Doubling down is supposed to be risky, but putting chips on the 2014 Audi S6 is a no-brainer. The reason is that the regular A6 sedan on which it's based is already an excellent sport sedan in its own right. We've driven plenty of high-performance models that were based on subpar mainstream products, and that's a recipe for disappointment. But when you start with a car as solid as the A6, how can you go wrong?
Well, surely, there are ways, but Audi has avoided them with the S6. It all starts under the hood, where a 420-horsepower twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 delivers astounding acceleration. Then Audi adds remarkably nimble handling, an exquisitely crafted interior and some of the coolest technology you'll find anywhere. If you're looking for a midsize luxury sedan that can more or less do it all, the S6 is one of just a few cars in the world that we consider safe bets.
What's New for 2014?
A blind spot warning system is now standard, as are power-folding exterior mirrors, while a Black Optic package adds optional menace to the S6's appearance.
What We Like
Seductive mix of force and refinement; genuinely entertaining handling; all the luxury and technology of a regular A6; good fuel economy
What We Don't
Doesn't come cheap; lacks the straight-line power of the M5 and E63 AMG
The all-wheel-drive S6 sports a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 rated at 420 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual. Fuel economy is remarkably good for this level of performance, checking in at an Environmental Protection Agency rating of 17 miles per gallon city/27 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 Audi S6 is offered only in the well-equipped Prestige ($74,295) trim level. It comes with 19- or 20-inch alloy wheels, quad exhaust tips, xenon headlamps, an adjustable air suspension, a sport rear differential, a sunroof, a blind spot warning system, Audi's Drive Select system (featuring electronic adjustments for steering, throttle and transmission) and Multi-Media Interface (MMI), leather upholstery, a sport steering wheel with shift paddles, power sport seats with diamond stitching, a Google Earth-based navigation system, Wi-Fi hotspot capability and a Bose audio system.
Options include LED headlights, a head-up display, a top-view parking camera, massaging front seats, a Bang & Olufsen audio system and an ominous-looking Black Optic appearance package.
The S6's cabin is beautifully constructed, with high-quality materials everywhere you look and touch. The basic design is a carryover from the A6, of course, but the S6 adds numerous S-specific touches, such as a unique instrument cluster and S6 badging on the steering wheel. We love the sport seats, as they provide that robust lateral support that the A6's standard seats lack. The back seat's bottom cushion is rather low by midsize luxury-sedan standards, but most folks should still be able to get comfortable back there.
In terms of technology, this Audi comes up aces, from the standard iPod/Bluetooth integration to the warm-sounding Bose stereo. Your passengers will undoubtedly be impressed by the crisp, colorful MMI screen, which displays vivid Google Earth images in navigation mode and automatically retracts into the dash when not in use. There's even a touch-pad on the center console that can recognize the commands you scrawl on it with your finger.
Trunk capacity is on the small side for this segment at 14.1 cu ft.
The 2014 Audi S6 comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock ventilated disc brakes and a blind spot warning system. Ten airbags are located throughout the cabin (front, front side, front knee, rear side, full-length side curtain). The S6 also offers night-vision assist with pedestrian detection.
The government had not crash tested the A6 family as of this writing, but the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the A6 its top rating of Good in every category.
Behind the Wheel
It's hard to overstate the excellence of the S6's twin-turbo drivetrain. Acceleration feels impossibly swift and smooth, while the dual-clutch transmission delivers quick yet seamless shifts. Although the previous S6 enjoys bragging rights on paper with its 435-hp Lamborghini V10, the 2014 S6 is actually quicker, so the only thing missing is that V10's spine-tingling wail.
Audi likes to talk about all the S6's aluminum parts, but this midsize sedan still weighs well over two tons, which makes its athleticism all the more impressive. Unlike the 550i or even the M5, the S6 feels light on its feet, and the responsive, precise steering imparts confidence in all situations. If you're really driving with enthusiasm, you can feel the rear-biased Quattro all-wheel drive working with the standard sport rear differential to keep power and grip in sync.
Indeed, the S6 drives remarkably like the sporty S4, despite being considerably larger and heavier. Naturally, there's a tradeoff here: The S6's ride is on the firm side, even with Drive Select set to "Comfort." If you want a car that's going to pound highways into submission, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class may be more your speed. But if nimble cornering is a priority, the S6 is as good as it gets in this segment.
Other Cars to Consider
Mercedes-Benz E550/E63 AMG -- Similarly, the S6 seems more exclusive than the E550, but of course it's no match for the E63 AMG's massive power. Nonetheless, the S6's well-rounded skill set makes it an interesting lower-priced E63 substitute.
Porsche Panamera -- To our eye, the S6 is the prettier car, but nothing with four doors drives as well as the otherworldly Panamera.
The S6 comes loaded, so the only question is whether you like it more than its rivals. We're not sure which one we'd choose, but the S6 is an incredible all-around package, no doubt about it.