2016 Audi S6 and S7 First Drive
Same Formula, Different Results
EngineTwin-Turbo 4.0L V8
Power450 HP / 406 LB-FT
0-60 Time4.4 / 4.5 Seconds
Top Speed155 MPH (limited)
Curb Weight4,484 / 4,564 LBS
Cargo14.1 / 24.5 CU-FT
MPG18 City / 27 HWY
Base Price$70,000 / $82,900
As Tested Price$81,275 / $95,525
These two people might not be as different as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but at the very least the S7 is the S6's lothario neighbor – the one who's always got a glass of scotch in one hand and a chambermaid in the other. A day spent in the canyons around Los Angeles proves there's a big difference between these cars.
First, though, let's discuss their similarities. The S6 and the S7 get the same design overhaul we detailed in our piece on the 2016 Audi A6, namely the edge work done on the grille, bumpers, headlights, and taillights. Additionally, they get Audi's new MMI system – the brand's next step in infotainment.
Changes exclusive to these S models include flat-bottomed steering wheels with model badges at the base of the center spoke, and aluminum-finish shift paddles. The pedals and footrest get the aluminum look as well. There's also a new shift lever, and a revised design for the Quattro badge.
A day spent in the canyons proves there's a big difference between these cars.
New seat and surface treatments join the options list, such as Beaufort Walnut inlays and Valcona leather seats in Cedar Brown. The S7 has a new Arras Red interior option as part of its design selection palette, but the striking addition there is the carbon fiber inlay it comes with, which is interwoven with a red thread. You lean in really, really close and see that scarlet yarn, and the cockpit immediately feels more special. It's the kind of beautiful subtlety you expect from Audi, and the result is a scrumptious cabin.
The twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V8 gets 30 more horses, topping out at 450 horsepower. Torque remains the same at 406-pound-feet, but fuel economy increases ever so slightly to 18 miles per gallon in the city, 27 mpg highway, and 21 mpg combined.
It seems that a fair number of buyers wanted S vehicles without the whole suite of go-fast bits; they liked having the "S" on their chests, they didn't need all of the superpowers. Thus, Audi took the Quattro sport differential and dynamic steering off the standard menu, and bundled it with the sport exhaust to create the now-optional Sport Package. We have always enjoyed the affecting rumble of athletic Audis, and the new exhaust is even deeper, richer, and better. However, because double-pane front glass comes standard on the S6 and S7 now, you can't hear that exhaust as well as you'd like from inside the car.
The S6 makes a meal of curves, but it does give away a hint of the effort.
Since this press drive was held in our Los Angeles backyard, we ditched off the pre-planned route and pointed the S6 down our favorite canyon roads. The sedan makes a meal of curves, but it does give away a hint of the effort. The tires start to whisper early, and while dive and squat aren't a problem, the body does pitch slightly when rollicking through corners or during swift changes in direction. But this is a matter of fixating on one loose thread in an otherwise perfect sweater. The S6 is a 4,484-pound bruiser, and it should be taken seriously.
The Quattro sport differential uses new algorithms, and an electronically controlled diff up front provides much better handling – there's no more understeer. No longer do we need to factor in a buffer for push, and we can focus entirely on throttle and steering. Coming into a corner too hot, the front diff ticks the nose around and gets us properly pointed. If you want, you can even stay on the throttle all the way through the turn – the differential will pull you through. But that's just sloppy, which is the opposite of the S6.
The seven-speed DCT is in perfect sync with the engine and our driving style.
The seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission is in perfect sync with the engine and our driving style. On the roads we know, there's no need to touch a shift paddle; set to Sport, the gearbox doesn't wait to parachute down through gears coming into a corner. It then holds the cog to keep the revs in the thick of the power band so we always have heaping mounds of giddy-up upon exit.
Next, driving the S7, we're surprised to find it so much more buttoned down than the S6. Where the S6 makes a meal of canyon roads, the S7 turns that meal into a presentation – it is deliciously composed. Not only is there less body roll in the S7, even the brakes feels different. The stop pedal is firmer and provides better modulation than in the S6. We're not sure if we're actually faster in the S7, but we feel faster. The S7 is more fun to drive fast.
There are two objective differences between the S6 and S7. First, the hatchback is about an inch wider than the sedan, in both front and back. Second, the S7 offers a bit more tire the S6: 265/35R20s on the S7 front and back compared to 255/35R20s on the S6. Countering that, the S7, with a curb weight of 4,564 pounds, is 78 pounds heavier than the S6. But the majority of the difference is in the suspension. Both cars employ five links with a stabilizer bar in front, a trapezoidal-link in the rear, and an adaptive air suspension. But, to quote the press kit, the S7 gets "sport suspension calibration" whereas the S6 gets "S6 sport suspension calibration." We don't know why the two cars are tuned so differently, and the two Audi execs we asked aren't sure, either. But if you want the ultimate S experience, get the S7, and make sure you get the optional sport seats – the hatchback handles so well that the standard chairs won't hold you in place.
If you want the ultimate S experience, get the S7.
Subjectively, this author likes the look of the S6 better than the S7. But regardless, we wish the sedan drove with same chops as the hatch. Nevertheless, even though the S7 is a better handling car, the S6 is still enough fun to make us very happy playing Dr. Jekyll.
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