Is this the best value for money luxury performance sedan?
If the idea of an all-wheel drive large luxury sedan appeals to you, there’s basically no other choice than the updated 2015 Audi S6.
But what does the S6 do that its German and British foes don’t? Firstly, Audi has positioned the S6 in a unique price and equipment point. While it doesn’t wear an RS6 badge – which is only available in an Avant (wagon) bodystyle – it does offer plenty of performance for the grown-up enthusiast looking for a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Powered by a 4.0-litre biturbo V8, the updated Audi S6 gets a power bump from 309kW to 331kW (550Nm of torque), which helps it get from 0-100km/h in 4.4 seconds, beating its previous time by 0.2 of a second.
Considering it weighs just under 1900kg, those are very impressive but largely irrelevant performance figures considering the police state that is Australia, but good dinner conversation if required. If you need more fodder, just mention that it’s fundamentally (with some hardware changes) the same engine as the significantly more expensive Audi RS6 but in a different state of tune.
As is the case with Audi’s mid-life updates, exterior changes are basically unnoticeable. But if you squint, you’ll find the front and rear have been given a very slight tweak with sharper headlights (now with Matrix LED) and dynamic turn signals (growing from the inside out, rather then blinking) for the taillight LEDs. But don’t expect to be able to tell the MY15 apart from its predecessor with a sheer glance.
Changes to the interior, though, are a little more obvious. The main one being the addition of a 7-inch driver information screen that fits seamlessly between the speedometer and tachometer. Though it’s not as futuristic as the full-digital unit found in the recently launched Audi TT, it’s a worthwhile addition if your navigation system gets a regular workout.
The infotainment system’s underlying computer has also been revised, with a much faster processing crunching the numbers.
The actual interior itself is perhaps the highlight of the S6. Though it might be starting to show its age ever so slightly, the S6 still presents a very clean and luxurious setting in both ends.
Other than that, the S6, like the A6, offers heaps of room both front and rear, easily accompanying four adults, with a 530L boot capacity enough space for the family’s gear.
The Audi S6 was previously offered in limited numbers alongside its S7 sibling, a fact that will change with the updated S6 and S7 both becoming regular models in Audi Australia’s lineup when it goes on sale in March-April next year alongside the regular 2015 Audi A6.
Like the car it replaces, the new Audi S6 will launch at around $170,000 (full pricing and features are yet to be confirmed by Audi Australia) but carry more equipment and features.
We flew to Dresden in the former East Germany to drive the Audi S6, mostly in traffic as it turned out, but with a few chances to test its dynamics.
Firstly, it must be said that the Quattro Audi A6 models, particularly the 3.0-litre biturbo diesel with 235kW and 650Nm of torque (0-100km/h in 5.1 seconds) is plenty fast enough for our roads – and more efficient. But if diesel isn’t your thing and the kids must get to school that little bit quicker, then the S6 is the go-to car (unless you can afford the extra $55,000 for the supercar-slaying RS6).
The S6’s power is translated to the road via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which fires off one gear change after another without a moment’s hesitation – when you’re on the go – but get stuck in low-speed traffic, as we did, and it can be occasionally jerky on the downshifts with noticeable clunks (especially when shifting gears manually via the steering-wheel mounted paddles).
Standard equipment on the S6 includes Audi’s air suspension (a feature we’d recommend on the regular A6 models as well) that allows the car to be lowered by 20mm when dynamic mode is engaged. Much to the delight of the Australian buyer, the S6 rides flawlessly over poor quality roads in comfort mode but can be a little too firm when the go-fast mode is selected.
Speaking of dynamic mode, the mostly dull steering feel (which is acceptable in the A6 but not so in the sportier S6) gets slightly heavier when engaged, but still remains a tad underwhelming through bends with basically no feedback and a noticeable dead spot on centre. We also found the steering wheel itself a tad too thin considering the nature of the car.
But that all becomes meaningless as the S6 eats up nearly any road surface like a German tank – albeit a very fast one. Throw it into a corner and Audi’s Quattro system will take over and do the work for you. Despite our best attempts to unsettle it mid or pre corner, the electronic nanny aides barely came on, even if the tyres (255/35/R20 Potenza) cried an awful lot during the process.
After a while it becomes a game of point and shoot, within the laws of physics.
The Audi S6 is a big car and it’s not too much fun around the really twisty roads and heaven forbid it ever finds itself on a race track. As such, it remains best suited to those who want the power and might of an advanced V8 for around town or those winding roads that favour a Grand Tourer.
You might argue that the S6 is really a rival for the 535i and E500, but considering its sporty look and higher performance, at around $170,000 it should really be seen as a sensible compromise for the more powerful (and significantly more expensive) BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S.
Though both its German rivals are faster (0-100km/h in 4.2 seconds for both), that is largely irrelevant in our market and the S6 looks the part amongst these thoroughbred contenders – without having to wear the RS badge.
It would be nice if Audi Australia offered the S6 in a wagon style as well, considering it would make a perfect enthusiast-friendly family vehicle for those that can’t justify the RS6’s price tag.
Alas, it’s the fastest large sedan of the Audi range and while it might not be as new as the 5 Series or as well-equipped as the Mercedes E-Class equivalents, its unique selling point remains its impeccable performance, thanks largely to its Quattro all-wheel drive system, a feature unmatched by its rivals.