By on June 20, 2013

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Audi first tossed us the keys to its S6 with the SuperBowl mega-ad “Prom”. Premise: dateless kid gets handed Dad’s super-sedan for the evening, kisses the prom queen, gets punched by the prom king, snorts around town with a big grin on his face.

The message was clear: buy this car, put a little excitement in your life. What a load of cobblers.
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It’s a beautiful car though. To my mind, Audi does the whole kickboxer-in-a-suit best of ze German manufacturers. You could nearly call it subtle; all classed up in charcoal wool but with cauliflower ears of aluminum.

Of course, the grille looks just plain ridiculous with that mandatory front plate floating out there like the pricetag on a Marshall amp. Somebody in Ingolstadt is a big fan of the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15. Or basking sharks. Or venetian blinds. Or all three.

There’s something molluscan about those all-LED headlights as well. I like the lit-up eyeliner effect, but what with light-emitting-diodes glued on everything down to a Nissan Sentra (where they look like permanent Christmas lights in a trailer-park) it’s hardly a talking point anymore.
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Anyway, it’s a neat-looking car from the back, which is the view you’ll have of it if you’re driving anything short of a Shelby Mustang (or if Baruth’s giving you a lift in a rental Camry – wink). Mein Gott, this thing hauls keister!

Outfitted with the optional Bang and Olufsen stereo-system, twin NCC-1701 Enterprises deploy from the dashboard on startup, the better with which to bathe your ears in crappy high-compression MP3-quality audio. Choose a CD instead and the octave-spanning mitts of Sergei Rachmaninov might be dancing along the dash, or you could crank up the sat-radio and try to figure out what Nicki Minaj has against gardening implements.
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Quilted seats, brushed aluminum trim – why do people buy Bentleys again? Seriously. What a lovely place to slosh your internal organs around in. Sorry about the PR photo.

Previously, Audi’s all-weather M5-equivalent had two more cylinders and two fewer turbos. The V10 will be missed by some, but not by those who remember the less than stellar way it combined Lambo fuel consumption with limp-noodle torque. Think of it as a sort of LM002-equivalent: neither that Frankenstein’s -12 nor the Gallardo-sourced -10 were meant to be harnessed to such a heavy ox-cart.
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As luck would have it, I stepped right out of a 2004 RS6 into this modern twin-turbo Teuton and it’s basically the same car: a ridiculously complicated leather-and-steel straight-jacket with which to bind Newton’s laws and bend them to the driver’s will. It’s a Fifty Shades of Grey physics textbook.

With the new machine, you get a more-efficient 4.0L V8 fitted with forced induction – something Audi’s always done well – and despite only moderate peak torque gains over the old S6, the increase in forward shove is huge. 406lb/ft of shove slots in around 1400 rpm, and while your co-VP is still deciding between Sport and Sport+ in their M-car, you’ve simply wound up the snails to their full four hunnerd n’ twenny horses and walked outta there.
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The Audi is not without its own pre-flight checks, but simply flicking the selector into Dynamic should do the trick. The steering is artificially sweetened. The air-suspension prepares for attack. The somewhat-laggy dual-clutch transmission steps up the snap-downs. All this stuff will be broken four minutes after the warranty expires, so enjoy it while you can.

Ripping up a curving mountain road reveals a complete indifference for driver-based idiocy. You know the whole steering-wheel and accelerator pedal on a string Speed Secrets thing? The Audi takes the scissors to any thread of careful throttle management or unwinding at the apex – kill ‘em all and let God sort it out seems to be the order of the day. It’s a GT-R with two extra doors and a heritage of coil-pack failures.
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For me, that’s a problem. The heads-up-display ticks through the numbers with alarming rapidity, but there’s little to do besides steer left and right, or jam on the brakes when needed – these could stop whatever hyperbolic metaphor you prefer: a freight train, the Earth’s rotation, volcanic eruption, the tides, tectonic drift, space, time.

Here, crawling up into an altitude where wet snow still clings to the mountain like the “before” shot of a Head n’ Shoulders commercial, the big Audi’s poise is that of a show-shoed Siberian Tiger. A muted whuffling issues from quad exhausts like the warning cough of a big cat about to spring, and away it sleds again to hurtle back down the hill like an avalanche with heated seats.
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Fast? Oh yeah. But its only the king of the prom, and somewhere out there a guy in a BRZ just planted one on your girl. You can black his eye if you want – this thing can haul off and land a haymaker on pretty much anyone.

