A refined flow of power in conjunction with superlative comfort and an elegantly understated appearance: this is the new Audi S6 / S6 Avant. It is the sporty top model in the luxury-class family of models comprising the Audi A6 saloon and A6 Avant, which took the market by storm following their launch in 2004 and have since garnered countless accolades worldwide from both customers and experts within the trade.
The Audi S6 Avant is a flawed and compromised car, but despite its faults, it has a hugely seductive three-dimensional appeal. I walked away from the S6 after a day behind the wheel with a sharp sense of regret at our separation. I really like this car, but it took me a while to find out why.
I initially felt underwhelmed walking up to the S6. This third-generation S6 Avant is a particularly muted upgrade over the standard A6. You get the anticipated body kit, satin-finish wing mirrors and roof rails and a set of beautiful 19" tuning fork alloy wheels. Oh, and a pair of tiny V10 badges on the front flanks. But there’s a distinct air of restraint about the whole package that’s shared with the S6 saloon.
It may be muted but the engine is a bit of a technical wonder. The advanced FSI direct injection 5.2- long-stroke litre V10 engine is fitted with continuously adjustable camshafts and twin engine management systems to produce 435bhp at 6,800rpm and 398lb-ft of torque at 3,000rpm. Flex that muscle and the S6 will hit 62mph in a mere 5.3seconds and not stop until it’s electronically tagged at 155mph. That’s Porsche 911 quick.
The introduction of FSI direct injection - a first on a V10 engine for Audi - and an ultra-high 12.5:1 compression ration makes for a hugely efficient combustion process - and a correspondingly deep torque reservoir. At 2,250-5,850rpm a full 90% of the 398lb-ft of peak torque is available. The result is a seemingly inexhaustible flow of acceleration to slingshot the car out of tight corners and simply annihilate slower traffic when overtaking.
The engine’s urbane demeanour is perfectly matched by the clean-shifting Tiptronic gearbox, which slips quickly and unobtrusively between its six gears. The gear ratios themselves are shorter and the change times quicker, so tapping the chrome gearshift paddles results in instant gear changes.
At almost five metres long and with a kerb weight of 1,970kg, the S6 Avant is a big and heavy chunk of metal: it doesn’t appreciate being thrown down tight and twisting country roads. The steering feels too slow and mute, the nose insists on ploughing straight on and the chassis feels inert and aloof, sniffily turning up its nose at any tail-out hooliganism.