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2016 Audi S6

Mon, 17 Nov 2014 11:57:00 EST

Minutes after spending time in the refreshed 2016 Audi A6 in Germany, we were tossed the keys to its enthusiast-tuned sibling, the Audi S6. In similar manner to its lesser brethren, the S6 has also been updated for the 2016 model year with a new look, a boost in power and additional technology.

Its aggressive demeanor is heralded by a redesigned signature single-frame grille, resculpted bumpers (front and rear) and new lights on both ends – the Matrix LED headlamps fitted to our European test car are impressive, but the US DOT has ensure that we won't see them (pun intended) for now. The cabin appointments have gone even further upscale, and the enhanced MMI infotainment system now runs more fluidly thanks to a faster NVIDIA graphics chip. The primary instrument cluster, facing the operator, has been redesigned to offer its own duplicate display to ease the driver's workload.

Under the hood, the twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter TFSI V8 is bumped to 450 horsepower (a gain of 30), while torque remains the same at 406 pound-feet. The standard gearbox is Audi's seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch unit, sending power to all four wheels through the automaker's rear-biased Quattro permanent all-wheel-drive system.

Driving Notes
  • Don't be one of the misinformed who believe that the Audi S6 competes with the BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG. All three may be at the top of each automaker's midsize sedan offerings in North America, but that's only because Audi doesn't offer us the flagship RS6 – its true adversary to the M5 and E63. For reference, the S6 sits at the same performance level as the BMW 550i, which is its closest competitor today. Interestingly enough, without the discontinued E550, Mercedes doesn't offer anything a direct rival (yet).
  • The cabin of the standard A6 is very luxurious, but the pleated leather upholstery, contrasting stitching and carbon fiber trim with matte aluminum accents of the S6 raise the appointments to magnificent levels. As is the case with all Audis, build quality borders on flawless and all of the materials are top notch. The passenger compartment is as comfortable and accommodating as it looks, with supportive and well-bolstered front seats, room for three adults in the second row and a generous trunk.
  • Our test car, fitted with the optional sport exhaust (note the black tailpipes), delivered a burly growl that easily permeated the interior. Unlike many other automakers these days, Audi doesn't pipe any engine sound or exhaust note into the cabin. The natural exhaust note is deep and soothing, not obnoxious in the least, and any increase in volume is accompanied by a firm push in the backside.
  • Power is up, but the 2016 model doesn't feel significantly quicker than its predecessor, likely because the torque figure remains the same. That said, launch-control starts will easily beat factory claims (the 2013 model was clocked at 3.7 seconds to 60 mph) and we have no doubt this model will do as well, or better.
  • Dynamically, the S6 drives with a heavy, firmly planted deportment. It sticks well, with the Quattro AWD system putting the power down very nicely. Feedback is good, and there's an overwhelming feeling of confidence from behind the wheel. Our Euro model boasted carbon-ceramic brakes, which acted like four anchors, but they are not offered on the S6 in the States.
  • If we were asked to improve on the S6, we'd only do two things: First, we would fit a steering wheel-mounted button that immediately toggles the vehicle to the driver's favorite sport settings – much like the "M" button BMW offers. As of now, running through a couple of menus to put Audi's Drive Select in Dynamic mode takes far too long. Second, we would paint the inside of those signature exterior aluminum mirrors matte black, as their bright surfacing reflects back towards the driver, causing distractions. That's it.
  • The S6 has always been one of our top picks for a performance sedan, at least one that will never see track duty. Its manners are impeccable around town and on the highway, where its capabilities are overkill, but it simply does not have the raw evil edge to take it to the next level of performance. We're fine with its athletic gentleman-like street manners, as we'd rather hit the racing circuit in a lightweight two-door sports car anyway.

Vital Stats

Twin-Turbo 4.0L V8
450 HP / 406 LB-FT
7-Speed DCT
0-60 Time:
4.3 Seconds
Top Speed:
155 MPH (limited)
All-Wheel Drive
Engine Placement:
Curb Weight:
4,200 LBS (est)
14.1 CU-FT
Base Price:
$76,000 (est)

By Michael Harley

See also: BMW says SUVs killed the sports car market, 2015 Audi A3 TDI Challenge, MotorWeek revisits Audi's iconic Quattro.