Overall rating: 3/5
A twin-turbo V8 engine should provide the ideal basis for a great uber-saloon, especially as, thanks to clever technology like cylinder on-demand, it delivers better fuel economy and emissions than its predecessor. Unfortunately Audi appears to be caught in two minds between luxury and sportiness and misses both marks.
In the metal 4/5
Audi has plumbed for the discrete ‘Gentleman racer’ look with only those who know what they are looking for able to distinguish the S6 from a regular S-Line car. In addition to the usual ‘S’ aluminium mirror caps the S6’s grille features horizontal chrome slats; more aggressive bumpers have been fitted front and rear; along with butcher side sills, 19-inch wheels (20-inch items are available from the options list) and a ride height drop of 15mm - all designed to give the car a more aggressive, more dynamic look.
Inside, are the usual Audi levels of build quality and tactility, with a sprinkling of magic dust. The jury is still out on the new pinstriped Beaufort wood/aluminium veneer (said to match your pinstripe suit), but there is no arguing with luxuriously quilted leather seats - especially if you specify the comfort seats that add air conditioning and massage functions.
Driving it 3.5/5
Under normal driving conditions the S6 is deathly silent, a point Audi is most proud of. However, when you consider BMW’s decision to pump fake noise into the cabin of the current M5 it feels a bit odd. Active engine mounts and an Active Noise Control system that cancels out any noise picked up by the headline mounted microphones means that you have to push the car to be audibly reminded that there is a bi-turbo V8 under the bonnet. Even when you car hear it, it sounds distant, disconnected; as if another car has just pulled up alongside you.
Noise aside there is no doubting that the S6, in whatever body style, is devastatingly quick. From standstill the saloon will hit 100km/h in 4.6 seconds and the more practical Avant model only takes a tenth longer. With 550Nm of torque available from 1,450rpm mid-range grunt is incredible and the seven-speed S-Tronic transmission kicks down seamlessly.
The switch between eight- and four cylinders is equally seamless. This is thanks to the aforementioned active engine mounts and noise cancelling technology that does away with the unrefined noise created by the car running as a V4 while under partial load. The ability to deactivate half the cylinders, and the addition of a stop-start system, goes some way towards explaining Audi’s claimed 25 per cent fuel efficiency gain in comparison to the V10-powered car of old.
The let down is in the handling stakes; no matter what setting you choose from the Audi Drive Select system the S6’s air suspension is never as soft or as controlled as you would expect a luxury limo to be, wallowing over uneven surfaces and not doing a particularly good job of soaking up the few bumps we encountered along the test route. Neither does the handling get overtly sporty - even with Dynamic mode selected. This setting does offer better throttle response and weights up the steering, but fails to deliver any true engagement.
What you get for your money 4/5
You get quite a lot for your money actually, but then you would expect nothing less of a car that comes with a price tag north of €80,000. Over and above the previous range topping A6 the S6 includes electrically adjustable, monogrammed leather sports seats, three-zone climate control, xenon headlights with LED daytime running lamps, air suspension, 19-inch S Design alloy wheels and a multi-function leather steering wheel with paddle shifters.
Audi is very proud of its noise cancelling technology that includes active engine mounts and Active Noise Control. It emits 'anti-phase' sound into the cabin to cancel out unwanted sound. So proud are the engineers that they had a demo model outside that can switch the system off so you can hear and feel the difference. Audi probably will not like this but we preferred the noise of the car without the anti-phase pumped in; it gave the S6 an exhaust burble that is noticeable by its absence.
Audi do not seem to know what to do with the S6. It is caught in a struggle between refinement and sportiness and gets lost somewhere in the middle. ‘Lesser’ A6s do a better job in the refinement stakes while those looking for the sportiest Audi are better off waiting for the RS model.