by Jay Traugott
There's no question Audi builds excellent luxury performance vehicles but has too often outdone by one of its main domestic rivals, BMW. Today that's no longer the case. Audi has stepped up its game, continuing to create outstanding interiors while significantly improving performance and design. The latter especially needed work. Hiring design chief Marc Lichte a few years ago is now bearing fruit as we're being treated to a more aggressive exterior design language throughout the lineup. The new 2020 Audi S6 sedan is no exception. The fifth-generation A6 was launched for 2018 but only now is the more high-performance S6 ready to go. Was it worth the wait? It appears so.
The 2020 Audi S6 may finally be the performance sedan that will give some BMWs and Mercedes a run for their money. Along with a host of innovative technologies, a powerful engine offering blistering performance, the 2020 S6 is also a fine luxury sedan that will be equally comfortable at the country club and the Autobahn.
While traditional three-box sedan sales have been decreasing for all automakers recently, the 2020 Audi S6 is certainly a standout. Compared to the A6, the S6 features sportier design elements like unique bumpers, a platinum double-slat single-frame grille, and aluminum exterior side mirrors. Take note of the front splitter that's also been styled to create the impression of greater width at the front end. Out back, the S6 has four tailpipes and a rear diffuser inlay in black chrome matte.
The standard wheels are 20-inchers with a 5-arm design, while 21-inch, 5-twin-spoke V-design wheels are optional. Both sizes are fitted with summer performance tires. Buyers can also check the options box for the black optic package, which adds a black exterior kit featuring black mirror housings and those 21-inch wheels now in anthracite. Like previous S6 models, this latest one has more stylized attitude in order to fit its sportier nature.
Anyone who has ever owned an Audi appreciates the need for a high-quality interior in a luxury vehicle. The 2020 S6 will not disappoint. Aside from impeccable build quality, the new S6 features a heated, 3-spoke multifunction heated steering wheel with the 'S' emblem. There are also Valcona leather S sports seats with diamond stitching. Stainless steel door sills with an illuminated S logo offer even more elegance.
Drivers will benefit from a full-color head-up display featuring standard MMI Navigation and touchscreen. There are two screens, a 10.1-inch upper and an 8.6-inch lower. Audi's excellent virtual cockpit comes standard. This system enhances the infotainment and navigation software with Google Earth and 3D city maps and is supported by 4G LTE. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as is a Bang & Olufsen sound system.
Technology is also found in a suite of safety and driver assistance features, all of which are standard, including adaptive cruise assist with traffic jam and turn assist, side assist with rear cross-traffic assist, and vehicle exit warning.
While European-spec 2020 S6s are powered by a 3.0-liter diesel with 349 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, the North American market Audi S6 has a 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged TFSI V6 gasoline engine with 444 hp and 443 lb-ft. Audi combined the engine with a 48-volt mild hybrid system for enhanced output and better fuel efficiency, figures of which have yet to be released. To compare, the S6 has 109 more hp and 74 lb-ft more than the A6. Audi has clocked the S6 going from 0-62 mph in 4.4 seconds.
Power is distributed to all four wheels through an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. Audi's latest Quattro all-wheel-drive system distributes torque to both the front and rear axle. In regular driving situations, the system is programmed with a 40/60 front/rear torque split. Up to 70 percent of torque can be direct to the front and up to 85 percent at the rear for more spirited driving. There's an optional sport differential that improves cornering by actively splitting torque between the rear wheels, or directing all of the torque to one of them. Dynamic all-wheel steering with a sport suspension is optional with the S sport package.
As one can expect, a 444-hp German-built luxury sedan is not exactly cheap. Audi says the 2020 S6 will start at $73,900 for the Premium Plus model and $77,800 for the Prestige. Neither figures include the $995 destination fee. Like any German luxury vehicle, the S6's price tag will quickly climb once buyers tack on additional features and packages, so don't be surprised to see a fully equipped S6 surpass the $80,000 mark.
The Audi A6, in general, has been a solid seller for the automaker. Unfortunately, sales last year dipped to 10,561 units but there's a very likely explanation for that: the lack of an S6 variant. Audi combines A6 and S6 annual sales figures into a single tally, which explains why a total of 18,686 and 16,304 units were sold in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Now that the standard A6 has some S6 back up, expect sales to climb once again.