First Drive

2015 Audi S6 review

Audi's storming 4.0 V8 twin-turbo S6 gets a bit more power and equipment, and lower emissions for 2015.

Words ByVicky Parrott

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The Audi S6 is aimed at those who think the standard diesel A6 models are a bit too slow and boring, but that can’t stretch to the rip-roaring RS6.

This 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 version of the S6 has been around for a couple of years, and with this face-lift brings even more power – up by 30bhp to 444bhp – while emissions are lower and you get more standard equipment.

It retains the same quattro four-wheel drive system, adaptive air suspension and seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

What’s the 2015 Audi S6 like to drive?

As with the previous S6, the way it goes up the road really depends on which setting you choose from the standard Drive Select system. The engine feels fairly laid-back in Comfort mode, responding smoothly and making the big Audi feel relaxing around town.

There’s even an Eco setting, which – new for the face-lift – has a coasting mode that de-couples the engine when you lift off the throttle, so you don’t have any engine braking and can roll for good distances without using any fuel. Simply putting pressure back on the throttle re-engages the engine, which kicks-in smoothly with no ungainly shunt.

Sticking the S6 in Sport is like injecting it with a huge dose of adrenaline. It holds lower gears, so you’re always in the relentlessly powerful mid-range of the big V8 engine, and it fires up the ratios almost instantly. Everything feels tauter and more highly strung.

The problem is that, with all that power on tap, you feel it should have some delicacy and sports-car nimbleness to its handling, but there’s very little of that. The steering is heavy but doesn’t give you all that much feedback, and while there’s masses of grip to play with, the S6 always feels like a very heavy car.

Ride comfort is a bit suspect, too. At lower speeds, and despite standard air suspension, the S6 still feels quite firmly sprung, so you feel any sharp-edged potholes as a thump and shudder through the cabin. It settles well at higher-speeds, though, making the S6 a crushingly capable long-distance cruiser.

It’s refined, too. This face-lifted model gets a new β€˜acoustic glazed’ windscreen and front side windows, so there’s less wind flutter, and the engine is impressively refined at low revs at a steady cruise. The wide tyres kick-up quite a bit of road-noise, though, which is the most noticeable noise in the cabin on a long run.

What’s the 2015 Audi S6 like inside?

The A6 has one of the best interiors in this class, so the fact that the S6 hasn’t been altered much over the standard car – but for a carbon-fibre-effect trim finish – is no issue. It still feels upmarket, with soft-touch materials all round. There’s plenty of space even for very tall drivers, and the 14-way electrically adjustable seats make it really easy to find the perfect driving position.

It’s well equipped, getting heated leather seats and four-zone climate control. You also get cruise control, keyless entry and start, auto lights and wipers, sat-nav, Bluetooth and a USB connection that includes full iPod or MP3 player control through the car’s 6.5-inch colour screen.

New LED headlights are a feature on this face-lifted S6, and you get 19-inch alloys as standard. It’s just a shame that you still have to pay Β£1625 extra to get the bigger 8.0-inch infotainment screen and upgraded sat-nav and online functionality, and you also have to pay Β£1000 to get a 14-speaker Bose sound system over the standard six-speaker system, both of which you might think the S6 warrants as standard equipment given its lofty price and position in the range.

Those in the back will be comfortable because there’s loads of head- and legroom, while the boot in the S6 saloon is deep and will take a coupe of large suitcases, although they won’t be so easy to load through the letterbox-shaped boot opening. If carrying big loads is likely to be a frequent necessity, the estate-bodied S6 Avant could be better for your purposes.

Should I buy one?

If you specifically want a four-wheel drive, high-performance petrol saloon, there aren’t many other options at this performance and price. Given the S6’s impressive refinement, brutal pace and sumptuous interior, you’re hardly settling for something that doesn't feel worth the money.

However, if you’re willing to sacrifice the four-wheel drive, there’s an array of alternatives. For instance, if you can live with a slightly smaller car, but one that can still carry four adults and plenty of luggage, an automatic BMW M3 costs less than Β£3000 more than the S6, yet offers performance and handling on a competely different level.

Equally, if the M3 is a bit too brash for you, we'd suggest avoiding the BMW 550i that is the direct rival to the S6, and go for the 535i instead - it's more than Β£11,000 cheaper than the S6 and the 550i, and handles more sweetly than the big Audi, yet still packs a serious punch in terms of its performance.

If, in the knowledge of all those better options, you still feel the S6 is for you, you won't be disappointed. It's exactly what you'd expect it to be, just as long as you're not hoping for scintillating handling.

What Car? says...

Rivals:

BMW M3

Maserati Ghibli V6

Audi S6

Engine size 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo

Price from Β£56,000

Power 444bhp

Torque 406lb ft

0-62mph 4.4 seconds

Top speed 155mph (limited)

Fuel economy 30.7mpg

CO2 214g/km