by Deiondre van der Merwe
The Audi S6 is a wolf dressed in sheep's clothing. The polite and reserved business suit it wears as a luxury midsize sedan hides a very naughty secret, a 444-horsepower turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 borrowed from Porsche that launches the sedan to 60 mph from a standstill in 4.4 seconds. Of course, when your competition includes a brute like the BMW M550i xDrive, albeit indirectly, and the accomplished Mercedes-AMG E53 sedan, you have to be more than just quick. You have to be accomplished in every facet. The S6 doesn't just get you from A to B at gut-wrenching speeds, it also manages to coddle and surround you with all of the modern tech and convenience you could desire. The rear seats are spacious, and the safety and assistance tech on hand means that when you don't want to stress about driving, it'll alleviate almost all of the trouble of such a chore. Think of this, then, as Jason Statham incarnate. Smooth, suave, and impeccably dressed, but capable of dealing a swift kick to the crotches of any unsuspecting challenger.
There aren't many changes to the new Audi S6, and the ones that have been made are minor. For the 2021 Audi S6, you'll now get 21-inch wheels with summer tires as standard as well as Virtual Cockpit Plus and carbon trim for the interior. The Executive Package for the Premium Plus now comes with adaptive cruise control and active lane assist.
See trim levels and configurations:
The S6 is a car that manages a gorgeous appearance without erring on the side of excess. Its sophisticated body hides a whole lot of power and the S6 is a reminder that books shouldn't be judged by their covers. Some may feel that the design is a little too plain, but the idea of an innocent-looking powerhouse will appeal to many. The front end means business with a chrome-slatted grille offset by a pair of sharp-edged LED headlights. The rear end is home to a set of stunning LED taillights, which on the Prestige boast full light animations, and two pairs of exhaust openings poking out cheekily from either side of the plain diffuser. 21-inch wheels are standard in a five-double-V spoke design, and model-specific front and rear diffusers subtly set this apart from lesser A6 derivatives.
Unsurprising for the luxury midsize sedan segment, the S6 boasts some pretty significant dimensions. It has a length of 195 inches, drawn over a 115.3-inch wheelbase. It measures 83.1 inches from side to side including the mirrors, but even without these, the body width of 74.3 inches is substantial. The S6 stands 56.9 inches tall. Both trim levels have a curb weight of 4,486 pounds, 200 lbs more than the BMW M550i xDrive.
The S6 gets treated with an extensive exterior palette from Audi that comprises eleven hues. Brilliant Black and Ibis White are the only standard colors available, with the remaining options requiring an extra outlay of $595. These metallic hues include dark, rich colors like Avalon Green, Firmament Blue, Mythos Black, Daytona Gray pearl, and Vesuvius Gray. If light elegance is more your speed, Florett Silver and Glacier White should do just fine. The only two bright and bold colors available are Navarra Blue and Tango Red. For us, Avalon Green oozes quiet sophistication.
We weren't kidding about power, that perfectly tailored metal suit hides a manic 444-hp six-cylinder inherited from corporate sibling, Porsche. Combine ample power with turbocharged torque and all-wheel drive and you have a recipe for a brisk launch from 0 to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and a top speed that's limited to 155 mph. This is by no means slow, but it falls noticeably behind the BMW M550i xDrive's achievement. The Bavarian bruiser manages a blistering 3.6-second run to 60 mph from a standstill, making it one of the fastest competitors against the S6. However, it's worth noting that BMW doesn't really have a direct rival to the S6, with the M550i boasting an extra pair of cylinders and some 79 hp more than the Audi. The Mercedes-AMG E53 Sedan is a closer match with 426 hp, matching the 4.4-second effort of the Audi. Audi's exec comes exclusively with its quattro all-wheel-drive system and while it's definitely got ample power to offer, we can't help but fear that one of its own relatives is its biggest rival. Enter the RS6 Avant, a wagon that annihilates the run from 0-60 mph in just 3.5 seconds. The S6 is Audi's filler between the respectable A6 and the psycho RS6, and it's a more-than-decent middle ground.
