Will the new V-6 model be powerful enough for the BMW M550i?

The current Audi A6 is five years old as of 2017, and recent spy shots indicate that a replacement is due to be launched sometime in 2018. The new midsize sedan seems heavily based on the recently unveiled A8, which is no surprise considering Audi’s current "same sausage, different lengths" design strategy. Alongside the A6, our paparazzi also spotted what appears to be a more performance oriented version of the sedan, the S6, a sign that Audi is quite busy trying to introduce a full lineup as soon as possible. The S6 will sport the same styling cues, but as usual, it will feature a more aggressive exterior and a more potent drivetrain.

The next-generation A6 is crucial for Audi’s future in this niche. BMW and Mercedes-Benz have already launched their brand-new 5 Series and E-Class, and needless to say, the current A6 is severely outdated. The new sedan should fix that with a fresh design and updated technology, but it should also bring enhanced performance and fuel economy to the table thanks to a lighter platform, upgraded materials, and revised or brand-new engines. The new A6 should debut in the first half of 2018, but the S6 shouldn’t arrive far behind. Until more information becomes available, let’s have a closer look at the spy shots.

Continue reading for the full story.

Exterior

2019 Audi S6 Exterior Spyshots
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Arguably the most important change up front is the new A8-style grille.

Although the test car is heavily camouflaged, we can spot several new design cues. Arguably the most important change up front is the new A8-style grille. Just like on the full-size sedan, the previous singleframe grille was replaced by a wider element with sharper edges. The new grille has three horizontal bars on the upper section, three more in the middle section with the plastic background, and one more below that. While the main grille doesn’t have the honeycomb mesh seen on RS models, the side vents in the bumper do have a similar layout.

The headlamps are also based on the A8’s. Not only are they slimmer, but they also sport a more angular design. Paired with the new grille, they give the car a sportier, wider stance. Rounding off the new S6 are the splitter-like element at the bottom of the bumper and a more muscular engine hood.

2019 Audi S6 Exterior Spyshots
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The rear is fitted with prototype taillights, but I'm pretty sure I can see a thin light bar running just above the license place.

There’s nothing much we can see as we move onto the sides, mostly because Audi sedans usually have a featureless profile. Sure, there’s a noticeable beltline that runs just above the door handles and a sporty pair of side skirts, but the new S6 seems as understated as its predecessor. It’s difficult to tell whether the wheelbase is longer, but Audi should have added a couple more inches here.

The rear is also fully camouflaged and fitted with prototype taillights, but I’m pretty sure I can see a thin light bar running just above the license place. This means that the taillights will mimic those of the A8, in the same way as the new E-Class borrows heavily from the larger S-Class. Two features seem to set the S6 apart from the standard model: a small spoiler on the trunk lid and the lower bumper section with quad-exhaust tailpipes.

All told, the new S6 should provide a great transition between the elegant A6 and the beefed-up RS6 model that will follow.

Current Audi S6 vs. the upcoming Audi S6

2016 Audi S6
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2019 Audi S6 Exterior Spyshots
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2016 Audi S6
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2019 Audi S6 Exterior Spyshots
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2016 Audi S6 2019 Audi S6

Interior

2016 Audi S6 High Resolution Interior
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Note: current Audi S6 interior shown here.

Leather should be standard in the S6, but customers will also have the option to get Alcantara inserts.

Our paparazzi couldn’t get close enough to take shots of the interior, but I’m positive that the dashboard will mimic the A8’s. And this is as good as it gets if you like Audi’s new continuous air vent strip design, which gives the cabin a classy, clutter-free appearance. The long strip that conceals the A/C vents will sit just above the glossy center section that houses the large infotainment screen. But while the A8 has a second screen in the center console, the A6 and S6 will probably go without. Still, the new infotainment system will provide drivers will all the essential software, including navigation, smartphone integration, and a semi-autonomous function for low-speed driving and parking.

A large screen should replace the instrument cluster and provide data about speed, rpm, and fuel economy.

A large screen should replace the instrument cluster and provide data about speed, rpm, fuel economy, and much more. The display should have a custom start-up screen and a few unique features compared to the standard A6, but we will find out more about that when the sedan debuts. Although performance cars usually come with sports steering wheels, the S6 likely won’t get a flat-bottom unit as standard. Instead, the steering wheel should be identical to the A6 save for a couple of extra buttons, and an "S6" badge on the lower spoke. However, Audi will probably offer an RS-style flat-bottom wheel optionally.

Leather should be standard in the S6, but customers will also have the option to get Alcantara inserts. Carbon-fiber trim could also be offered in addition to the usual aluminum, but you’ll have to pay extra for the lightweight material. As usual, the standard upholstery will be black, but if you prefer a sharper contrast, you should be able to find a few lively colors, like white and red, on the options list. Contrast stitching, red "S6" badges, and high-gloss surfaces should complete the look.

