A wolf in sheep’s clothing is an overused adage in the car industry. Sometimes, though, it is justified: Audi’s new S6 doesn’t look much different to a regular A6 but is the hottest new A6 your money can buy.
Equipped with a new twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 engine – good for 414bhp – the Audi S6 is able to accelerate at a supercar speed of 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds. And because it’s fitted with Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system, it has incredible stick-to-the-road grip too.
But that’s not the whole story. As part of an efficiency drive, the V8 engine replaces the 5.2-litre V10 of its S6 predecessor, an engine derived from the one in the Audi R8. It is a relation to the engine Bentley has begun to equip its Continental and GTC models with. Further efficiency measures include start/stop, energy recuperation and cylinder deactivation; where four of the eight cylinders shut down under lighter loads, the engine operates as a V4. This means a light-footed driver could achieve as much as 25 per cent better fuel economy than that achieved from the previous V10-engined S6.
But this is not a car that will be bought by the light of foot. This is a very fast family car for the kind of driver who desires a two-seater coupe but who has to endure the familiar motoring compromise of the family-man.
Design-wise the S6 has some slight changes over a regular A6. The styling is mean and moody rather than overtly aggressive: three air-intakes at the front and a platinum grey diffuser – with two shiny twin chrome tailpipes – at the rear hint at the car’s performance.
Inside the S6 is beautifully trimmed in leather, aluminium and wood. It’s familiar Audi design at its best. But the real story is the tech. This A6 is a mobile wifi hotspot so the kids can hook up their iPads and peruse Facebook while you fly along the Autobahn. The sat-nav even uses Google maps and Google Street View to guide you – it overlays the road network upon the downloaded images – while data from mobile phone use communicates traffic density from other cars.
We found the S6 felt most at home on the motorway. Here the ride is very comfortable thanks to an adaptive air suspension sport system. And the seven-speed semi-automatic transmission shifted cleanly and quickly. The car has a drive select system which allows you to tune the car’s setup – the engine, steering and suspension – to your own preferences, which we found to be a little difficult to access. It doesn’t remember driver settings so if you share the car with your partner you would need to reset them again after they have driven it.
The interior is refined. The S6 has active noise cancelling technology to eradicate unwanted sound. The system measures interior noise using microphones in the cabin then broadcasts an opposing “anti-phase” sound-wave to cancel it out. This means any disconcerting engine noise when in V4 deactivated mode can be removed. We found the switch between four and eight cylinders to be imperceptible but the side-effect is that the V8 engine noise is muted and feels a little remote; thus removing some aural thrills.
The S6 isn’t as entertaining in the corners as we expected and feels just a little heavy on country lanes. Although its weight has been reduced by using aluminium body panels, the saloon still weighs 1,895kg and the estate 1,950kg. At almost two tonnes, you can feel the weight shifting – rather more in the Avant than the saloon it has to be said – which can be a little unsettling.
That said, the S6 is a powerful and seductive proposition and would make a fantastic long distance cruiser. It’s a car you can pack full of people – and the detritus of their lives – and effortlessly relocate them across continents. And that is the definition of freedom... Even with the kids in tow.
0-62MPH: 4.6 SECS
TOP SPEED: 155MPH CO2 G/KM: 225G/KM
MPG COMBINED: 29.4MPG
VALUE FOR MONEY ***