cleaned more often than I change the oil, it might start looking like an old bomber jacket before too long.
Getting in the car, putting your foot on the brake and pushing the start button sets off a theatrical flourish of electro-mechanical activity.
Getting in the car, putting your foot on the brake and pushing the start button sets off a theatrical flourish of electro-mechanical activity. The exterior mirrors whir outward into position, the 8 inch Audi MMI display motors out of the dash and angles upward for viewing and the optional Bang & Olufson tweeters levitate out of the corners of the dash like some kind of alien scanners. If you’ve taken the time to assign and program seating and steering wheel positions to one of the remotes and they’ve been moved from those presets, they’ll move back into the proper position. All the while, the displays and gauges are going through their startup routine graphics. The only thing missing is Waltraud Meier singing “Willkommen bei Ihrem Audi”. The dash face is equipped with a full color driver information screen that can, with the steering wheel mounted switches, be toggled through numerous screens including vehicle statistics, navigation, phone, radio and the infrared night vision camera system. A speedometer and tachometer flank that display and are flanked themselves by fuel level and water temperature gauges. The MMI interface is operated with a series of buttons and a rotary knob on the console. It works great for the vast majority of actions you’ll undertake with it. Use the buttons to select the system you want to manipulate, then work the dial, scrolling and selecting actions to perform.
Combined with the 7 speed S-tronic transmission and Quattro, the S6 is a blast to drive.
The only aspect I didn’t like was the “dial a letter” process when programming the Nav system. I haven’t used that type of input since I labeled my locker contents in high school. That’s a process best left to a touch screen system. The S6 does have voice activation of course, but when I tried to use it I was told “Navigation is not active.” It didn’t coach me to the proper steps. Admittedly, I didn’t take the time to learn the proper steps so I wont call it a gripe, just a misunderstanding. I promise, next time I’ll try harder. I will gripe about the night vision camera, though. Not about how it works, that’s exactly as promised, but about it’s location in the center of the gauge cluster. It should be a part of the HUD. The system recognizes live obstacles at a pretty good distance and highlights them with a yellow box that turns red if they enter your path, like the Weather Channel does with severe thunderstorms, but between the alarm tone and the extremely effective LED headlights I’ll react and see them for real before I can inspect the display. It reduces the display to a novelty. On the bright side, If you point it at your house, you can tell where all your household heating dollars are leaking out.
While all the luxury and connectivity and electro-mechanical theatrics are entertaining, they’re not really the point of the S6. The twin turbo 4.0 liter V8 making 420 hp at 5500 rpm and 406 lb.-ft. of torque at 1400 rpm is the star of this show. Combined with the 7 speed S-tronic transmission and Quattro, the S6 is a blast to drive. I’m hesitant to mention fuel economy. I couldn’t keep my foot out of it long enough to compare. I’m sure it will easily beat the 15+ average I ended up at when they pried it from my warm reluctant fingers because even left laning it at 80 mph (or so) on the highway garnered over 25 mpg. If you can resist the horny little red suited fellow on your shoulder, decent mileage should be attainable. If you can’t resist, my finely honed mississippies wouldn’t be surprised if the S6 could outpace the claimed 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds easily. Some outlets have posted times south of 4.0 seconds with 1/4 mile times in the very low 12 sec zone. Velocity isn’t the only reason the S6 generates fun.
Audi Drive Select allows you to choose from one of four settings: Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual. In Comfort mode, the steering is light, the throttle response is slower, the tranny upshifts at lower revs and the suspension is less direct. Its great for in town driving, and even cruising the interstate at a relaxing pace. Dynamic tightens the car up all around. The steering is heavier with what I felt was better feedback, the throttle response is immediate and the transmission more aggressively tuned. The suspension was stiffer, but not uncomfortable at all. The Auto setting decides how it should be set based on some kind of computerized voodoo while the individual setting lets you fine tune the various components to one of the other three to fit your taste. I just left it in Dynamic most of the time, changing to Comfort for certain situations like the Palisades Parkway South from Bear Mountain where the road surface was very rough and potholed or around town where I had to cross train tracks and the response didn’t need to be set on kill to enjoy the ride.
Even on lumpy rural roads with a winter’s worth of marbles and plow debris, the S6 made barely a misstep when I had a chance to take it out for a midnight blast around some back roads in an undisclosed location. Talk about Dancing with the Stars! Like Kirstie Alley, this big girl can cut the rug. 4400 pounds is a lot of car to get to change direction with any enthusiasm, especially when a considerable part of it is on the wrong side of the front axle. Audi has done a fine job with a combination of rear biased AWD, properly trained nannies and their electronic sport differential which transfers power to the outside wheel when turning. If you can apply power in the corner, you’ll be pleased with how you can get the tail to do most of the hard work. If you have to rein in the speed with the ginormous brakes, make sure you git ‘r done before you turn the wheel. Braking in the corner will be met with understeer ranging from tremendous in comfort mode to mildly disconcerting in dynamic, but only at 9/10ths effort. Anything less and you won’t feel it at all.
Audi has done a fine job with a combination of rear biased AWD, properly trained nannies and their electronic sport differential which transfers power to the outside wheel when turning.
Kumar Jonnalagodda had a chance to pilot the S6 for a short drive and he offered this thought: “I met up with John today in Bear Mtn. Park in NY and I had the opportunity to drive the S6. That car is a cruise missile. It looks gorgeous, inside and out, but it is a hellish monster if you get feisty with it. The V8TT is absolutely insane, the torque is bonkers. The 7-speed shifts so fast and for as heavy as the S6 is, it is pretty nimble. Awesome car.”
The 7-speed shifts so fast and for as heavy as the S6 is, it is pretty nimble. Awesome car.
My personal gripes with the Audi S6 are pretty minor. Besides the the few I mentioned, I would add that the Sirius radio dropped out more often than I expected even when I was in wide open areas. I’ve driven other much less expensive vehicles that had better receivers. I also have a hard time swallowing a $5900 price tag for any audio system that doesn’t come with roadies, but that’s just me. Pricing is competitive with others in this class, so its not out of line.
With the S6’s impressive power and almost stellar handling added to the luxury trappings of the A6, it would behoove you to not drive past the Audi dealer if you’re looking for a fun large car. I think you’d be thrilled to own a car with the refinement and the performance levels the Audi S6 can reach without much effort. Just don’t expect everyone to notice.