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In Audi's alphanumeric coding, 'A' seems to represent 'all-around' capability, with most of its lineup benefiting from quattro all-wheel drive, competent powertrains and communicative handling. And that's all well and good for the vast majority of Audi owners - or prospects - going to and from the office. For the select few, however, coveting something more distinctive in demeanor, Audi's 'S' lineup is designed to deliver, with supersized levels of performance and handling wrapped in more expressive packaging. It's an automotive strategy initiated early in the last century by GM's Alfred Sloan, and despite a down economy and higher gas prices shows few signs of flagging.

At the Audi display in Frankfurt the gloves are off, with new variants of Audi's S6, S7 Sportback and S8 sedan formally shown for the first time. The S6, here in both sedan and Avant (wagon) variants, combines athletic character and quiet understatement. You can't, however, be quiet about its drivetrain, which features a new 4.0 liter, 420 horsepower V8. With twin-turbos force-feeding the V8's twin banks of cylinders, the S6 enjoys over 400 lb-ft of torque from 1,400 to 5,300 rpm. That power is delivered to the four wheels via Audi's 7-speed S tronic transmission.

The above specs are in contrast to the S6's previous powerplant, a 5.2 liter V10. That engine, while numerically more impressive, delivered less performance while consuming more fuel. From a stop, the new V8 arrives at 62 miles per hour in less than five seconds. Top speed is electronically governed to 155 miles per hour, which is undoubtedly for the best.


See more coverage of the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show.


DAVID BOLDT began his automotive career in BMW and Saab showrooms in the 1980s, and he moved to automotive journalism in 1993. David has written for a variety of regional and national publications, and prior to joining AutoTrader, he managed media relations for a Japanese OEM.
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