The 2013 Audi A6 and S6 lineup, as with those of most premium German sedans, are offered in a range of flavors that caters to those who don't care all that much about the driving experience to those who do passionately.
Base front-wheel-drive four-cylinder cars address simple luxury-car needs, while the expensive, technologically complex supercharged V-6 and all-wheel drive deliver satisfying performance in upper A6 trims; meanwhile the introduction of a performance-oriented, turbo-V-8 S6 model for 2013, enthusiasts have something satisfying, yet somewhat sensible.
We still haven't driven the base, front-wheel-drive version of the current A6, but with its continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT)--and past drives of Audis with this transmission--we expect this model to be far from thrilling or zesty. Expect to become familiar with some of the engine's coarser range, and for some level of delay when passing. Otherwise we've been happy with the 211-horsepower, 2.0-liter four in the A4, and it should deliver reasonably quick performance in quattro all-wheel-drive versions, which instead get a great eight-speed automatic with manual controls. The turbo-4 isn't slow. It's capable of a 7.5-second run to 60 mph, and a top speed of 130 mph.
Above that sits a supercharged V-6 A6 with plenty of thrust, and not much more an appetite for fuel. Audi's A6 V-6 knocks out 310 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. It's harnessed to an 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, set for a rearward fixed torque split of 40:60. Audi promises 0-60 mph will arrive in 5.3 seconds, and this A6 will reach 130 mph.
With this powertrain, the A6 is just a joy to drive; it leaps off the line and runs like it's on a luge, with extremely good tracking, no torque steer, and an amazingly flat powerband. The 8-speed automatic fits perfectly with the engine, clipping off downshifts and upshifts with only an occasional hiccup under part-throttle. Steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles take direction on command, and you don't have to be in sport mode to use them.
All A6 cars get Audi Drive Select. This system adjusts the response of the throttle, transmission, and steering through Comfort, Auto, Sport and individually tailored modes. It can be frustrating to use. Sport steering mode feels too heavy, and Auto doesn't vary effort much from low-speed corners to high-speed sweepers. The A6 has good handling, but it still delivers lots of understeer despite the rear torque bias of its all-wheel-drive system. In Sport mode, the A6 is nonetheless a joy to drive on winding roads.
For 2013, a new S6 offers a 420-hp, 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8, a 7-speed automatic, a sport-tuned suspension, bigger brakes, and an available torque-vectoring rear differential. This S6 should offer a 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds, as well as more satisfying handling.