The power-hungry sedan from Audi hides a secret beneath its modest snout. That secret is a single-turbo 2.9-liter six-cylinder that is made even better by the aid of a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. The V6 engine sends 444 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque through an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission. Turbo lag is put on death row by the hybrid assistance and the transmission does really well with any task you request of it. It's as efficient at lower speeds as it is when your needle is tipping further to the right than an officer of the law would deem acceptable.
It pulls strong whenever you ask it to jump into action, but it's also smooth and refined. More than this, the V6 has more aural character than most Audi six-cylinders, courtesy of its Porsche origins.
The A6 provides a delightfully plush and quiet ride, but the S6 is a little more RS than S in this regard, especially with the available steel sport suspension with adaptive dampers. It's reserved for those who will truly put it to use for performance purposes, but the added prowess comes with the sacrifice of a rather large chunk of comfort. There's also the available rear differential that doles out some torque to the back wheels for added balance in and out of the bends. At the standard level, the adaptive air suspension does a good job of soaking up most of the flaws on the road, but we wouldn't go so far as to call it truly plush, at least not to the same extent as the AMG E53.
The real beauty behind the wheel of the S6 comes when you tap the paddle to put it into a lower gear and the S6 perceptibly stiffens and gets more eager, much like a stealthy lioness stalking her nearby prey. Steering is wonderfully responsive and accurate, if lacking tangible feel, but pairs well with the corner-carving suspension to make you forget quite easily that you're in a considerably large sedan.
The S6 is not the lightest when it comes to its gas mileage, but it's not the worst of the bunch either. It'll return EPA estimates of 18/28/22 mpg, falling behind the Mercedes-AMG E53's 22/29/25 mpg figures. That being said, the BMW M550i is the heaviest of them all with figures of 17/25/20 mpg - thank the big twin-turbo V8 for those figures. When the 19.3-gallon fuel tank is full, the S6 should achieve a range of 425 miles in mixed driving conditions.
The interior of the S6 has been wonderfully put together by Audi, especially the digital aspects. The cabin is laden with touch-sensitive surfaces but manages to pull off a simple and clean design despite the multitude of screens and buttons. As one would expect from a luxury car that costs over $70,000, the interior components are swathed in premium leather and soft-touch materials and there's an abundance of space. In terms of sheer luxury and comfort, the S6's cup runneth over, making it our benchmark for an interior in this segment.
The S6 improves its interior space offering in comparison to the smaller S4 sedan, and four occupants will have more than enough space to find a comfortable seating position. Backseat passengers have 37.4 inches of legroom and 38.2 inches of headroom to work with, making it unlikely that even the tallest of adults will truly struggle. It's not just the space that deserves praise, but the seating itself. Both trim levels get 12-way power-adjustable front seats with four-way lumbar support and heating. They're excellent for long-distance support and hug occupants with commitment. The Prestige gets exclusive access to heated rear seats as standard.
Soft Valcona leather is the standard for both the Premium Plus and Prestige models, available in three color combinations at no extra cost. You can take your pick of Arras Red with Agate Gray stitching, Black with Rock Gray stitching, and Rotor Gray with Anthracite stitching. There are two standard trim inlays available; the standard Carbon Twill and optional brushed aluminum.
Part of the S6's appeal is that it doesn't sacrifice practicality in the name of power. The trunk is quite accommodating with 13.7 cubic feet of space. While this is more than the E-Class that offers 13.1 cubes, BMW's 5 Series takes the cake with 14 cubes of space. 13.7 cubic feet will be enough to accommodate a few briefcases or a full suitcase set from Louis Vuitton. The good news is that the rear seatbacks can be folded in a 40/20/40 split to accommodate larger items or increase overall cargo space. Storage in the cabin is manageable with a considerable glove compartment, two standard cupholders in the front and the center storage bin is decent enough to hold a smartphone or two.
