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Car reviews - Audi - A6 - S6 and S7

Our Opinion

We like
Smooth and punchy engine, quality interior, road refinement, supple ride, S7’s unique styling
Room for improvement
Vague steering, price, lack of agility, subdued engine note, headroom in S7, no standard USB point

22 Oct 2012

SAY hello to the new top dogs in Audi’s sporting ‘S’ range – the fourth-generation S6 quattro sedan and its fastback derivation, the first-generation S7.

Audi says it will bring only 50 units of each to Australia, but neither appears likely to set off a stampede considering their respective starting prices (before on-road costs) of between $170,000 and $180,000.

They do not have quite the poke or the presence to match Audi’s own RS range – an RS6 is just around the corner – or those of BMW’s M Division or Merc’s AMG tuning Haus, but instead sit happily within a niche of their own.

Indeed, it is this compromise between outright menace and comfortable cruising that becomes immediately apparent when driving them.

You know that somewhere beneath your right foot sits a potent twin-turbo V8 engine capable of hustling both behemoths from zero to 100km/h in well under 5.0 seconds, but it’s so subtle in note and smooth in delivery that it is deceptive.

We commend the free-revving engine for its muscular torque curve and decided lack of lag, but mourn its lack of ‘character’, with only the barest induction note and burble leaking into the cabin.

The S tronic seven-speed dual-clutch transmission does a mostly excellent job of channelling the power to all four wheels, with intuitive shifts and a lightning-fast paddle-shift manual mode.

The characteristic DSG jerkiness has been mostly ironed out, though the ‘S’ performance mode is programmed to hold onto gears for far too long at lower speeds, frequently failing to change up a cog while cruising or kick down when cornering.

Despite big 20-inch wheels, the coarse and occasionally bumpy Queensland roads on the launch drive failed to unnerve either model, with little in the way of tyre roar, scuttle shake or ride harshness.

This is because the air suspension system is tuned very much for ride rather than racing-style firmness. A propensity to pitch and roll when thrown into a bend with gusto gives the game away.

The steering itself is typical Audi – safe and with a fast ratio, but lacking in weight/feel off-centre and allowing precious little communication from the front wheels.

While the quattro system is slightly rear-biased (60:40), both models understeer when pushed hard.

The upside of the AWD system is a surplus of grip, and it is hard to imagine conditions appalling enough to really throw it out of kilter.

We can’t say either S model grabbed us, but we can say both felt safe, comfortable and deceptively fast in most conditions.

Audi could never be accused of having bad interiors, and both S models are sumptuous and well-made, with some nice carbon-fibre inlays, beautiful diamond-stitched leather seats and bulletproof build quality.

The lighting is soothing, every contact point is soft to the touch and the three-spoke steering wheel is tactile, while the equipment list is suitably lengthy (see product story next page for full details).

Most of the layouts are logical, with a clear folding touchscreen, an excellent heads-up display and rotary dials and button at your fingertips on the transmission tunnel to adjust the driving mode and menu options.

We were less enthused by the lack of rear headroom in the S7, with its lower coupe-style profile coming at too great an expense to practicality for our liking.

And the lack of a standard USB point (Audi offers an extra-cost cable) seems an outrageous joke.

Boot capacities are commodious at 535 litres for the S7 and 530 litres for the S6, but the S7 hatch has easier access and expands to 1390 litres with the rear seats folded, versus the 995 litres for the S6 – in other words, more room for golf bags.

That last tidbit might well sum up the S6 and S7 best, because both cars should be thought of as fast grand tourers rather than venomous speed demons. That’s exactly what Audi wanted, of course, but we would have preferred a little more character.

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