At Long Last, the Audi S6 Hits Its Stride

72 hours to test the S6’s 450 horsepower on the backroads and highways of California.

I picked the car up at the airport. It sat with the characteristic S treatment: lowered stance, glossy black grille, rear diffuser, a few badges. I opened the door and was met with diamond stitching, elegant lighting and the characteristic Audi scent — a mix of new leather and Alcantara. This smell triggered my Pavlovian response of giddiness, and I loaded my luggage, synched my phone with Audi’s upgraded, faster MMI infotainment system, and started the car to head out for some night driving. You can’t allow 450 horses to simply stay in their stable after just being handed the bridle.

In a world of efficient sports cars where not even Formula 1 uses eight cylinders to power their machines anymore, simple hearing the ignition rumble of the 4.0-liter 450 horsepower twin-turbo V8 from the S6 is refreshing. And, naturally, my first order of business was to find a long empty street, change the drive mode to Dynamic, shift the transmission to Sport, roll down the windows, drop the hammer and laugh at the riotous sound and instant g’s I felt through my body.

Audi S6 Specs


Engine: Twin-Turbo 4.0-Liter V8
Transmission: Seven-Speed Dual Clutch
Horsepower: 450
Torque: 406 lb-ft
Drive System: Quattro All-Wheel-Drive
0-60 mph: 4.4 seconds

In the mid-2000’s, Audi started experimenting with a dual-clutch transmission, moving from their clunky, slow and R tronic-automated manual. What they developed was their dual clutch, seven-speed S tronic, which brought faster shift times than what even seasoned racers could pull off. This is what gets the S6 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. The transmission clicked through all seven gears with no tip-off to the shifting other than a quick breath from the engine. After a few more runs, I pulled back into the hotel parking lot, and I was hit with another familiar smell — the scent of used brake pads. A key-less touch on the door handle sounded a subtle beep not louder than a text message alert and the car was locked.

The next day, after day one of shooting — ironically, a fuel cell commercial — wrapped, the crew went out for food and drinks, but I was only hungry for the S6. This time I took it for a 58-mile trip up to L.A. to grab a late coffee and slice of pie with a friend at L.A.’s famed Apple Pan.

Freeway driving in Southern California can be annoying, yet cruising or sitting, it was the perfect place to test the civility and convenience of the S6. The driver-assistance package included in this loaner featured adaptive cruise control with stop and go. That means when in traffic you simply set it and forget it. Coupled with the lane-keeping assist, it made my freeway trek much more manageable.

The transmission clicked through all seven gears with no tip-off to the shifting other than a quick breath from the engine.

Another feature to love is the integration of Google. From their online search tool (which works just like Google — i.e., you don’t have to know exact names) to Street View, which shows up on the eight-inch flip-up screen or the beautiful seven-inch navigation screen between the gauges, Audi begs you to take advantage of the onboard 4G LTE connection. The only knock against this tech is controlling it with the MMI buttons. The center console, which is wide and button laden, caused me to take my eyes of the road a number of times as I changed between settings.

The next morning our shoot wrapped early, so the Audi and I were left with a few hours before heading back to the airport. I used the Google Earth setting to find a twisty road, set it as a destination and took off. On rural roads, winding through the Laguna Coast Wilderness park, I found the right place to test the tenacity of this beast. Rumbles from the quad exhaust echoed through the canyons on accelerations, then dropped back to suburban-appropriate once my foot left the pedal. The air suspension, along with the effortless and brilliant Quattro, had me feeling balanced and unshakeable. This car drives better than I do.

This mid-size sedan is perfectly suited for the S injection. The S3 and S4 are wonderful cars, but not quite enough room. The S8 is a perfect status car, but its race to 60 mph is almost too smooth. Not too hot and not too cold, the S6 is the perfect middle ground between luxury, heft, power and performance.

Buy Now: $70,900

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