Both trim levels of the S6 lineup have a few standard features worth mentioning that include a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry, push-button start, and a hands-free trunk release. Four-zone climate control, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, ambient lighting, and heated twelve-way power-adjustable front seats are also standard fare. Standard safety features across all models include cruise control, a rearview camera, park distance control, lane departure warning, and forward collision avoidance.
The Prestige adds heated rear seats, dual-pane acoustic glass, and soft-close doors. Added driver-assist tech includes rear cross-traffic assist, vehicle exit warning, traffic jam assist and predictive efficiency assist. Intersection assist is added along with traffic sign recognition and a head-up display with navigation.
The infotainment setup is the same across both models, and there's an impressive amount of tech to speak of in the cabin. Audi's virtual cockpit is standard, which is just automaker lingo for a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. A dual-screen MMI Navigation Plus setup comprises a 10.1-inch main screen and an 8.6-inch lower screen and both host Audi's MMI touch software. Smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard along with HD Radio, SiriusXM, and Bluetooth streaming. Navigation is standard and audio is pushed through a 16-speaker, 705-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system, but on the Prestige, a 19-speaker B&O system with 1,820 watts is also available. Wireless charging is standard.
At the time of this writing, the 2021 Audi S6 Quattro has been recalled twice, once for fragile rear axle lock nuts that may break and another for a passenger airbag that may not deploy correctly. If reliability is a concern, Audi looks to allay this with a four-year/50,000-mile basic and drivetrain warranty. Roadside assistance is complimentary for four years with no mileage restrictions.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has given the S6 a full review in terms of safety but the IIHS awarded its mechanically similar sibling, the Audi A6, a Top Safety Pick + award. The NHTSA has only completed a rollover evaluation in which it gave the S6 a full five stars. The A6 scored five out of five overall from the NHTSA, and we don't doubt the S6's ability to achieve the same score when fully reviewed.
Both trim levels in the Audi S6 lineup boast a healthy amount of standard safety features in the form of traditional features and modern driver assists. The traditional suite is inclusive of cruise control, a rearview camera, and an eight-airbag system that includes dual-front and front side airbags but rear side airbags are optional for $350. Park distance control is also included at entry level along with lane departure warning as well as forward collision avoidance.
The Prestige adds a notable amount of extra driver-assists that include rear cross-traffic assist, vehicle exit warning, traffic jam assist, predictive efficiency assist, and intersection assist. Traffic sign recognition and a head-up display are added at this point, too.
The S6 embodies power and practicality and a perfectly blended recipe. There's also a certain charm about having something that appears to be innocent on the outside but is actually a little devil once you get to know it. The 444-hp V6 is an excellent mill that's mated to a smooth and intuitive transmission, making the daily drive something to look forward to. It may like the ride quality of the AMG E53, but it's still bearable if you live in an area where the roads are relatively well-kept. The cabin can't be faulted at all, the tech components are extremely well laid out and only the most premium materials were used for the inside but the Mercedes-AMG E53's cabin is just as deluxe and well put together. Simply put, it's on par with its German rivals by most measures, but it's a tough competition. The BMW M550i blows it out of the water from a performance perspective, and there'll always be a part of you that feels you missed out on the maximum performance available now that the RS6 Avant is in the USA. Still, if you're after a luxury sedan with a big turn of pace, the S6 deserves to be on your shortlist.
This segment is home to cars that can easily enter the six-figure range in terms of MSRPs, but the price of the Audi S6 is on par with its main competitors. The MSRP of the S6 in entry-level guise is $74,400 while opting for the top-spec Prestige will set you back $81,100. All prices exclude Audi's $1,045 destination and handling fee.
There are two specs available within the 2021 Audi S6 lineup; the Premium Plus and the Prestige. Both enlist the help of a twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 motor mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission to get going and both models come standard with quattro AWD. The engine is also aided by a 48-volt mild-hybrid system.
