The Audi S4 is a tremendous machine. This Germanic sports sedan is fast, refined and able to please even the most jaundiced of drivers. With quattro traction, a slick manual transmission and right-sized body it could be the perfect all-around car. But have the engineering elves in Ingolstadt been able to translate this excellence to a larger package?
Engine: 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8; 420 hp, 406 lb-ft
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, quattro all-wheel drive
Fuel Economy: 17 miles per gallon city, 27 highway, 20 combined
Price: $81,675 as tested
SEE ALSO: 2015 Audi S4 Review
The next rung on Audi’s performance ladder is the S6, a similarly styled sports sedan with larger dimensions and an extra helping of horsepower. Yes, it’s bigger, heavier and more expensive than its stable-mate, but this car is not without a list of benefits all its own, even if it eschews a proper three-pedal arrangement in favor of a self-shifting gearbox with twice as many clutches.
Instead of a supercharged V6 this sports sedan is propelled by a 4.0-liter V8 engine that’s augmented by a duet of turbochargers nestled in the typically wasted space found between the cylinder banks. Clever packaging allows this wide-shouldered powerplant to fit in a precariously narrow space, its cam covers barely clearing the S6’s strut towers. Woe to the technician that has to perform any service work under the hood; space is scarcer than in Tokyo’s subway at rush hour.
Still, Audi’s engineering team found ways of cramming even more add-ons into the S6’s engine bay. Aside from forced induction the car’s V8 also features cylinder deactivation to curb excessive consumption, along with direct fuel injection, a feature that helps it deliver a stout 420 hp along with 406 lb-ft of peak torque. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic makes instantaneous work of gear changes and is unusually refined for a transmission of this type. Still, my left leg twitched for a clutch pedal, much like a musician tapping his toes to the rhythm of a chart-topping hit.
Quattro all-wheel drive ensures the S6 never loses its footing and a sports differential helps the ass end rotate when such uncouth behavior is requested by a rude shove of the accelerator pedal. Mile-a-minute velocity can be yours in 4.5 seconds, just tromp your right foot down and hang on as the silken V8 breaths deeply and heaves you forward like an explosive shell exiting the barrel of a mortar.
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With a wheelbase just shy of 115 inches and an overall width, including side-view mirrors, of a whisker more than 82, the S6 is four inches longer and two inches broader than its smaller sibling. For better or worse the family resemblance is unmistakable. Even though it’s loaded with secret herbs and spices Audi has but one styling recipe; they simply scale it up as necessary.
Outside the S6 looks like an S4 plus about 30 percent. Accordingly it’s also a lot heavier, straining the scales with nearly 4,400 pounds of avoirdupois, roughly 530 more than its trimmer little brother.
This is a pretty large car, though it doesn’t feel like one from the inside. Luggage space is scarcely more than what’s offered in the S4 and rear-seat legroom is only about two inches greater. Pulling out the tape measure it registers a surprisingly cramped 37.4 inches, a whopping four inches less than what you get in the back of a Toyota Corolla. Even the front accommodations don’t feel all that generously proportioned; I had no complaints but larger folks will probably feel a little confined.
Despite looking like just about every other Audi the S6 attracts its share of attention, especially when painted a delightful color, such as Sepang Blue pearl like the tester I evaluated. This rich hue made the car stand out from surrounding traffic like a lone delphinium growing in a sea of poppies. Perhaps best of all this optional paintjob cost just $550 extra. At that price it’s a sensible choice and one that looks particularly attractive alongside the car’s frosty-silver mirror caps and brightly trimmed side glass.
The Intersection of Sport and Luxury
The current A6, which is the foundation for this high-performance S model was first introduced back in the 2011 model year meaning this car is already four years old. Vehicles, like dogs and cold cuts, often age more quickly than their owners and one presidential term is a considerable length of time in car years. The A6/S6 combo is probably due to be refreshed shortly.
Still, like other Audis this machine’s interior has withstood the test of time. It’s still outstandingly designed and constructed of top-shelf materials that are impeccably assembled.