Poise, power, comfort, luxury, and the nagging sensation that someone out there is having more fun than you are. For a lot less.

Audi Canada provided the vehicle tested and insurance.

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60 Comments on “Review: 2013 Audi S6...”


  • avatar
    IHateCars

    I LOVE this car! Want one bad…

    And yes, the front plates in Ontario that we have to use do look goofy.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Agree with that. Remind me why we need those again?

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        If it’s like here in Ohio, the police will argue that it is for ‘safety’ reasons.

        My understanding (correct me if I’m wrong, Baruth) is that Ohio spent a lot of money on radar/laser readers that rely on the reflection from the front plate for speed readings.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          hreardon, as a Michigan resident, that works for an Ohio based company, and must travel there often, I DREAD driving through Ohio. All us Michiganders fear speeding tickets on your toll roads. Keeping my cruise control between 65 and 70 is painful.

          On the plus side, your roads are so much better that I want to go to Lansing and protest our miserable infastructure. The C-Max also got from Detroit to Akron and back on less than one tank of gas. 48.3 MPG.

          • 0 avatar
            hreardon

            Wow – that might be the first time I’ve heard someone say “your roads are so much better…” in reference to Ohio.

            Our nation’s infrastructure really must be THAT BAD…. ;-)

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            It’s most telling on the Michigan-Ohio border in Toledo. It smooths out as soon as you get into Ohio. I-75 in Detroit and the downriver suburbs looks like B-29s were dropping dummy bombs on training missions. I’m sure the Rouge River Bridge will collapse and kill me one day.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            Yes, that border crossing is always weird! Of course, it was the opposite just after MDOT re-did I-75 before ODOT resurfaced the south portion.

            The OHP is not quite as bad as you think..”nine you’re fine, ten you’re mine” is how they roll, mostly. Years ago, however, their reputation was well-deserved!

            And most Ohio freeways will be increasing to 70mph limits beginning next month. (Of course, the Turnpike has been 70mph for the past several years.)

    • 0 avatar
      CelticPete

      More fun for less? Sure buy any old Mustang or Miata and its more fun for a ton less. But Audi’s are about being able to drive long distances at high speed and arrive in total comfort all the while being very safe. It’s a luxury car not a sports car.

      And not to sound trite – but I don’t know what girls you know – but most of them prefer luxury to sportiness in cars.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    “the nagging suspicion that someone out there is having more fun than you are” Priceless, and sums up my feelings about driving Audis since forever. Perfectly nice car, but not really all that much fun. BMWs are usually more fun, even if not as competent at times.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      I agree – that’s a pretty accurate statement.

      • 0 avatar
        bryanska

        For me it’s the obsession with black and gray. If Minnesota winters, Seattle rain and long commutes in the dark don’t pound enough seasonal affective disorder into you, there’s always the option of an Audi to cultivate that year-round feeling of all work and no play.

        • 0 avatar
          hreardon

          “All work and no play” – now you’re sounding like my father….who happens to be German.

          Coincidence?

          • 0 avatar
            bryanska

            Yeah it’s so weird, Germans are so cheerful and smiling, but their cars can be really… cold.

        • 0 avatar
          kkt

          And this is the answer to the “Why do people buy Bentleys again?” question in the article. If you want your Bentley painted orange, with fuchsia leather and heliotrope carpets, Bentley will oblige. Or any other color scheme that brings you out of the grey Seattle drizzle.

          • 0 avatar
            hreardon

            If you pony up for the Audi Exclusive exterior palette and interior pieces you can play that game as well. Not quite to the level of Bentley, but it’s available.

            People still buy Bentleys for the sake of being able to tell people they can afford to drive a Bentley.

          • 0 avatar
            fincar1

            I do remember a certain chartreuse Audi….

