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First drive: Audi borrows Italian essence for S6

Discreet: The S6 features alloy exterior mirrors and stylish alloys.

Audi has served up its own V10 to go head-to-head with the BMW M5

5 Jan 2007

ITS soul may be German but the essence of the new Audi S6 is all Italian.

As the pinnacle of the A6 range, the S6 shares it’s V10 engine with the sleek Gallardo but that’s where the similarity ends.

Lamborghini may be owned by Audi but some of German know-how has infiltrated the ranks of the Italian thoroughbred car-maker.

Audi has tweaked the massive 10-cylinder engine with FSI technology, direct injection and a balancing shaft.

Engine capacity too is up slightly to 5.2-litres, delivering 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 is 5.0-litres and delivers 368kW at 7800rpm and 510Nm at 4500rpm.

Audi’s 90-degree V10 also has a bigger bore, from 82.5mm to 84.5mm while its stroke is 92.8mm.

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.

Audi says the changes made to the S6 engine were designed to deliver better low-speed response and more refinement.

More than 90 per cent of the S6’s torque is available from as low as 2300rpm. Audi has also imbued the engine with good throttle response and refinement levels via its six-speed tiptronic auto and Audi’s trademark quattro all-wheel drive.

The quattro system has a rear-wheel biase to ensure more dynamic on-road behavour. The centre differential distributes 40 per cent of the power to the front and 60 per cent to the rear.

If road conditions become slippery power can be diverted as much as 85 per cent rearwards or 65 per cent to the front.

Under brisk acceleration the V10 produces a sonorous, gutsy exhaust note through its quad exhaust system.

As befits the range-topping performance sedan of the A6 models, the S6’s chassis has undergone some changes to cope with the extra power.

The car has a firmer sports aluminium suspension, five-spoke 19-inch cast alloys, chunky 265/35 R19 tyres and an all-disc braking system, 385mm front and 330mm rear.

7 center imageThe car’s servotronic steering has also been reconfigured for more direct response and feedback than the standard A6.

Visually, Audi’s S6 is a wolf in sheeps clothing, featuring a subtle makeover.

There’s the corporate single-framed grille with “S6” badging, air inlet beneath the grille, under bumper lip spoiler. The mudguards are flared ever-so-slightly by 14mm, as well as the door sill trims.

The rear spoiler is integrated into the boot lid, discreet “V10” badging and polished aluminium exterior mirrors identify this Audi as something special.

Another innovation are the separate LED daytime running lights, each consisting of five white light-emitting diodes, enough to ensure higher levels of safety in foggy conditions.

The headlights are Xenon while the tail-lights incorporate LED brake lights. At the back is also a colour-contrasting diffuser in the bumper and the quad exhaust system.

Inside, the S6 has new-generation front electric sports seats covered in alcantara/leather with integrated headrests.

The three-spoke multi-function sports steering wheel has an “S” logo as well as paddle shifters with an aluminium-look finish. Carbon fibre trim highlights complete the look.

Among the options on the S6 are adaptive cruise control ($4200), a rear reversing camera ($1200) and a solar sunroof ($1100).

Apart from the S6 Audi’s Christmas cheer included the arrival of the S8, boasting the same V10 as the S6, and the hot $168,100 V8 RS4 wagon, called Avant, which is $3600 above the RS4 sedan launched in May this year.

An RS4 Cabrio will join the lineup earlier next year, costing $187,500. A limited offering of just 26 cars will be available for Australia, each with a limited edition badge.

Audi’s managing director, Joerg Hoffmann, said the S6 and S8 range, including RS4 sedan and Avant, were not designed to be volume sellers.

“It’s not a volume exercise, it’s an image exercise,” he said.

“It provides the Audi brand with a sharper profile as a manufacturer of sporty cars. As well it opens up new target groups.” It also allows the company to go head-to-head with the AMG and M products out of Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

The S6 is priced from $195,900 while the S8 is priced from $259,900 and sits between the V8 A8 at $210,000 and the whopping V12 A8 at $326,000.

So far Audi has taken 11 orders for the S6 and expects to sell up to 15 S8’s a year while the RS4 range is expected to be split between 60 sedans and 25 Avants.

World-wide about 150,000 S and RS4 models have been sold.

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