There was a point in time where high performance luxury sedans took a more subdued approach to their aerodynamic styling, but the modern high performance market – regardless of the segment – almost requires everything fast to look fast and to stand out in any crowd. Most modern performance cars are fitted with prominent body kits, large rear spoilers and deafening exhaust systems, and while that is great for most people, some buyers still want the “sleeper” look. For those folks, the Audi S6 is one of the most impressive cars on the market.
Like all of the Audi S models, the S6 has a very subtle exterior dress up package when compared to the less powerful Audi A6. The most obvious exterior differences between the A6 and the S6 are the grille, the wheels, the exhaust tips and the badges on the grille, fenders and trunk lid. The lower portions of the front and rear fascia and the side skirts of the S6 are all unique from the A6, but the differences are minimal enough that without noticing the S6 badges – someone could very easily mistake this 450 horsepower beast as one of the hotter-selling and less powerful A6 models.
Don’t get me wrong – I am not trying to bag on the Audi S6 styling. I love the look of this car for its simplicity and for the fact that it doesn’t scream “high performance car” when sitting in traffic. This is a model that sports car owners like to challenge, not realizing that under the hood is a twin turbo V8 with 450hp so for someone who is looking for a luxurious sleeper sedan – the exterior design of the S6 meets those requirements. It offers all of the sleek lines of the modern Audi lineup with some uniquely sporty features, but there is no question that the S6 will draw less attention than some of the other high performance sedans sold in America.
On the inside, the Audi S6 has everything that you would expect from a proper German luxury sedan, but those features are fitted into a distinctly sporty cabin. When you open the driver’s door, the most notable feature are the sporty front seats, with deep side and bolsters flanking and embroidered center section. While both heated, leather clad seats are fitting of a luxury sedan, they provide all of the lateral support that the driver and front passenger will need during stints of hard cornering.
Once tucked into the racing inspired driver’s seat, the Audi S6 presents you with a leather wrapped, flat bottom steering wheel with infotainment controls and paddle shifters. This wheel is great for a variety of hand positions while all of the controls on the wheel allow the driver to scroll through the radio stations, access the hands-free phone system or adjust the information displayed between the analog tachometer and speedometer. While these two large gauges aren’t as high tech as some competitors’ gauges, they are very clean and very classic, while the small central screen offers all of the other information that you could want – from navigation commands to vehicle information to a list of the preprogrammed radio stations. Look just over the gauge cluster and you will find a great heads-up display feature, with vehicle information such as speed and engine RPM along with navigation commands and infotainment information.
Speaking of the infotainment system, the Audi S6 benefits from the same interface that I have loved in pretty much every other new Audi I’ve reviewed. This system uses a screen mounted high on the dash, but unlike many systems, you don’t have to reach up to the screen to make adjustments. Instead, Audi uses a joystick and button panel mounted just at the end of the center armrest, so when the driver’s right arm is on the padded center armrest, his or her fingertips are right over the controls for literally every aspect of the information system – including the Audi drive select system (which I will cover in more depth below).
The Audi infotainment interface will take most people a few minutes of just sitting in their driveway, playing with the features, but once you have gotten a feel for which buttons and knobs do what, I find the Audi system to be one of the most functional on the market today. On top of this intuitive interface, the Bose sound system that comes standard in the S6 provides incredible sound quality so while there is some learning curve – the interior of the Audi S6 is a techie dream come true.
Last, but most certainly not least, the Audi S6 offers great passenger space for four adults. Very tall adults might be a little cramped on a long ride behind a very tall driver or front passenger, but four 6-foot tall adults will be comfortable on a ride to the office – making this one fun carpooling vehicle for those who want to both impress and scare their coworkers.
The Audi S6 has a beautiful interior packed full of modern luxury technology and an exterior that is strong but subtle – but the real fun with this midsized sedan comes for the driver. The S6 is powered by a 4.0L twin turbocharged V8 delivering 450 horsepower and 406lb-ft of torque to all four wheels by means of a 7-speed S-Tronic automatic transmission. This small V8 fitted with a pair of compact turbos reduces spool time to almost nothing, so when you put the hammer to the floor – the S6 is quick to respond. The all-wheel drive system guarantees great traction in almost any road conditions, so even on cold or damp roads, those 450 ponies get the S6 moving forward in a serious hurry.
Once you have launched away from a stop with the Audi S6, the 7-speed transmission pops quickly from gear to gear with very little engine RPM dip between gears. Thanks to the Audi drive select system, the driver can pick from Comfort, Auto and Dynamic drive modes, with the Dynamic offering the sharpest throttle response, the quickest transmission shifts and the most steering feedback for the best performance and the most engaging driving experience. Truth be told, I spent the vast majority of my drive time in the S6 in Dynamic mode, as the shifts, throttle response and steering feel in this high performance mode combine with the 450hp twin turbo V8 to create a symphony of driving fun. As you might expect, the S6 pulls hard from a stop or when cruising, climbing well beyond the posted speed limit with a great deal of urgency and the 4.0L engine sounds awesome while in action. Some people questioned whether the twin turbo V8 can offer the same neck-snapping thrust that you get with a similarly powerful, naturally aspirated V8 and the answer is yes. If you gave the keys to the S6 to many muscle car owners and told them to go for a spirited drive without telling them what was under the hood, I don’t suspect that many of them would complain about the 4.0L TTV6 being laggy or failing to impress in any way.
Of course, German luxury sport sedans are about more than just straight line acceleration, so the Audi S6 is fitted with a sport tuned suspension setup and a high performance braking package. The sport suspension is stiff, but not stiff enough to kill the ride quality of this midsized sedan. The S6 will comfortably handle both tight, low speed turns and broad, high speed turns with ease and it will do so without making your mother complain that the car is too bumpy around town. When coupled with the sport tuned steering system, this Audi is predictably fun to drive and in my drive time on local roads, I wasn’t able to find a road that the S6 didn’t happily eat up.
Now, the problem with many 450 horsepower performance cars is that come winter in most areas where freezing temperatures are common is that when the snow falls, the cars become relatively useless. There are a long list of rear wheel drive cars that will offer just as much driving fun as the S6 in the middle of the summer, but there are very few that can serve as a perfect daily driver all year long, no matter where you live.
While driving the S6, I ran into a significant amount of snow and with the Drive select system set to Auto, it handled the treacherous roads without any issue. I found that on snow-packed roads and icy surfaces alike, the Audi all-wheel drive system made getting around a breeze – so much so that I would call the S6 the best performing performance vehicle in the snow that wasn’t an SUV. This is a car that has no qualms about the worst winter weather so in addition to having a smokin’ fast European sport sedan that will tear down the quarter mile and around a road course, the S6 is a perfect winter driver in even the snowiest regions.
The Final Word
With a price starting in the low $70k range, the Audi S6 clearly isn’t for everyone, but for those folks shopping for a high performance car that can be a daily driven family car year round – I’m not sure that there is a good competitor for the S6. The front seats are beautiful and comfortable. The infotainment system is elaborate, ergonomically perfect and wonderfully intuitive and the standard sound system is a treat for everyone. The exterior is sporty and styling, but subdued compared to other high performance packages and in terms of drivetrains – the Audi twin turbo V8 paired to the advance all-wheel drive system and the 7-speed automatic transmission make this one of the (if not the) most entertaining midsized luxury cars sold in America regardless of the road surface or the weather conditions.