Driven: the Audi S6
Audi’s ultimate Q-car gets a total refresh, but can it deliver the thrills?
What's this then?
Audi's ultimate Q-car. That's ‘Q' as in ‘Q-ship', the normal-looking boats packed with secret firepower to ambush enemy subs. Not Q as in Bond's gadget-monger.
Hotter and posher than a regular A6 but not as hard as an RS, the S6 - like other S models - hides proper performance behind familiar, even restrained styling. Where the last one used a V10 from the Lambo Gallardo... this one has a 4.0-litre, 420bhp, twin-turbo V8 shared with the Bentley Continental.
Anything new other than the engine?
Pretty much the whole car. The A6 range has been recently and wholly redone, from the lighter chassis to the entertainment systems with optional WiFi and satnav maps laid over Google Earth images. On top of that, the S6 has more expensive alloys, silver wing mirrors and generally more lavish standard equipment such as noise-cancellation tech, which works like posh headphones to filter out abrasive frequencies, from road noise to wind rush. And let's not forget that V8, which sits on active engine mounts to reduce vibrations through the car, and rests half its cylinders if you're just gently cruising.
What's it like?
Very cultured. Despite getting from zero to 100kph in just 4.7 seconds, it never feels ballistic. The noise-cancellation tech works a little bit too well - insulating you from all the signs that you're travelling at potentially massive speed. The air-suspension is so comfy it really softens out the road, even on bigger wheels, and the V8 has a sort of muffled anger - like you're listening to it from behind a wall. Or with earplugs in.
This isn't supposed to be a flashy car, nor an especially racy one. But you can't help feeling it's a bit too subdued. There's a lot of power here, and the dual-clutch 'box handles it mostly well, bar an occasionally thumpy shift. And once you push through an initial stickiness in the throttle and steering, it starts to liven up. But it never feels hugely crisp or immediate - this is an easy car to drive medium-fast, and you get the feeling that's what it would rather be doing.
Should I care?
This is an unarguably lovely product, and the materials and cabin tech have upped the everyday-premium game to new levels of luxury. But somehow the refinements fight against the performance. For those that simply can't bring themselves to own a fast diesel, it has a fairly unique appeal. But if you're expecting a more liveable version of the RS6, prepare for disappointment.