UK Drive: The Audi S6 Saloon is a fantastic all-rounder
Audi has given its S models a diesel makeover. Darren Cassey puts the S6 through its paces on UK roads…
What is it?
What with the backlash against diesel following Volkswagen’s emissions scandal, it would be a brave manufacturer that would back it to fuel a new vehicle. Step up Audi, which has decided to convert its sporty S models to the fuel from the black pump.
If it can overcome the doom and gloom portrayed in mainstream media, it does actually make sense. Diesel engines offer long distance economy and meatier torque figures than an equivalent petrol, and with modern technology, they can even emit fruity noises from the exhaust.
The big news is that diesel powertrain – it’s not a new unit, but it’s the first time this sub-RS model hasn’t been a petrol, and this one’s a mild hybrid, too. In an attempt to make this rather large saloon handle as well as the power output demands, all-wheel steering has been introduced, another S debut.
The suspension has also been given a retune, and has been dropped 20mm, with new six-piston brakes tasked with slowing things down. It also sports Audi’s new design language, giving it sharper styling befitting a sporty model.
What’s under the bonnet?
The engine is a 3.0-litre unit with a turbocharger and an electrical component that makes this a mild hybrid set-up. It’s not a proper hybrid so to speak, with the compressor merely there to take the strain off the engine, and take over running electrical ancillaries when the engine isn’t required – such as when coasting or stopped – to improve economy.
Its power output is 344bhp and 700Nm of torque, with economy ranging from 34.9 to 35.3mpg, and emissions of 164g/km of CO2, which is pretty impressive for a big performance car. It’s a great engine, too, with plenty of low down torque meaning you can simply plant your foot at any speed and the engine will get up and go, with a satisfying deep grunt from the exhausts.
What’s it like to drive?
The Audi S6 truly is a great all-rounder, offering a massive cabin and loads of practicality, coupled with great surging performance befitting something that looks much sportier.
What with its hefty size and weight, you’d expect it to fall into fun-sapping understeer in the corners, but it’s surprisingly fun and agile. It’s no sports car, but you can get into a rhythm on a country road that’s mighty satisfying.
It relaxes into the boring stuff brilliantly, too, especially if you get the air suspension, which allows you to choose between softer and firmer suspension. However, on the down side, it is hampered by the modern Volkswagen Group’s economy-focused gearshifts, which are sluggish to respond and put a dampener on the enjoyment of most drives.
How does it look?
Despite being a huge car, the S6 hides its proportions well, looking elegant and sophisticated, with the sporty upgrades given to the S variant subtly enhancing its looks. The front grille, with its edges angled inwards, does a great job of giving a narrower look, while the angular air intakes – now a staple of the firm’s sporty models – make it suitably aggressive without being too shouty.
The rear end of the saloon doesn’t do quite such a good job, with the wide rear lights and full-width strip making the boot lid and wheel arch section in particular look incredibly wide. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the estate model does look better proportioned.
What’s it like inside?
As you’d expect of any Audi, the interior is up there with the best in the business – and when it comes to a high-specification model, only more so. The S6 gets Audi’s latest infotainment upgrades, meaning there’s a fantastic double-screen set-up in the centre console, as well as a digital display within the instrument binnacle.
The cabin is a lesson in minimalism, with smart, sharp designs throughout, and fantastic materials. Everything you touch feels solidly put together, with the only downside being that using the lower touchscreen for everything does take some getting used to.
What’s the spec like?
With prices starting at just over £60,000, the S6 Saloon gets a healthy standard specification. On the outside, there are 20-inch alloy wheels and LED headlights, with a choice of black or white paint – various other shades are available for £685.
Inside, you get the excellent sports seats upholstered in leather and that brilliant twin-screen infotainment set-up with sat nav, and equipment including cruise control, Audi Pre Sense safety pack, parking assist and Audi Virtual Cockpit.
There are plenty of options available to bump the cost up though, such as a panoramic glass sunroof (£1,750), a full leather package (£1,000), and a Tour Pack that adds extra driver assistance kit (£1,950).
The Audi S6 is truly a master of all trades, offering plenty of space in the cabin with fantastic materials and a truly premium feel, excellent exterior looks and an engine that can be both frugal and exhilarating in equal measure.
But – and there had to be a but didn’t there? – the automatic gearbox is sluggish to respond, often infuriatingly so. It’s therefore hard to recommend without an extensive test drive to decide if you’re happy to drive around its foibles – if you are, the reward is an utterly brilliant all-rounder.
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