The Audi S6 is the fastest and most advanced version of the company's A6 executive car.
It's the latest in a long line of fast, four-wheel-drive A6s that stretch back to the early '90s, and like its predecessors this new version is offered in both saloon and Avant estate forms.
What's the 2012 Audi S6 like to drive?
Well, that much depends on which of the settings you choose on the standard Audi Drive Select system. This system alters the behaviour of the 414bhp twin-turbocharged 4.0 V8 petrol engine and the seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox according to your mood, as well as changing the characteristics of the air suspension, steering and sports differential.
Choose one of the comfort-focused settings, and the S6 actually feels surprisingly sedate the ride is firm without being uncomfortable, and the performance feels effortlessly brisk rather than stupidly fast.
Select the Dynamic mode, though, and the car changes character completely. The suspension becomes firmer to let you feel more of the road surface (too much, if we're honest), while the gearbox keeps the revs higher and makes the changes faster and harder.
Firm ride without being uncomfortable
This has a marked effect on the way the S6 accelerates. It immediately feels much more eager to pick up and go, making the car feel much faster all round. Against the stopwatch, it'll see off the 0-62mph dash in just 4.6 seconds (4.7 for the Avant), which is as quick as the R8 V10 supercar.
Even in its most hardcore mode, though, the S6 doesn't quite feel as fast as the numbers suggest. Yes, it's seriously fast, with enough pace to embarrass much more exotic machinery. The thing is, it never quite gives you the kick in the pants you expect from a twin-turbocharged V8 monster.
You might be a little underwhelmed when you come to a corner, too; the steering feels artificially weighted and doesn't have enough self-centring action, while the brake pedal feels decidedly mushy. Also, despite the car's immense grip and excellent body control, it never manages to shake off its considerable bulk.
Still, the S6 makes a decent motorway cruiser, with a well-controlled high-speed ride in Comfort mode. You won't hear a peep from the engine, either. It's wonderfully quiet and smooth to start with, but it's isolated even further by Audi's clever Active Noise Cancellation system. This works in much the same way as noise-cancelling headphones; it detects unwanted external noise in the cabin and suppresses it by broadcasting noise-cancelling soundwaves through the stereo speakers.
Sadly, the system can't do much to combat road noise kicked up by the S6's fat tyres.
What's the 2012 Audi S6 like inside?
Not much different from a regular A6, really, but that's the point of the S6. A big part of its appeal is that it can deliver huge performance in a package that's as practical and understated as a run-of-the-mill executive saloon. Besides, the A6 already had one of the finest cabins in the class, so there really wasn't much sprucing-up needed.
Choose the saloon version and you'll get a vast, airy cabin with loads of head- and legroom in the front and back. The boot is slightly larger than a BMW 5 Series' and split/folding rear seats come as standard.
The Avant estate version has a bigger boot than a 5 Series Touring, but trails the Mercedes E-Class Estate for outright space.
Whichever body shape you choose, the S6 has heaps of standard equipment, including sat-nav, xenon headlights, 19-inch alloys and four-zone climate control.
Want to spend even more cash? You can add ceramic brakes, a 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system and an upgraded version of Audi's MMI infotainment system, which can sync with your mobile phone to create a wi-fi hotspot inside the car.
Should I buy one?
The S6 might look rather plain compared with the sleek and sexy S7, but the two cars are virtually identical mechanically, and the S6 is still 8000 cheaper to buy. Judge it on those terms and the S6 starts to look like decent value for money.
What's more, the two cars also share Audi's clever Cylinder on Demand technology, which shuts off four of the eight cylinders when cruising to improve efficiency. The S6's average economy figure of 29.4mpg (29.1mpg for the Avant) is pretty respectable for a car with this much power.
However, since the S6 isn't all that rewarding to drive, we can't help thinking you'd be better off saving a fortune in purchase prices and running costs by choosing a well-specced V6 diesel version instead. You'll get the same superb-quality cabin and still enjoy impressive real-world performance.
What Car? says