2016 Audi S6

2016 Audi S6 2016 Audi S6
First Drive Review

There are two paths to creating a high-performance sedan. First, install a large and powerful engine under the hood. Then, you can either announce its presence to the world by adding spoilers, fender flares, a body kit, stripes, scoops, and assorted whirligigs—or you can avoid all that and keep the power in hiding. The exemplar of the latter approach is the Audi S6—the sleeper from Ingolstadt has always flexed its muscles beneath a tailored suit.

Audi has given the car more power and altered the suit a little to stay in fashion with this midterm refresh on the S6, which will come to the U.S. as a 2016 model. Extroverts may prefer Audi’s approach with RS models, say the RS7, which is to make them even faster (and more expensive) than the S models but also to more brazenly proclaim their ultrahigh performance with giant air intakes, fender flares, and overstated wheels. But that’s not to everyone's taste.

Subtle hints like relatively discreet quadruple exhaust pipes and aluminum-capped mirrors tell the cognoscenti that the S6 packs one of the most impressive engines currently made: a 450-hp, twin-turbocharged V-8 with a relatively small 4.0 liters of displacement. That's up 30 horsepower from the pre-face-lift model. The engine still produces a remarkable 406 lb-ft of torque on a broad plateau, now from 1400 to 5700 rpm. It delivers this thrust to all four wheels as seamlessly and rapidly as its slick seven-speed dual-clutch automatic can snap off shifts.

Understatement extends to the factory’s performance claims, with Audi saying that the sprint from zero to 62 mph (100 kph) takes 4.4 seconds. The last S6 we tested had no trouble undercutting official figures, clocking zero to 60 mph in 3.7. At 155 mph, the S6 runs into the obligatory governor, but it could go a lot faster. The previous model outscored the BMW M5 and the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG in a comparison test thanks largely to its all-wheel drive and lower sticker price, and now it’s bringing more brawn to the battle.

In light of its performance, the fuel-consumption figures are remarkable. Rated at 26 mpg in the optimistic European cycle, the revised model nevertheless returned an indicated 20 mpg during our drive. Credit the efficient transmission and the cylinder-deactivation system, which turns the V-8 into a four-cylinder without noticeable disruption. The system works automatically when coasting or running on light throttle.

The S6 is a bit lighter than its shapelier sibling, the S7. In corners, that turns it into a slightly more nimble performer. It handles beautifully, can be tossed into curves with ease, and doesn't mind playing a bit when the stability control system is deactivated. Standard on the S6, the adaptive air suspension lowers the body by 0.8 inch at speed. It’s a comfortable long-distance cruiser, maintaining its distinguished manners even when dialed up to its firmest Sport settings. The biturbo V-8 growls, but it never exhibits the caged-animal fury of Audi's RS models.

Just like the revised A6, the S6 benefits from redesigned, futuristic head- and taillights as well as a more sophisticated appearance overall. Inside, owners can emphasize the car’s character with race-inspired seats and carbon-fiber trim or go full camo with warm colors and conservatively styled wood trim.

Audi's marketing claims the S6 sedan is “a crowd pleaser.” We beg to differ. In truth, more than ever, this supercar in disguise is designed to please the connoisseur who’d rather not draw a crowd.