New & Used Audi S6: In Depth
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The Audi S6 is the performance version of the A6, the German automaker's mid-size sedan. On sale in the U.S. since the mid-1990s, the S6 at times has been joined by a hotter RS 6 edition, in the U.S. and in other markets.
Audi's S6 joined the A6 family shortly after the Audi 100/200 was renamed as the A6. Usually sold as a four-door sedan, it has also been offered in Avant wagon form.
The Audi S6 is a rival for cars such as the Jaguar XFR, Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, and BMW M5.
MORE: Read our 2016 Audi A6 review
That first S6 sold in the U.S. went on sale in 1995, and slipped off the radar after just one model year. It was powered by a turbocharged in-line five-cylinder engine rated at about 227 horsepower, and teamed with a manual transmission and quattro all-wheel drive. It passed out of the lineup quickly as Audi swapped out the old A6 for a new model with a more distinctive shape, though it didn't get around to offering a new S6 until the 2002 and 2003 model years. This version would be powered by a 4.2-liter V-8 with about 340 horsepower, with a new five-speed automatic and standard all-wheel drive—along with new features such as stability control, side airbags and a navigation system.
In its third generation, the S6 was based on a new body style, the A6 that was introduced for 2005. It was a striking shape, with the now-trademark "tornado" line along the lower sill, and it also had a more freely styled interior compared to the previous generation. When the third-gen S6 arrived in 2007, it was powered by a Lamborghini-derived V-10 engine; the 5.2-liter made 425 hp and sent its power through a six-speed automatic and quattro all-wheel drive. The engine made a fabulous noise, but performance was disappointing considering the pedigree. This generation also saw the new Audi MMI infotainment controller for the first time, handling navigation, media, and other settings.
Today's fourth-generation Audi A6 went on sale in the 2012 model year, but the S6 wouldn't return until 2013. While basic sedans came with a choice of four- and six-cylinder engines, the S6 sports a new twin-turbo 4.0 TFSI V-8 engine. It's rated at 420 horsepower and is capable of 0-60 mph runs of less than 4.8 seconds. The S6 gets additional performance improvements like a sport differential, sport-tuned adaptive air suspension, and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission—plus appearance changes like a four-outlet exhaust, special wheels, and two additional, exclusive 'S' colors: Estoril Blue and Prism Silver. Like the A6, the S6 also offers beautifully rendered navigation mapping via Google Earth mapping, and in-car wireless Internet, under the Audi Connect banner.
The current S6 shares the A6's Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the S6 five stars in all of its tests.
Well-heeled buyers can opt for pricey packages on the S6, including front seat massage functions, sport differentials, a top-notch Bang & Olufsen sound package, and a black Alcantara headliner.
Both the A6 and S6 received mild styling updates for the 2016 model year. The most obvious exterior touches include restyled lighting units, while inside, the interior gets improved materials and a tweaked layout.