A Victory & Reseda review of the 2017 Audi S6
At the top of the pops resides a trio of Teutonic giants. This was not the invention of Wagner or a historic relic of its warring past, but rather of an output from the end of a great and humbling war.
The allies of World War II helped restart a majority of the German automotive industry west of the Soviet Sector. Daimler-Benz, BMW and Auto Union regained traction in the austere 1950s to become global leaders in luxury transport.
While both Mercedes-Benz and BMW grew organically to their perches in the vehicular hierarchy, Audi had to go through some rougher roads to earn their place on a plinth. It took its acquisition by Volkswagen AG – not just Audi, but all of Auto Union – to give it a solid foundation. What we saw was its rebirth – four rings on its grille and a competitive product sitting in Porsche showrooms across the USA.
That was 1970. The car was the 100LS.
The 100LS was a way for Audi to tell BMW and Mercedes-Benz that their spacious sedans has some company to contend with. It would be the tone set by Audi going forward for its mid-sized premium sedan. And, we bore witness to its emergence as a notable and influential automobile – becoming the 5000 and, later, the A6.
I had a 5000 once. It was a 1986 S model that was well appointed with a strong five-cylinder engine. Aside from the power steering pump failing on me at the end of my time with the big Audi, it was as superbly engineered car that was spacious and drove like a dream.
Today’s A6 follows suit from its ancestors, as it continues to battle with the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class…among others. Their mainstream models do quite well with its premium customers.
Just like its counterparts, you can get a version that is more special than its mainstream offerings. These special models would pack a lot of power and performance under the hood with equally strong handling and agility further down the chassis. Their interiors would be rich and induce a more focused style of driving. Yet they could be as subtle as a velvet hammer, even from the outside.
We all know about these special models. Just one look at their decklids will identify them as such. BMW has a letter for this: M. Mercedes-Benz applies the AMG badge to their high performance models. For Audi, they’re grouped into a subdivision called Audi Sport.
It is not a letter, but rather a swap of one for either an S, R or RS – depending on model. In our case, the mild mannered A6 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 stealth 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 side 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 start up 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 for 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 head up display with clear readings that helped enhance the drive.
Pricing for the S6 starts at $70,900. My 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.
The idea of a high performance large sedan might be a bit overkill for the typical car customer. They are indeed tasty carrots that offer the performance of a rocket, the handling of an athlete and the comfort of a first class lounge. For those who own such magnificent beasts, they are truly rewarded by the superlatives these mighty machines offer. They are simply and truly special cars.
If you have to choose among these rarified pieces of automotive excellence, the Audi S6 is indeed a superb choice for your velvet hammer. Not simply because of its four-ringed badge up front or the simple fact it is an Audi with its superb fusion of engineering and technology. It is because one can drive this big sedan and its turbocharged V8 engine with a huge smile on their face – even if it is a short run to the grocery store for milk.
So, which German luxury car were you considering? The one with the four rings up front? I thought so – smart choice, by the way!
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Audi of America