The luxury sedan segment welcomes back the now V8-powered Audi S6.
The new Audi S6 has less power than the last, has two fewer cylinders and uses 24 per cent less fuel. However, it is faster.
These are curious times indeed.
As an aside, a slightly tweaked version of this engine found its way into the new Bentley Continental GT.
So, this new unit doesn’t have as much power, but 309kW is not something to be embarrassed about. The forced feeding does mean the new car has a smidgeon more torque than the raging bull engine, with 550Nm on tap.
The new Audi S6 dashes from 0-100km/h in just 4.6 seconds, a considerable 0.6 seconds quicker than the last.
It’s kind of scary to imagine how fast the upcoming RS6 version, the last of which had a V10 and two turbos, is going to be.
Interestingly, Audi’s figures suggest the smaller V8 is not actually any lighter than the V10 from the previous model as Audi has quoted 220kg for both.
The new engine uses two twin-scroll turbos, which come extremely close to eliminating lag.
Get stuck in and the engine delivers an arresting wave of force that seems to never end. There is a tiny pause after the pedal is depressed and before the real torrent starts arriving, but it really is minimal.
It doesn’t actually feel 4.6 seconds 0-100km/h fast, either. It’s not that we doubt the figure; it’s just that there is no sudden, brutal kick.
That’s not a criticism as this car is not a rival for the BMW M5; it’s more of a luxury performance sedan.
The V8 soundtrack is well suited. It has a muscular resonance, without getting too loud.
The turbocharging alters the V8 soundtrack, and while it is not quite as visceral as a thumping natural aspirated V8, it still sounds satisfying.
At low speeds, the exhaust note hints at there being something special under the bonnet, without being overtly aggressive.
One of the reasons this engine achieves its remarkable 9.6L/100km average fuel consumption figure is a displacement on demand system.
Now this concept is nothing new and has been around for ages on some American engines, and it involves cutting the fuel and spark to four cylinders when you don’t need them.
There is a light to tell you when this is happening, which is good because we certainly couldn’t feel the system engage.
Power goes through all four wheels, so traction is excellent in all grip conditions. While the power split can change when required, the standard 40:60 front/rear split means the S6 doesn’t feel like a front-driver when you get on the throttle coming out of bends.
The Audi S6 doesn’t feel like a high-performance rear-driver either, which is either a good or bad thing depending on your taste.
In these conditions, you can play with the gearbox, popping up or down gears at a swift rate.
The transmission is a seven-speed dual clutch system and works well - not that you really have to change gears all that often given the torque available.
Unfortunately, at low speeds in stop/start traffic, there is a fair amount of driveline shunt when you go to reapply the throttle that seems out of place in a car like this.
The new S6 is lighter than the last but still weighs 1895kg. It doesn’t have an aluminium skeleton like the A6, but does use aluminium for most panels and a good percentage of its suspension components.
It’s a big car - 4931mm long - and feels like it when you hit twisty sections of road. Not that it’s a barge, but the size and weight are ever-present factors.
It is well behaved along twisting roads given its girth, but it does seem a little reluctant to turn in and hustle through the corners.
The steering doesn’t help as it leaves the driver feeling a little detached from the action and it feels as though there is a deadspot on-centre.
The Audi S6 is fitted with air suspension, so the driver can choose between different modes, including Dynamic, which also drops the ride height by 20mm.
The occasional bang is generated by a harsh pothole or rut, but this generally comfortable suspension tune is well calibrated for the luxury performance sedan segment.
The cabin is a quiet place, too. Audi uses noise-cancelling technology to take out some of the bad noises and vibrations. You still notice some tyre roar, especially on coarse chip tarmac, but it is generally serene.
The interior is loaded with real carbonfibre trim sections, which give the interior a sporting edge.
As you might expect from a car at this end of the market, the interior is of the highest quality and also benefits from Audi’s simple but stylish design philosophy.
The standard equipment list is long and includes the excellent head-up display, digital TV, auto opening boot, LED headlights and premium Bose sound system.
The exterior styling is either wonderfully subtle or plain, depending on your view. It looks like a well-designed four-door sedan, a sleeper car rather than a look-at-me special. For those more interested in making a statement, Audi has just introduced the Audi S7 into Australia, too.
The Audi S6 delivers high performance, good practicality and a luxurious experience with a design that won’t draw the attention of the police. It’s not the sharpest in the twisty bits, but it has a lot of other strengths.