It's been fascinating to sample Audi's new greener edition of the EA824 V8 in all of its various incarnations. Our first crack at the new TFSI powerplant with cylinder-on-demand was in Audi's own 513-horsepower S8, and we then went on to try it out in the new 500-hp Bentley Continental GT and GTC V8 models. Most recently, we dipped into the 4.0-liter biturbo in the new S7 before getting behind the wheel of the closely related S6 seen here.
Versus the previous S6 with its muy macho Lamborghini-derived 5.2-liter V10, everything is quicker, more efficient and lighter in weight. The new fourth-generation S6 Quattro with S-tronic seven-speed dual clutch comes in at a European curb weight of 4,178 pounds – about 30 pounds lighter than the previous V10-stuffed car with its automated six-speed. Yes, power is slightly lower now at 414 horses, but peak torque of 406 pound-feet is slightly higher and happens over a vastly wider range of 1,400 to 5,200 rpm. Audi's 0-62 miles per hour sprint time is now listed at 4.6 seconds, a figure that compares favorably with the outgoing car's official 5.2-second time.
For my test drive, Audi thoughtfully provided a couple of S6 four-door setups for me to sample: those with Dynamic Steering and the torque vectoring sport Quattro rear differential, and those without. You know which trim I went for already. So equipped, these S6 sedans were all painted Misano Red... an exterior color that Americans cannot get this time around. So, just visualize me thundering around Bavaria in a car painted shades of white, black, silver, gray, or blue, since those are the paint chips you'll find on the order sheet at your local dealer.
First of all, when a particularly intelligent person (Yes, I am blatantly insinuating.) goes for either this loaded Audi S6, a similarly equipped Mercedes-Benz E550 4Matic, or what have you, one's drive expectations are not about how well it manages a controlled oversteer, smoking-tire pose on your favorite run up to lover Mila Kunis' house. These premium juggernauts are generally for executives and their families, and they get used a lot year-round in areas with four real seasons. What one appreciates at this price, though, is the sophistication, the poise, the aesthetics and the ride and drive sensations. It's a pricier club, and either you want to be part or you don't. No skin off anyone's back.
Everything is quicker, more efficient and lighter in weight.
I tried both this red S6 fully equipped as well as a version painted Ice Silver that was not equipped with S-calibrated dynamic steering or the rear sport differential with torque vectoring. The difference is crystal clear when you drive them back-to back. My take? You can be very pleased that North America gets a far finer base S6 than do the Europeans at the higher price.
Between the evenly distributed weight typical of Audis, a default 40:60 sport Quattro torque split and standard programmable adaptive air suspension, this beefed-up A6 cannot do it much better than it does. Driven properly over the region's country roads with the S-tronic in either D, S for Sport automatic, or sequential manual mode via the console lever or steering wheel paddles, this four-door feels capable of just about anything, and it's unerringly smooth while going about its business. My preferred red tester came with optional 20-inch Rotor five-spoke wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Potenza rubber – 255/35 R20 (97Y) all around – and over the nearly pristine German asphalt, grip was plentiful. Throttling on or off was smooth, too, the nicely wrapped three-spoke steering wheel felt great, and the standard eternally adjustable S sport seats gave me what support and cush was needed throughout the day.
North America gets a far finer base S6 than do the Europeans at the higher price.
The S6 also goes one better than the S7 in how it differs in height from the civilian A6/A7. Whereas the S7 sits as much as 0.8 of an inch lower versus a standard A7, the S6 sits a full 1.2 inches lower than an A6, so the dynamic feel – especially with the 20-inch treads – is more responsive.
Despite the much-improved driving performance, fuel consumption and hence CO2 emissions improve by 25 percent over the outgoing C6 model. That's thanks in part to the Cylinder On Demand technology also used in the engine's other applications. Imagine 19 miles per gallon in the city and as high as 26 mpg on the highway. Those figures won't sway any greenies from prying open their hemp wallets, but a healthy 25 percent uptick is a healthy 25 percent uptick nevertheless.
Fuel consumption improves by 25 percent over the outgoing C6 model.
Regarding the on/off camshaft action of Cylinder On Demand, to negate any potential roughness or acoustic unpleasantries, Audi has included both active engine mounts and Audi noise control. The first operates proactively to fill the frequency gaps left when in V4 mode and cylinders 2, 3, 5, and 8 take a break. The second works through the infotainment system, creating noise-cancelling sound waves. Both work as advertised – when tooling along at a modest pace, I honestly never felt like I was driving a tinny four-cylinder at all.
Whereas European buyers of the new S6 don't get many bells and whistles thrown in with the German base price of 72,900 Euros after heady taxes ($96,400 USD at the time of this writing), Americans should be able to get a very nicely equipped S6 Quattro Prestige Plus with S-tronic, a nicer interior than the Euro standard, sport Quattro rear differential, et al. for right around $70,000. The true pricing for North America will be announced prior to the start of deliveries in October. Western Europe starts getting its S6 allotment in July.
The United States will not be getting the new S6 Avant all-star hauler.
Sadly and perhaps predictably, the United States will not be getting the new S6 Avant all-star hauler. I couldn't resist driving one fully optioned, 60 cubic feet of cargo space and all. What – A – Car.
So, given that this downsized V8 can handle so many different VW Group models so successfully, I can't help but wonder exactly how far this bi-turbo 4.0-liter can go in terms of power and torque before Audi has to broom the underrated seven-speed S-tronic in favor of something more robust. I was generally pleased by the S6's gear changes up and down, but there were occasional lagging downshifts – or cog swaps not allowed – as the drivetrain sought to overprotect itself as I entered tighter curves. Some have said the RS6 will exceed even the Bentleys in power and torque, so things could get very out of whack if the transmission doesn't at least get updated shift logic.
In the end, the S6 feels best when hot-footing it somewhere short of an all-out time attack. And you'll enjoy the drive, because the Boysen manifolds, Eberspächer sport catalysts and four Faurecia exhaust tips combine to create one of the nicest orchestrations ever in an Audi, whether heard from outside or behind the wheel. Audi Drive Select even lets the driver choose the level of engine audio, which is a nice bauble.
At first, I was concerned that downsizing from the spectacle of the Raging Bull's V10 would harm the S6's character and competence, but as it turns out... it's actually quite the overall upgrade.