2013 Audi S6

2013 Audi S6 2013 Audi S6
Instrumented Test

Audi’s lineup of V-8–powered S models is growing, and each S has its own place. Of the four models with the new twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8, the 420-hp S7 is the beauty, and the 520-hp S8 is the big daddy with lots of extra baubles. The Europhile’s choice, the S6 Avant, won’t be offered here, which leaves the four-door S6 as the serious performance sedan. Under the skin, it is virtually identical to the S7. But thanks to the lack of a hatch and its slightly more compact dimensions, the S6 weighs about 100 fewer pounds, and it has a slightly narrower track. The chassis components are identical, however, and so are the engine and the transmission.

Which is a good thing. As in the S7, the force-fed V-8 produces 420 hp at 6400 rpm, and maximum torque—an impressive 406 lb-ft—is available from 1400 all the way to 5200 rpm. The power is put through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system.

The 2013 S6 walks in some big footprints. Its immediate predecessor was more powerful, packing a 435-hp naturally aspirated 5.2-liter V-10. And that powertrain was capable of sending a chill down your spine simply from its F1-like exhaust note. The new V-8 emits a menacing growl but doesn’t quite match up to the raging V-10. On the plus side, the new engine is not only a bit more torquey but also more efficient—by a whopping 25 percent, according to Audi. It’s also much quicker.

Hold On to Your Hüte

With launch control engaged, the sprint from 0 to 60 mph takes a mere 3.7 seconds, which is all the more impressive considering the engine’s modest output (the last S6 needed 5.4 seconds to do the same deed). Top speed on the new car is limited to 155 mph, although we’re told the S6 would be capable of close to 190 if left ungoverned. The S6 is supposed to be a very efficient performance sedan, thanks to low engine friction and cylinder deactivation—we saw 14 mpg over an admittedly strenuous workout, but EPA numbers should be closer to 17 mpg city and 26 highway.

Positively Balanced

The combination of the torquey twin-turbo V-8 with a longer wheelbase, less front weight bias, and less overall mass makes the new S6 more of a driver’s car than its predecessor. It is still big but is noticeably more tossable than the previous model. The electromechanical power steering is surprisingly pleasant, light but progressive and well weighted. The optional torque-vectoring sport differential adds weight but offers extra agility that ambitious drivers will easily experience. Grip from the Bridgestone Potenza tires measured 0.87 g on the skidpad, and we managed a 157-foot stop from 70 mph. This isn’t the most hard-edged sports sedan, but its balance of comfort and sporting aggression is commendable.

The S6 is distinguished from the lesser, conservatively styled A6 sedan with a unique platinum-colored grille, horizontal elements in the front air intakes, aluminum mirror caps, a rear lip spoiler, and four exhaust outlets. The front intakes are surrounded by an additional strip that follows their outer contour. This element, not yet present on the S7, will be a trademark of all future S models, we’re told. Why a lip spoiler instead of a unique, fully formed trunklid? Because customers don’t notice the spoiler if it’s not a separate element, the designer tells us, and because Audi already went to the limit of manufacturing feasibility with the crease of the A6’s aluminum trunklid. We will cast yet another vote for the optional black wood and aluminum interior trim we liked so much in the S7.

So fine, the S6 Avant will stay in the Old World, and the S7 is just a touch heavier than this sedan. We’ll have to put up with the all-business S6—and with performance like this, we won’t complain much.