Car reviews - Audi - A6 - S6
Smooth and potent V6 powertrain, comfortable ride quality, typically classy interior layout, strong standard spec, quattro grip
Room for improvement
New infotainment less user-friendly than before, lazy steering in comfort mode, size hard to hide, engine note could be more raucous
Audi’s dual-personality S6 and S7 prove adept at blending comfort and performance
15 May 2020
IN WHAT is arguably the biggest year in the history of new Audi Sport product, the German brand’s performance arm has brought its two latest offerings to Australian showrooms, in the form of the S6 sedan and S7 liftback sedan.
The mechanically related pair touch down roughly six months after the ‘regular’ new-generation ranges, and will serve as the performance flagships before the arrival of the fire-breathing RS6 Avant and RS7 Sportback later in the year.
With the RS grades waiting around the corner, what sort of indication do the S6 and S7 give of the performance potential of Audi’s new large car?
First drive impressions
The sedan-only S6 arrives in local showrooms priced from $149,900 plus on-roads, $33,900 above the next-most expensive 55 TFSI quattro. Meanwhile, the S7 attracts a $25,900 premium over its 55 TFSI counterpart.
Predominantly, the step up is paid for with a boost in performance and dynamics, that first start with the powerplant – a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 with 48-volt mild hybrid assistance.
If that powertrain sounds familiar, it is because it is also employed in the RS4 and RS5, as well as on the Porsche Panamera, Macan and Cayenne.
Under the bonnet of the S6 and S7, the twin-turbo V6 continues to produce the same 331kW and 600Nm as in the RS4 and RS5, but with the added benefit of a 48V electric-powered compressor to help reduce fuel consumption.
It also marks an identical power figure and a 50Nm boost in torque over the outgoing 4.0-litre V8.
While considered powerful enough for the most potent iterations of its medium-sized cars, Audi Sport has deemed it worthy of the S badge for its one-size-larger S6 and S7, which still provides a considerable level of performance.
The performance credentials of the 2.9-litre V6 are undoubtedly verified, however arguably our favourite part of the engine is its ability to switch between savage road racer and luxury executive cruiser.
When flicked into dynamic mode, the engine roars to life with a level of thrust befitting a performance model, with linear, user-friendly power delivery – however with the feeling that there is room to go further, which will be done when the 441kW RS6 and RS7 arrive later this year.
The V6 lacks the brutal, neck-snapping shove you get with V8s when upshifting at redline, and the sound from the quad-exit exhausts cannot match the deep rumble of a bent-eight, such as the 4.0-litre unit from the previous-gen S6 and S7.
However what it lacks in visceral feedback it makes up for with surgical precision, with efficient and smooth power delivery that still gives a big wallop of power and torque.
The addition of a 48V mild-hybrid system does little to benefit the engine from a performance standpoint, but will likely result in some small gains to fuel efficiency.
Over the course of our drive, we averaged a consumption of around 10.5 litres per 100km in both vehicles, up on the 8.4-8.5L/100km claimed figure, which is itself a 1.0L/100km improvement over the heavier V8 in the outgoing model.
The S6 and S7 both drive all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission, which we are pleased to report is a smooth unit that shifts smartly and neatly, and can capably switch between comfort and dynamic modes.
Taking the cars out on to the road for the first time, we were pleasantly surprised by the ride of the performance pair, which in comfort mode was genuinely plush and soft, as befitting a large luxury car.
Often, opting for a performance variant means sacrificing ride comfort in the name of dynamics, however the ride of the S6 and S7 could easily be described as plush, with a suspension system that absorbs bumps and vibrations before letting them into the cabin.
The smooth ride also allows for low levels of noise intrusion, an impressive feat given that both models ride on 21-inch alloy wheels.
However the latest Audi Sport offerings can just as seamlessly flick the switch into a nimble and athletic performance sedan, with the quattro all-wheel drive and performance-focused equipment making it worthy of the S badge.
Despite their considerable size, the S6 and S7 have no problem being thrown into and out of corners at pace, with the quattro grip typical of Audis helping further the feeling of surgical precision.
While the steering feels slightly dull and lazy in comfort mode, switching to dynamic mode gives it a much sharper and heavier feel.
In standard guise the S6 and S7 are certainly dynamically capable, however if owners want to get the absolute best out of their car performance-wise, we recommend they option the $7700 dynamic package, which includes dynamic steering, all-wheel steering and the quattro sport differential.
In particular, the quattro sport differential provides an extra level of dynamic handling, in which the car can scream through twisty roads without a hint of tyre squeal with a level of composure that shouldn’t be possible for a car of its size.
Furthermore, the all-wheel steering comes in handy when driving around town, shortening the turning circle and making it far easier to park in tight spaces.
Inside, the S6 and S7 have all the trimmings of a luxury executive sedan, with premium materials, comfortable seats, ample new-age technological features and a beautiful fit and finish.
Audi has long been one of the benchmark brands for interior design, and the new models are no different, with gorgeous leather and brushed aluminium trim, and an array of digital screens that house the latest iteration of Audi’s MMI infotainment system.
Dual 10.1-inch and 8.6-inch screens house the infotainment and air-conditioning functions, while the 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster and a colour head-up display provide additional information to the driver.
While the new interior has never been more beautiful, the move to integrate all functions to the touchscreens has resulted in a drop in functionality, particularly with the removal of the old centre console-mounted dial and shortcut button arrangements of outgoing Audis.
Using the touchscreens is great for when the car is stationary and you are able to divert your eyes and attention, however when on the move, having the old analogue dial and buttons made it much easier to operate the system without diverting your eyes.
Reduced functionality aside, the S6 and S7’s interior is a serene place to be, with comfortable seats, one of the best-feeling steering wheels, and ample room for both front and rear passengers.
Boot size is also generous, with a pair of golf bags able to easily fit in both boots.
While the RS6 Avant and RS7 Sportback will take performance of the large cars to new levels, the S6 and S7 provide a great blend of performance and comfort, and will satiate the needs of all but the most ardent performance enthusiasts.
Model release date: 1 May 2020
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