Everything is premium and has a high-quality feel, from the soft plastics its dashboard is hewn from to the creamy cow hides slathering its seats. Unlike the Q3 crossover I tested a few weeks prior, all of the S6’s switchgear feels built for the long haul, especially its MMI knob, which clicks like a precision instrument.
Adding a heaping helping of design flair to an otherwise sensibly styled interior are two very special flourishes. First up, striking diamond-stitched Valcona-leather seating surfaces. The front buckets and rear bench feature a unique crisscross pattern that really livens up an otherwise dark cabin. Second, is some optional trim, a special black wood and aluminum composition that’s splashed across the doors, dashboard and even center console. This hybrid material features fine strips of timber interspersed between even thinner slivers of metal. The look brings to mind an expensive pinstriped suit, bling that’s well worth the extra $900 Audi asks for it.
The front buckets are comfortable and nicely bolstered and so are the outboard back seats, which are quite surprising; benches are usually as flat as bleachers, but not these. Still, the car’s aft accommodations could have more space for legs; headroom is lacking as well.
Another gripe has to do with connectivity. If you want to charge your phone you need some sort of special jumper cable that fits a proprietary connecter. What the f***, Audi?! How about offering a normal USB port like everyone else?
One feature that’s both functional and impressive — think of it as an automotive parlor trick — is the S6’s navigation screen. It’s motorized, flipping 90-degrees and sliding into the dashboard when its services are not required, such as when you’re in a familiar neighborhood and directions are not needed, or during a quiet drive home after fighting with your spouse during a family gathering at the in-laws’ place. Whatever the reason, this display looks expensive and must have cost big bucks to design and engineer. And that’s a recurring theme in this 2015 Audi S6 review, the company knows how to include clever little touches.
Speaking of monetary concerns, an “entry-level” Premium Plus-trim S6 can be had for right around $72,000. The Prestige model I evaluated crossed the end of the assembly line in Neckarsulm, Germany wearing a sticker price of $81,675, a sum that was inflated by the options like the Driver Assistance package ($2,800) and 20-inch wheels ($1,000).
The primary way Audi’s S6 can put a smile on your face is through rapid acceleration. This car is supremely quick in nearly every driving situation, from stop lights or tight corners to long trips on an uncongested interstate. It will blast you from apex to apex with the force of a spring tornado.
As mentioned earlier, this car’s 4.0-liter V8 cranks out some heady numbers but they’re not the whole story. This engine is so smooth it feels like it runs on silk and whipped cream; there’s no way a bunch of explosions take place inside. Nope, impossible. Powertrain isolation is absolutely incredible, with scarcely any vibration or boorish noises making their way into the occupant compartment.
And this engine revs with a willingness that’s hard to believe. When you downshift the tachometer needle jumps up so quickly it practically seems like it’s not connected to the powerplant. I mean, how can rotating mass accelerate instantly? I don’t know and neither does Issac Newton.
As dual-clutch units go the S6’s transmission is likewise refined; often these gearboxes walk a precarious line, trading smoothness for speed. Fortunately Audi’s engineers have struck the perfect balance. This S tronic unit can shift faster than a brain synapse, well, quicker than one of my languorous thoughts, yet it’s still plenty refined. Only in certain situations at low speeds will you ever notice any jerkiness, and even then it’s slight.
Overall the S6 has that “Audi feel.” What I mean by that is that you immediately know it’s an Audi the second you plunk your backside in the driver’s seat. The way the steering is super light at parking-lot velocities but gets heavier the faster you go, the firmness of its ride, the way its brakes respond, the familiarity of its MMI system. It’s a cohesive package and one that you’ll never confuse with a BMW or Lexus. It feels like an Audi and nothing else.
The 2015 S6 is a fine machine in many ways, an exemplar of superb luxury-car engineering. It’s speedy in every situation, entertaining on circuitous ribbons of asphalt and elegant both inside and out. Still, after a week-long evaluation I came away from it wanting, not because any of its admittedly minor shortcomings got the better of my proverbial goat, but instead because I enjoy the smaller, cheaper S4 even more.
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