Audi S6 Review

Audi S6 Review

Fast four-doors have been around forever, but the Audi S6 provides an enticing mix of people-friendly room, blistering speed all-weather traction and brand-name cachet. Three generations of S6 have graced our shores to date, though their sporadic appearances and truncated lifespans sure bring new meaning to the term "limited edition."

From the start, the S6's mission has been to be an extra-special version of Audi's already special A6 -- an end usually achieved by means of more power, a sportier suspension and performance-biased wheels and brakes. The S6 has always been abundant with the luxury content expected of Audi, and its midsize dimensions make it one of the better Audis for seating multiple passengers. Just keep in mind that the S6 focuses on performance, and as such its ride quality is harder-edged than that of other Audi vehicles.

The Audi S6 is unique for skipping the evolutionary progress common to most cars, as its performance leaps by one league at a time. From a 227-horsepower five-cylinder in the first S6 to a 340-hp V8 in the next and finally to the 435-hp V10 of today, the S6 has been a reflection of Audi's rapidly rising performance aspirations.

Current Audi S6

The Audi S6 is a high-performance version of the A6 sedan powered by a Lamborghini-sourced 5.2-liter V10. While slightly revised and detuned, it still produces 425 hp and 398 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic and a 40/60 rear-biased Quattro all-wheel-drive system are standard. Despite this impressive-sounding pedigree, the S6 is unfortunately disappointing. Audi claims a 0-60-mph time in the low 5-second range, though in our testing we did no better than 5.7 seconds. That's slower than the supercharged V6-powered A6 3.0T, let alone its hard-core competitors from BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz.

The S6 is at a handling disadvantage as well, with a hulky 59-percent of its weight hanging over the front tires causing significant understeer. It doesn't ride particularly well either, as standard 19-inch wheels and a sport suspension produce a bone-jarring time for all over rough pavement. Other cars in the class don't have this problem. Luckily, 18-inch wheels are an option.

So while driving the S6 fails to impress, few faults can be found with its cabin. Trimmed in leather and aluminum with birch wood accents, the S6 carries on the Audi tradition of finely wrought interiors. The amply bolstered front sport seats provide good support during aggressive driving, though if you dislike that hugged feeling, the A6's normal seats are a no-cost option. Interior room is spacious, with plenty of room for four passengers to travel in long-distance comfort. The recently updated MMI electronics controls make using the car's myriad high-tech features much easier.

Is the S6 a bad car? Absolutely not, and it's actually a bit of a bargain compared to its competitors. However, when those competitors have names like M5, E63 AMG, CTS-V and XFR, we wonder how many customers in this price range wouldn't mind paying a little extra for a whole lot more.

Used Audi S6 Models

The present-generation Audi S6 debuted for 2007. Few changes have occurred since then. There were slight styling tweaks for '09, while the MMI electronics interface and navigation system were given a welcome upgrade for 2010.

Available only for 2002-'03, the previous, second-generation S6 featured a torquey 4.2-liter V8 whose 340 horses were made more accessible by a five-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. Oddly, this edition of the S6 came as an Avant (Audi-speak for "station wagon") only, which was partly responsible for its 2-ton curb weight and scarce availability.

Zero-to-60-mph acceleration was in the low 6-second range, and the car's lowered and stiffened suspension and 17-inch wheels and tires made it a potent handler, with grip similar to that of the current S6. Other pluses included its opulent interior and ample standard features list; the wagon's big drawback was its unimpressive gas mileage. Though hard to find, a used second-generation Audi S6 wagon offers an intriguing blend of performance and utility.

Born at a time when Audi's model-naming system was in flux, the first-generation S6 officially came to life (and death) in 1995, though essentially the same car had been sold for a few years previous as the S4. Available as both a sedan and a wagon, the original Audi S6 offered an eccentric turbocharged, 227-hp five-cylinder engine, working through a manual transmission to drive all four wheels. While performance was decent for the day, this iteration of the S6 never made much of a mark on the history books.
 
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