Long viewed as the less flashy alternative to Mercedes-Benz and BMW, Audi nevertheless delivers plenty of sex appeal beneath deceptively conservative sheet metal. The company adheres to this ethos even at its high-performance S division, as evidenced by its latest offering, the S6.
Lurking beneath the S6’s understated hood is a 5.2-liter V-10, a version of which also powers the Lamborghini Gallardo. Producing 435 hp and 398 ft lbs of torque in the S6, the motor delivers a seamless rush of power accompanied by glorious engine and exhaust notes. Indeed, you feel a constant temptation to downshift the 6-speed Tiptronic transmission just to hear the revs. The throttle can be touchy from a stop, but this does not hamper the fun of driving the car. Audi cites a zero-to-60 time of 5.1 seconds and an electronically governed top speed of 155 mph. In today’s market, this level of performance is far from exceptional, but it certainly is acceptable.
Like most Audis, the S6 comes with the company’s Quattro permanent four-wheel-drive system. During our test-drive in Germany, a late-season freezing-rain storm conspired with the car’s summer tires to prevent an accurate assessment of the S6’s handling capabilities, but we did determine that its ride is not supple. The 19-inch wheels and low-profile tires can take some of the blame, but the suspension could do a better job of compensating for road imperfections.
In terms of design, the S6 appears nearly identical to the A6, a selling point for those who like to fly under the radar—as most Audi drivers do. Subtle distinguishing touches include LED daytime running lights in the front bumper, an integrated rear spoiler, and discreet V-10 badges located beneath the side turn indicators. The well-crafted interiors of our German-market test cars featured carbon-fiber trim and leather seats with suedelike Alcantara inserts. U.S. buyers can special-order these seats, along with a host of other options.
The S6 has an Avant stablemate that is one of the better-looking wagons available and possesses the same dynamic capabilities as the sedan. Audi has yet to set a price for either S6 model, but both are expected to cost about $75,000 when they arrive in U.S. showrooms this fall.