Drivetrain

2018 Audi RS5 High Resolution Drivetrain AutoShow
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Note: engine of the new Audi RS5 pictured here.

Output should see a significant hike for the new model.

The current S6 is quite the potent sedan thanks to its turbocharged, 4.0-liter V-8, which is rated at 450 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque, but output should see a significant hike for the new model. On the other hand, Audi has downsized a few engines recently, and we could see the V-8 replaced by a smaller, twin-turbo, 2.9-liter V-6. A similar engine has been introduced for the new RS5. In the coupe, the V-6 cranks out 450 horses and 442 pound-feet. A similar output wouldn’t be much of an upgrade in the S6, but the lighter underpinnings and enhanced aerodynamics should bring significant improvements in the performance department. However, I believe that Audi will squeeze a bit more oomph out of the V-6, probably around 470 horsepower and 460 pound-feet.

We could see the V-8 replaced by a smaller, twin-turbo, 2.9-liter V-6.

With these figures, the improved automatic transmission, and all the enhancements mentioned above, the 0-to-60 mph sprint should drop from 4.4 seconds to a more appealing 4.2 or even 4.1 ticks. Top speed, on the other hand, will remain locked at the usual 155 mph. The S Tronic automatic transmission should be new, while the standard Quattro all-wheel-drive system should come in a revised version compared to the outgoing model. Software tweaks and new electronics will make the new S6 more responsive and agile.

Prices

2019 Audi S6 Exterior Spyshots
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As with most new-generation vehicles, the upcoming S6 should be a tad more expensive than the outgoing model. With pricing of base A6 likely to increase from $47,600 to almost $50,000, the S6 should fetch around $72,000 or $73,000 before options. The current sedan starts from $70,900 in the United States.

Competition

Mercedes-AMG E43

2017 Mercedes-AMG E43 High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Mercedes-AMG E43 High Resolution Exterior
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Before the current-generation E-Class arrived, the Audi S6 was often compared to higher non-AMG trims. Now, Mercedes took the same route as Audi and launched a model that bridges the gap between the standard E-Class and the beefed-up AMG E63. It’s called the AMG E43, and it’s less aggressive than the E63, but at the same time more affordable too. A tad sportier than the standard E-Class, the AMG E43 has a rather subdued appearance compared to the E63. However, the interior comes with a flat-bottom steering wheel, bespoke pedals, black roof lining, and red seat belts.

Under the hood, there’s no sign of the E63’s powerful 4.0-liter V-8, but the twin-turbo, 3.0-liter V-6 delivers a healthy 396 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque. Granted, it’s not as powerful as the upcoming S6, but it will get you to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, which is nothing to sneeze at. Pricing, on the other hand, is set at $71,600, which makes it as expensive as the S6.

Read our full review of the Mercedes-AMG E43.

BMW M550i xDrive

2018 BMW M550i xDrive High Resolution Exterior
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2018 BMW M550i xDrive High Resolution Exterior
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Just like Mercedes-Benz, BMW also began offering intermediate models to bridge the gap between M and non-M versions. In this case, we’re talking about the M550i. The sedan benefits from the new design language that BMW introduced for 2018, and even though the styling is obviously evolutionary, it’s quite fresh and exudes sportiness and elegance at the same time. While not as mild as the regular 5 Series, the M550i isn’t as aggressive as the M5, which falls right in the S6’s alley.

The interior comes with all the goodies available with the 5 Series, including gesture control and a heads up display, and extra equipment such as sports seats, an M Sport steering wheel, and unique door sills. Unlike its competitors, the M550i sports a V-8 under the hood. The twin-turbo, 4.4-liter unit is essentially a detuned version of the M5’s, and it’s rated at a solid 456 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque. All this power travels to the wheels through an eight-speed automatic and xDrive all-wheel-drive system, pushing the sedan from 0 to 60 mph in an impressive four seconds. For now, the M550i is the quickest and most powerful option. Pricing starts from $73,400, so it shouldn’t be much more expensive than the upcoming Audi S6.

Read our full review of the BMW M550i xDrive.

Conclusion

2019 Audi S6 Exterior Spyshots
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While it’s doing pretty well in other segments, Audi is far behind in the midsize market. The A6 is already a few years old, the technology is dated compared to the new Bimmers and Mercs, and the engines are beginning to suffer in the performance department. The new M550i xDrive is also incredibly potent given that it’s not a full fledged M car, so Audi has a lot of work to do before it launches the S6. But based on what we’ve already seen on the new A8 and the solid drivetrain of the new RS5, I’m confident that the upcoming S6 will at least give the Bimmer a run for its money. It might not be as quick, but it could very well stand out in other departments.

  • Leave it
    • * The M550i xDrive is incredibly quick
    • * Like more expensive than the Mercedes-AMG E43

References

2016 - 2018 Audi A6
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Read our full review on the 2018 Audi A6.

2016 Audi S6 High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the current Audi S6.

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