You would not expect a Lamborghini-sourced engine to make its way into the quad-ringed universe when Audi is clearly adept at producing their own insanely prodigious power plants. But that is exactly the case with the S6, the performance-infused genetic twin of the Audi A6. In doing so, Audi may have self-inflicted a small dent in their otherwise unblemished Teutonic armor.
Even before rubber hits the autobahn, the bar for high-end sports sedans is set about as high as Neuwanschtein Castle. So why Audi would monkey around with notoriously fickle Italian engineering is a mystery. As a consequence, the finished S8 package, while still very good, is not as good as you’d expect.
On paper, the Lamborghini’s 435 horsepower V10 engine and six-speed Triptronic automatic would appear to be just the right main course for a hearty meal of S6. Performance numbers, however impressive (155 mph top speed, 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds), still lag nearly a second behind those of the S6’s counterparts in the BMW M5 and Mercedes E63 AMG. One culprit is weight which comes in at a hefty 4,500 lbs.
Standard performance features include a rack-and-pinion steering with Servtronic speed-dependent power assist, a sport-tuned independent suspension system, Anti-lock Brake and Electronic Brake pressure Distribution systems, and Audi’s Quattro permanent all-wheel drive system that provides a 40/60 power split between the front and rear tires. Both manual and Audi’s R-tronic automated-manual transmissions are sadly kept out of the mix in favor of the more sedate Tiptronic with available steering-wheel-mounted paddles.
It would be incomprehensible to label a sedan that achieves 60 mph in a mere 5.7 seconds as slow, but the A6 still seems more appropriate for a marathon than a sprint. Or a cross-country road trip, than a spin around the track. Perhaps a more positive comparison to the M5 and AMG would be that the S6 is more livable as an everyday sports sedan than the other two. If only marginally so.
Standard safety equipment on the 2009 Audi S6 includes anti-lock disc brakes, stability control, all-wheel drive, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Rear side airbags are an extra-cost option.
Don’t expect to get a break at the pump with the S6 either. The EPA reports that the S6 achieves a fossil-depleting fuel economy average of 14 and 19 mpg in city and highway driving.
Although there are a few extras that can be added to augment the S6, it only really comes in one fairly extensively loaded trim level. The 2009 model receives a mild update of the front and rear-end styling, including revamped taillights, but the changes are minimal at best. The exterior styling is Audi-conservative with an absence of extraneous stylistic elements to indicate the car’s performance beyond the characteristic gaping maw grille and subtle “S6″ badging strategically added throughout.
Standard equipment includes premium leather, 19-inch wheels, performance tires, a sport-tuned suspension, upgraded brakes, adaptive bi-xenon headlights with washers and LED daytime running lights, keyless ignition and entry, sunroof, a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front sport seats with adjustable lumbar and driver-side memory. Electronic gizmos include Bluetooth, a DVD-based navigation system, voice-recognition capability, a back-up camera, Audi’s Multi Media Interface (MMI) system and a Bose surround-sound audio system with satellite radio, an iPod input and a six-CD changer in the glove box.
Among the limited options are 18-inch wheels, non-sport seats, carbon-fiber interior trim instead of wood, heated rear seats, a blind-spot warning system and a sunroof that uses solar energy to power a ventilation system that cools the interior when parked – a feature we hope makes its way into a wide swath of vehicles in the future.
The interior is predictably trimmed in supple leather and aluminum with birch wood accents, basically your typical Audi interior fare. Whereas the S6 performance may fall slightly short of expectations, the interior is about as good as it gets. The front sport seats provide good support during aggressive driving with extra bolsters on the sides. The standard MMI system controls entertainment, communication and navigation functions via the dash-mounted LCD screen and a large knob on the center console take a bit of getting use to, but it isn’t any worse than BMW’s interactive system. Truck size further confirms the S6’s road trip prowess with a large 16-cubic-foot capacity.
Before talking price, it should be noted that the S6 is roughly $10,000 cheaper than both the BMW and Mercedes cars that it is often compared to. So while it may be slightly less of a speedster, it is also the economical choice of the bunch. That being said it costs almost $76,000. Perhaps the biggest indictment against it, is that it is at least $25,000 more than its tamer A6 family member. Quite a premium considering the supercharged A6 develops 300 horses, sprints to 60 mph only .2 seconds slower and still has a top speed of 155 mph.