Mid-life update for the Audi S6 means fresher looks and an extra 30hp. Unfortunately, its irrelevance for the Irish market is left untouched.
In the Metal:
The Audi S6 is one of the last remaining Q-cars. While performance models from other manufacturers have spouted appendages and bodywork so buff there is undoubtedly a touch of steroid abuse involved the S6 looks no different to an S line equipped A6 2.0-litre TDI. With the standard A6 being a handsome car in itself this is no bad thing, though we do get the feeling that those spending in excess of €95,000 might want a little bit more than the unique alloy wheels, quad tailpipes and discrete badging to differentiate their car from the garden variety A6 that populates office car parks the country over.
Not us - we like the fact that is a Q-car, as unassuming as the cooking diesel version, but with a 450hp motor under the bonnet. Anyway, it's the interior that matters to the driver. And on that count the S6 scores well. Sure it is helped by the fact that the A6 on which it is based has arguably the best interior of the segment with a genuine feel of craftsmanship about it, but the S additions like the figure hugging monogrammed sports seats and aluminium touches that adorn the cabin do make it feel a bit special.
A shame then that the drive does not quite live up to the promise. I seems somewhat perverse to criticise a car that has gained 30hp as part of the facelift - bringing the S6 up to a RS 4 and RS 5 rivalling 450hp - but there is little enjoyment to be derived from it. Sure it is quick, bombastically so - the 0-100km/h dash is completed in 4.4 seconds and the electronics rein things in at 250km/h - but that is the S6's only trick - straight line speed.
Pitch it into a corner and the weight over the front wheel leads to understeer and no matter what setting you choose from the Audi Drive Select system the steering is too light and numb to really make you feel involved in the experience. In truth, save for the delightful noise from the twin-turbo V8 engine up front with its pops and cracks during downshifts, you are as likely to be as enthused by the 3.0-litre Bi-TDI model.
The S6's biggest problem has always been lack of identity. If you want a balls-out A6 you get the RS 6 and now, with the progression of the fast diesels, the S6 really is beginning to be less and less relevant. Describing a 450hp, twin-turbocharged V8-powered saloon as 'competent' is akin to describing a supermini as 'good' - it is damning praise.
What you get for your Money:
Hand the nice man in your local Audi showroom €95,530 and he will hand you back the keys to an S6 loaded with unique 19-inch alloy wheels, LED head- and tail lights, Valcona leather interior including the S6 specific sports seats, three-zone climate control and more aluminium than you can shake a stick at. Thanks in part to Cylinder on Demand technology, which can shut down half the V8 engine while cruising, the S6 can return a fairly respectable (for its power output) 9.2 litres/100km on the mythical combined cycle, while the 214g/km emissions rating means the big Audi resides in the second highest tax band, costing €1,200 per year.
In addition to the saloon driven here there is of course an S6 Avant estate model, costing from €98,530. Offering a 535-litre boot (or 1,680 litres with the rear seats folded) it is not only more practical than the S6 Saloon, but also anything BMW can offer. Only the Mercedes-Benz E-Class estate has more space.
We love the Audi S6 for its adherence to Q-car rules, but can't square that love for the car as a whole. It's stunningly fast, but lacking in dynamic appeal, so it is lost in the no-man's land between the range topping RS 6 and the as-fast-in-the-real-world BiTDI A6. You really have to have petrol coursing through your veins to plum for one - and rather deep pockets.