There are two different kinds of luxury car buyers.
One such buyer wants a car with the badge, the prestige and everything else that comes with it. They want comfort and performance. If you ask them for a sport package or individualization, they might check their bank accounts and pass.
Then, there’s the enthusiast. They want more. They want more performance, more individualization, and more attention. They want something special.
That is why luxury car brands offer something for the enthusiasts. Just one look at their decklids will identify these special performance models. BMW has a letter for this: M. Mercedes-Benz applies the AMG badge to their high-performance models. These additional sub brands are available for Lexus, Jaguar, Land Rover, Cadillac, Volvo, and Acura.
For Audi, they’re grouped into a subdivision called Audi Sport.
It is not an additional letter or letters, but rather a swap of one for either an S, R, or RS depending on model. In our case, the mild-mannered A6 midsized premium sedan became our S6 tester thanks to the good folks at Audi Sport. Instead of a typical executive sedan, what we have is a extrovert that still wears a fine suit or dress with a few flashy elements.
Why would any of us want the S6 instead of an A6?
First off, the S6 is a subtle machine. It is supposed to be stealthy so not to attract the likes of the police when one speeds along the highway. There is a bit of a rear spoiler, along with an aerodynamic front clip and side skirts to give it a sportier appearance. Our tester came with 19-inch wheels that barely fit over the big brake rotors and huge caliper housing. The reason for this is the use of winter tires on our tester.
Overall, the A6/S6 package is quite substantial, but sleek. The roofline is long, accommodating a big three-window side profile, applied on top of an equally wide side profile. The S6 offers a set of LED front and rear lighting, making it more visible at night. In all, it is very handsome even if it does look like almost every model in the Audi lineup.
The same critique could be made inside. There is a lot of Audi’s current technologies shared across the lineup; the virtual cockpit and MMI infotainment, for example. However, the S6 offers a unique mix of luxury and sport to coddle drivers and their passengers on sporting excursions. After a few moments, all of the controls will seem logical and good to the touch, even though there are some questions about actual placement and operation. The cruise control stalk is on the left and needs a bit of learning to get it working right. We wished there were more steering wheel controls that worked the MMI system equally than the actual controls on the center console. These are just a few nitpicks.
Yet, it all comes together from a command center anchored by a set of high-back leather seats with quilted leather surfaces and strong bolstering. Power adjustments are made for height, rake, recline, and lumbar. The cushion extender also helps. Front space is fine, though rear seat space may appear to be limited. This is due to a cockpit-type floor and a high center “hump.” Taller passengers might be challenged by the roofline in the rear. Trunk space is decent at 14.1 cubic feet. The rear seats fold down for expandable cargo.
We mentioned the MMI infotainment system a few times. It is controlled by a center knob on the console with peripheral buttons next to it. A screen comes out of the dashboard to prop itself against it in a tablet-like stance. The system includes varying audio options, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. A clean navigation is driven by Google, including a Google Earth and Street View. There is Wi-Fi through Audi Connect, using a 4G LTE hotspot. Bose drives 14 speakers of superior sound with available surround sound settings.
Power comes from a turbocharged 4.0-liter V8. With 450 horsepower on tap, one would describe the S6 as a silent beast. At speed, it is very quiet. The only time you hear the exhaust note is at startup and when you need to press the accelerator to pass someone. It is also extremely quick. It is also pretty thirsty, unless you consider the 21.3 MPG average as “thirsty.” Performance cars usually drink more of their share of the finer grades of gasoline.
Attached to the powerful V8 is a seven-speed dual-clutch S-Tronic transmission and Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system. Combined, the S6’s power is smoothly and quickly transferred to all four wheels with equal ease. The shifts were quick and torque delivery for maximum grip were nothing short of superb.
Audi offers a few settings to adjust the driving dynamics. Through Audi Drive Select, this S6 can be a smooth highway cruiser or a corner carver. The Dynamic setting tightens up the steering weight, throttle, and transmission response for a more exciting drive. A driver can also customize their feel through the Individual setting or let the system do its work in the Auto setting.
In every setting, the S6 is a solid driver capable of comfortable cruising at any speed. The ride quality is superb, though road imperfections are felt with the best dampening job possible. Handling is quite superb with sharp cornering and a lack of roll and lean through the turns. The suspension never felt firm, which might turn off sports car lovers. For a big sedan, this actually is a huge advantage.
The steering system is terrific. It responds extremely well from the wheel with excellent road feel. The turning radius is actually quite good for a car of its size. We also mentioned the large brake rotors and calipers on this S6. It translated into superb braking response and feel with great stops in normal and panic situations. However, we hoped the pedals would be spaced a bit more away from each other for better response.
Audi offers a lot of active safety features to keep the S6 on task. Blind spot monitoring is done with some very bright lights located on the side mirrors, while there is lane keep assist, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, rearview camera with a 360-degree view, and cross-traffic alert. The camera system has a great front view, as well. Audi’s pre-sense system provides the driver audible, visual, and physical collision warnings when a situation is detected from its radar system. To top it all off, the S6 came with a headup display with clear readings that helped enhance the drive.
Pricing for the S6 starts at $70,900. Our Prestige package tester came with a sticker price of $82,425. If the S6 is too much for your palette, the A6 comes with a choice of a turbocharged four-cylinder or a supercharged V6. Pricing for the A6 starts at $47,600.
It is safe to say that the Audi S6 is a desirable machine that delivers performance smoothly without all of the drama. It is a fine executive performance sedan without drawing attention to itself.
These are key points in choosing something special in the luxury car field. One can go with a mere Audi A6 and simply drive it like a normal car. But, for those occasions when you need all of the power and luxury one can deliver is a finely tailored suit, the S6 is a very good choice.