The Premium Plus comes well equipped with standard convenience features that include a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry, push-button start, four-zone climate control, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, ambient lighting, and heated twelve-way power-adjustable front seats. The infotainment suite is the same across both trims and includes a dual-screen set-up with a 10.1-inch upper screen and 8.6-inch screen, both of them enabling Audi's MMI software. Full smartphone integration is catered to via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is standard. HD Radio, SiriusXM, and Bluetooth streaming are also on the list, and audio is pushed through a premium 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system. Standard safety features at the base level include a rearview camera, cruise control, park distance control, lane departure warning, and forward collision avoidance.
The Prestige adds a couple of convenience features such as heated rear seats, dual-pane acoustic glass, and soft-close doors, but the real upgrades are the added safety features. The upgraded driver-assists include rear cross-traffic assist, vehicle exit warning, traffic jam assist, predictive efficiency assist, and a head-up display.
Despite being generously equipped, the Audi S6 is still available with a number of packages. The $1,850 Individual Contour Seating Packagereplaces the sport seats with less supportive, more comfortable day-to-day items, but we'd gloss over this and instead look at the $2,900 S6 Executive Package on the Premium Plus which includes heated rear seats, adaptive cruise control, the extended leather package, a power-closing trunk lid, and lane-keeping assist. Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert is available for $500, and rear-seat side airbags cost $350. S Sport adaptive steel suspension costs the same, but the cream of the crop is the $4,000 S Sport Package which adds rear-wheel steering, a sport exhaust, red brake calipers, and a quattro sport rear differential.
On the Prestige, a $2,500 night vision camera with thermal imagery is available, as is a $4,900 sound system upgrade from B&O with 19 speakers and 1,820 watts.
Money is clearly not an issue if you're considering anything in this segment to begin with, so we'd recommend going for the Prestige. It has the best standard safety features to begin with and you'll only need to add a package or two to make a wonderful all-rounder. First, though, we'd start with Avalon Green paint outside and Rotor Gray leather inside. Then, the most important package we'd spec is the S Sport package that will add a quattro sport rear differential, dynamic all-wheel steering and a sport exhaust system to really give the S6 an extra edge. This costs $4,000 extra, but it breathes new life into the full-size sedan. Of course, this brings the final asking price to over $85,000, but it gives you an almost perfect midsize performance sedan.
The two siblings share much of the same DNA, but the A6 is a lukewarm, more polite version. In terms of exterior appearance, they look nearly identical, but the S6 adds a few bits that make its focus on performance known. They also share a near-identical suite of convenience features in similar trims. The biggest difference between the cousins is that the Audi A6 relies on a 2.0-liter turbo or an optional 3.0-liter V6 that puts out 335 horsepower, and the S6 comes exclusively with a 2.9-liter V6 that punches out 444 horses. Given that the main difference between the two is the added sportiness and power for the S6, the A6 would be a better buy for those who want the luxury but aren't overly concerned with power. For those seeking a bit of a thrill, the S6 is the way to go.
Audi likes to keep things streamlined across generations, with the S6 and the S7 being nearly identical mechanically and sharing a similar appearance. Of course, the S7 boasts a swanky, coupe-like style by comparison and bumps up the price by around $10,000 as a result. The two share a 2.9-liter twin-turbo that produces 444 horsepower and both boast a 48-volt mild hybrid system that puts an end to turbo lag. Both provide similar performance characteristics and aren't much different on the inside, either. The S6 does offer slightly more interior space thanks to a more traditional sedan shape, but the S7 boasts an extra 11 cubic feet of trunk space thanks to its hatchback styling. So who'll be the winner? The S7 is just a slightly jazzed up version of the S6 that costs considerably more, and we don't see the value in spending extra. The S6 is the way to go.
The most popular competitors of 2021 Audi S6: