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Car reviews - Audi - A6 - S6 sedan

Launch Story

15 Dec 2006

IF YOU want German performance sedans then you go no further than BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi and their distinct M, AMG and S divisions. All three offer crisper, rortier performance offerings than their humble bread-and-butter range. The Audi S6 is no different. Beneath the cool, calm exterior lurks a 5.2-litre V10 engine sourced from Lamborghini that offers 320kW/540Nm and will hit 100km/h in 5.2 seconds. Superb.

We like:
Packaging, quality, equipment, steering, seats, performance of V10

We don't like:

AS YOU expect of any range-topper, there must be some extra spice to warrant the extra dollars.

In $195,900 Audi’s S6 it is its ten-cylinder engine, a development of the Lamborghini-sourced Gallardo engine, in a stealth move clearly aimed at making sure BMW’s V10 M5 does not grab the “most cylinders” award for performance sedans.

Unlike the Italians though, Audi’s engineers have tweaked the engine for all-round refinement, as well as performance.

In the S6 the V10 gains FSI and a balance shaft - as well as the addition of Audi’s trademark quattro all-wheel drive, which is mated to a six-speed tiptronic automatic transmission.

At face value, the S6 does not look like a performance beast. Only the discreet “V10” badging gives the game away and the styling could best be described as understated.

It is generally customary that German performance sedans err towards a more conservative approach to performance add-ons and for that we’re thankful. Obscene “bling” on a car like the S6 would look out of place.

Given that the S6 is based on the sleek A6 range, it already had a good styling starting point.

There are the “S” trademarks, like the alloy-look exterior mirrors, discreet spoilers and bigger 265/35 tyres and 19-inch alloys but LED daytime running lights positioned under the bumper also hint at the car’s inherent potential.

As we’ve said, the S6 starts at a not-insignificant $195,900, which is a $49,100 premium over the previous range-topping A6, the 246kW/420Nm 4.2-litre V8 quattro. It’s a big leap but worth every cent.

Matching the outside for discretion is the cabin.

There’s a sprinkly of carbon-fibre and alloy highlights around the interior and the bigger leather trimmed and heated electric sports seats do a superb job of holding you in. Apart from the electric seats, the windows, heated folding mirrors, rear sunblind and sunroof are all standard.

Add climate control, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, bluetooth connectivity, satellite navigation, TV, voice control, front and rear fog lights, automatic windscreen wipers and Xenon headlights and an excellent 13-speaker BOSE six-stack CD audio system and there's little else to add to the list.

Among the options are adaptive cruise control ($4200), a rear reversing camera ($1200) and a solar sunroof ($1100).

As you would expect too, active and passive safety is paramount with ESP as well as traction control, an electronic diff lock and ABS with brake assist and eight airbags.

The S6 is a reasonably large car, offering plenty of space in the cabin and a large, flat boot of 546 litres with a 60/40 split rear seatback.

The front sports seats are new and have been designed specifically for the S6, featuring integrated headrests.

The side bolsters and seat cushions are big enough to hold you firmly in place without making it a chore to exit and entry the car.

The driver is further pampered with a three-spoke multi-function sports steering wheel with paddle shifters and “S” sports mode for the transmission.

The previous generation S6 featured a tuned version of Audi’s 4.2-litre V8 but as its key German rival BMW has opted for a V10 in its M5, so too, Audi has gone down the 10-cylinder path.

As we’ve said, the S6 V10 is taken from the Gallardo with a slight increase in capacity from 5.0-litres to 5.2-litres and the addition of Audi’s FSI direct injection technology that allows a relatively high compression ratio of 12.5:1.

The S6 delivers 320kW at 6800rpm and 540Nm from 3000rpm to deliver a car that will hit 100km/h in 5.2 seconds and has a governed top speed of 250km/h. By comparison the Gallardo engine delivers 368kW at 7800rpm and 510Nm at 4500rpm.

Like other Audi V engines, the camshafts, including the balancing shaft, oil and water pump and auxiliaries, are chain driven, requiring no maintenance.

The S6 shares the engine with the larger A8-based S8 and is considerably lighter and more compact than a conventional V12 engine. Including all the add-on components, the S6 engine is 685mm long, 801mm wide and 713mm high. The bare engine measures 560mm in length.

Audi admits a V8 would have been more compact but to make it into the premium 5.0-litre-plus class would have needed heavier pistons and connecting rods, which would have impaired a V8’s capacity to rev freely.

Despite the bigger capacity engine, the V10 weighs 220kg and Audi claims to have delivered a car that has “dynamically balanced” distribution of axle loads and good road manners.

The car’s quattro drivetrain is biased slightly towards the rear with a 40/60 torque split under normal driving conditions.

The S6 shares the A6’s multi-link front and rear steal-sprung suspension, abeit in a sportier, firmer state of tune.

Although the S6 lacks the Audi Space Frame body technology that features in the larger S8, it feels more lively and responsive on twisty roads, despite being just 30kg lighter at 1910kg.

Obviously the car’s smaller dimensions help here but the S6’s steering offers more feedback and feels sharper, although the BMW M5 still outpaces the Audi with its superb steering.

From a standing start the S6 surges forward with a firm, but precise push in the back. From 3000rpm upwards is really when things start to happen, the car hitting double digit speeds very smartly.

This is no surprise really as the 500Nm is available from 2500rpm to 5500rpm. As the scenery becomes blurred you’re aware of two things, the V10’s engine note is distinctly different – almost mechanically brusk – as the quad exhausts play their orchestral tunes.

Audi has wisely given the S6 the performance attributes that make the Lamborghini so wonderful.

It has taken an off-the-rack engine already known for its performance and added some refinement without losing its performance edge.

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