One-day test: Audi S6
Audi’s S range of cars have sort of been over shadowed by the more extreme RS versions. It use to be that the S was the pinnacle of performance for that particular car but we have found ourselves in a power battle between rivals, and kilowatts are the armaments.
The RS4 was a powerful thing and produced far more power that the 3,0-litre BMW E46 M3 or the C32 AMG from Mercedes-Benz, a battle which the S4 was more than happy to fight. But BMW and Mercedes-Benz both upped the output of their cars, superseding the S4 and closing the gap with the RS4.
Audi’s response? Nothing. The RS4 became the new standard fast executive sedan, leaving the S4 to become irrelevant. Well that is what we thought until we had a new S4 as part of our long-term fleet a few years back, because while it didn’t have the power to compete against the new generation of fast executive sedans, it was a joy drive, especially from a handling point of view.
It’s supercharged 3,0-litre V6 engine produced 250 kW which put it on par with the BMW 335i, but unlike the BMW it had the chassis and suspension setup of a real S car (or M in the case of BMW). It’s power was useable on the straights and the bends.
A similar story can be told about the rest of the S range of Audis. The RS took the place of fending off its competitors while the S became less extreme and easy going.
And my car for today is a classic example of this: the Audi S6.
It sits just below the hallowed RS6 which has enough brute power to tow a continent, but that doesn’t mean that the S6 is a slouch. It now comes with a turbocharged 4,0-litre V8 that produces 331 kW and 550 Nm of torque and which Audi claims is good enough to jump the car from 0-100km/h in 4.4 seconds
But because it is a big car that acceleration feels much quicker than even that. The power simply rushes in and all of a sudden you are moving much faster than you anticipated. But its not a reckless feeling either; there isn’t stretching tyres and a wiggle form the rear or any of that nonsense. The power simply appears and the cars moves faster.
Its predictable but not pedestrian
But while the power is alluring it is the cars handling that really makes it special. Push it into a corner early, apply power and enjoy the show as the Quattro setup juggles the power to the relevant wheels, pulling you our of the corner at speeds that you didn’t think were possible. Again, the rear doesn’t step out and the back wheels don’t try and slip into a power slide, the car just handles.
It being an A6 means that its a pretty luxurious thing as well. The center of the instrument cluster is digital and you can call up the navigation to be displayed there, and you can configure it with a long and expensive list of options if you so chose. Our test unit came with a fairly spartan setup considering, but for the most part it was more than sufficient.
The only thing that did annoy me endlessly is that Driver Select, the button that allows you to switch between the different car setups, is now an option on the S6. This is terrible because if you are like me and like to keep the car in Efficiency for most of the drive and switch to Dynamic when you need the power, the only way to do this is through the rotary and menu.
Driver Select is an option extra on the A1 – it should not be an option on the A6 let alone the S6.
That aside the S6 is an excellent car, with no real rivals. Until BMW and Mercedes-Benz start to push their junior go fast brands (M-Performance and AMG Sport respectively) the S6 is unchallenged. The BMW 550i and Mercedes-Benz E500 have the power to be called competitive but the Audi handles corners like it is in a different league altogether.
Its even a danger to some of the cars that would normally be considered beneath it because it is priced so well; base price for the S6 is R1 054 500 and starts to climb quickly from there, but that is cheaper than a M3 and a C63 AMG, and to be honest I would have a hard time choosing between them…