(Disclosure: Audi wanted me to review their last generation S6 so badly that they manufactured and sold it brand new to “a businessman.” Several owners later, it found itself at my local CarMax listed for mid-range Toyota Camry money. This CarMax allowed me 24 hours and 150-ish miles with it.)
I remember the first time I saw a C7-chassis Audi A6 (no, not the C7 generation Corvette, you dish). I was a 15-year-old lad who wandered from the Toyota dealer where we serviced my mother’s Venza across the street to the local Audi dealer. My goal was to drool over the gorgeous sheet metal of an R8 and waste some salesperson’s time. When I gazed upon the C7 A6, I simply thought, “Oh hey, there’s a new one.”
And then I never thought about it again.
That’s because the A6 is a boring automobile. You can tell that it’s boring because of the way that it is. The A6 accomplishes mid-size luxury sedan tasks in a mid-size luxury sedan way, meaning it’s a fine car but doesn’t do anything particularly interesting. But I suppose that’s just what first owners of these wanted.
Fast forward ten years and roughly $40,000 in depreciation. On the surface, the C7 Audi S6 seems to be more of the same. There is almost nothing visually that sets it apart from the plebeian A6. It has slightly bigger inlets on the front bumper, a slightly lower ride height, and the biggest differentiator: quad exhaust tips. Woooow. However, it did gain a full liter of displacement, two turbochargers, and two more cylinders over the top spec A6, but output only rose by around 100 horsepower.
I didn’t understand the point of this car. Surely, if you want a mid-size luxury sedan that must be an Audi, you would go for a loaded A6 for all its comfort and unassuming looks. And if you want a sports sedan that also absolutely must be an Audi, you’d obviously buy an RS7 for the drama and the styling it brings. The S6 has a place, I’m sure, but which way does it lean? Is it a Great Value version of a proper sports sedan or merely a faster couch?
- MSRP: $73,400
- Price As Tested: $35,998
- Powertrain: 4.0L twin-turbocharged DOHC V8 // 7-speed S-Tronic dual-clutch automatic
- Horsepower: 420 horsepower
- Torque: 406 pound-feet
- Seating Capacity: 5
- Cargo Volume: 14.1 cubic feet
- Curb Weight: 4,398 lbs (Car and Driver)
- Fuel Economy: 17 MPG city // 27 MPG highway // 20 MPG combined
It’s Not Just a Boulder, It’s a Rock
Allow me to first inform you of my bias.
My name is Derek, and I am an Audi fan.
There are BMW people and Mercedes people, but I am an Audi man. I’ve always preferred their restrained designs, beautiful interiors, and solid build quality. Audis may not be the most exciting cars in the world, but I’m not the most exciting man, so it works. Despite this, I will attempt to remain fair when assessing the S6. Ready? Okay…
This is one of the greatest cars I’ve ever driven. Full stop.
I was shocked at how much I enjoyed the S6. This 4,400-pound sedan offers fantastic steering feedback for its class, with great weighting in Dynamic mode. Front-end grip is quite commendable right up until eight-tenths pace. This is partly due to Audi’s famous and fabulous Quattro all-wheel drive system, which offered up a surprise of its own. This absolute boat actually rotates on corner exit when adding throttle!
Get that, an Audi that rotates. These wonderful chassis characteristics added up to a car that drove 500 to 700 pounds lighter than it actually was. That said, it’s not perfect. Notice how I said up to eight-tenths?
Fifty Percent Sport, Fifty Percent Sedan
Right. When you push the S6, it understeers like any other Audi. This issue can’t really be engineered away, despite Audi’s efforts. To paraphrase Jeremy Clarkson, handling will always be compromised when you have a big dead horse nailed to the radiator grille. Audi (and Subaru) mount their engines longitudinally in front of the front wheels. From a dynamics perspective, this is a nightmare. And there’s also the issue of suspension.
This is my first interaction with factory air suspension, and I’ve come away with a mixed bag of opinions. Around town and on highways, the ride quality is decent, not nearly as harsh as the adjustable dampers on the BMW M4 I tested. But it’s also not great. For example, my mother’s 2006 Lexus LS430 provided a far more luxurious experience. Not a perfect comparison, but that’s the ride quality benchmark until I drive a Rolls-Royce.
The air suspension had difficulties reacting to sudden or large road imperfections and never seemed to truly settle down. It’s a point that was made apparent on a twisty backroad, where the cruel mistress of body roll reared her ugly head. Obviously, something this portly could never manage McLaren level stabilization, but the S6 legitimately made both a passenger and myself feel ill. This particular car also seemed to have developed some suspension clunks despite covering just 42,000 miles, but that’s an anecdotal occurrence that may not fully represent every C7 S6.
However, I still found the S6 overall to be massively entertaining on a back road, but that must mean it wasn’t as good on regular streets, right? What are you, stupid? It’s fantastic!
Common Luxobarge Activities
It has flaws, as every car does. But the things it gets right almost make up for its faults. I have experience driving luxury boats and sports cars, but I have rarely been presented with a sedan that seamlessly merges these two sides into one amazing coin. In some ways, this presents obvious compromises – namely, the ride quality – but also provides an experience I’d look forward to every day if I owned one.
The interior quality and materials are second to none, with a design that still looks modern, despite being a nine-year-old car. Beautiful quilted leather swathes the seats, and carbon fiber trim adorns the dashboard, which more than likely cost some office exec an extra $2,500 back in the day. The only thing that truly dates the cabin is Audi’s old MMI system, which is only controllable via a rotary knob. MMI is leagues more intuitive to operate than BMW i-Drive, although you have to train yourself to remember that the knob works backward to every other system out there.
Once you figure out how to twist your knob, Audi’s MMI can cycle through drive modes, navigation with Google Maps, and various multimedia sources. Chief among these is a built-in DVD player, a crucial feature when you finish driving up a mountain at night and have an overwhelming urge to watch The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. But perhaps the most interesting feature is the MMI screen’s ability to pop out of the dash when you start the car and hide itself away when you switch it back off. Indescribably cool, undoubtedly gimmicky, and, of course, another thing to break.
Why would anyone spend over $75,000 on a new Audi S6 when this one exists for less than half of that? Outside of long-term reliability and modern systems like CarPlay or Android Auto, I can’t think of a good reason. A truly phenomenal value for money in an era of ridiculous inflation and even more ridiculous dealer markups. Well done, Audi. You’ve given me some reasons to think about a C7 – again, not the ‘Vette.