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Yeah, my buddy came to the same conclusion. After almost destroying his special-ordered MT 2011 S4 at the track, where he saved it enough to just kiss the tire wall, he decided he needed something cheaper for that purpose and bought an RX-8. Amazing that you can get such a sweet-handling sports car for so cheap, as long as you don’t mind adding pre-mix, using all 9500 smooth revs, and putting up with a bit of exhaust smell and poor fuel economy. Since then, he determined that the S4 is a big, numb, floaty, understeering boat of a car with too much electronic interference (sport diff) and he decided to sell it. He just bought a clean ’99 Pathfinder (with manual transmission and transfer case, of course) for winter but I think he’s finally concluded he’ll keep the S4 as well. The Pathfinder will get used on the dirtiest and potholiest winter and spring days and for any gravel road trips but he’ll use the S4 most winter days and for year-round highway trips. The S4 does have a fantastic powertrain, is very comfortable, and gets excellent fuel economy for its size and capability. It’s also a lot of fun on icy days with the studded Gislaved Nord Frost 5s, as long as you eliminate the electronic interference. But he had to yank fuses on the RX-8 too, so that’s pretty much a given on any modern vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        If you’re buying the S4 to track it you’re going to be sorely disappointed. The Audi S models are more like cruise missiles than nimble dancer.

        I’m surprised you would say that it gets excellent fuel economy – that’s the one aspect of the car that is universally complained about. It’s extremely rare that anyone gets anywhere close to the numbers that Audi/EPA publish. It’s better than the old V8 for sure, but still way off the mark.

        • 0 avatar
          ZCD2.7T

          The guys in the Cayman S and the roll-caged, stripped E36 M3 that I passed at my last track event would beg to differ with you about the S4’s relative track prowess.

          Just sayin’.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        The one thing he certainly wasn’t disappointed about at the track was the lap time. On stock tires, he was destroying everything at our tight little local track aside from a race-prepped early 80’s Malibu (!!!) on racing slicks, which only beat him by a couple tenths last time out.

        I’ll have to see what he’s averaging these days. I haven’t discussed the fuel economy lately, but he was consistently doing better than 10L/100km highway (24mpg) and one trip we took with a tailwind got us about 7L/100km (33mpg). So I guess that’s about EPA mileage. He’s also getting about EPA mileage (13L/100km or 18mpg) in the city. He’s not driving slow to get these, but does skip gears where appropriate and looks ahead for impending red lights. He also only uses ethanol-free fuel. These numbers aren’t great compared to other more basic vehicles of similar exterior dimensions, but for a 4000 lb true AWD vehicle with a 0-60 under 5 seconds, and running a sixth gear that can still accelerate briskly up a steep grade with 1000 pounds worth of luggage and passengers without downshifting, it seems impressive to me.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave in Toronto

        Quick +1 for Nord Frost 5’s – not the absolute best performing snow tire I’ve had but for the noise suppression and ride quality, totally acceptable.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    The S6 really is a spectacular vehicle. The big brother S8 is just too big, the mechanically identical S7 is just too expensive.

    This, however, is just right. My biggest gripe, and that of just about everyone (Audi marketing and engineers excepting), is the new electromechanical steering that Audi has been fitting to everything lately: it’s just too disconnected from the road.

    As for the comment about the LEDs: Audi has moved away from discrete LED ‘dots’ which began to look cheap and dated pretty quickly, especially once everyone and their mother added them to their cars as well. Audi now uses LED light ‘bars’ which, IMO, look a lot sleeker and less cartoon-y. Their new drive will be moving everything to full LED headlamps, which look pretty sinister and futuristic. The upcoming A3 sedan will offer them.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      I beg to differ on that one. I’d take the S8 in a heartbeat over the S6. In fact, I’d take the S8 over the S and 7, but wither the AMG-E or M5 before the S6. In all honesty I’d take the V8 A8 over all of them, and get a proper gofast car for the difference.

    • 0 avatar
      Toshi

      The downside of the new “smooth” LED eyeliner rings is that the turn signals have reverted to standard incandescent light bulbs.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        Well, the good news is that the new A3 sedan will have integrated LED signals that change color to flash. Pretty slick in person.

      • 0 avatar
        genuineleather

        Wait, they’re not full LED?

        Ghetto move, Audi. Do you want Benz and BMW drivers to snicker in the off chance one of your customers actually decides to use their turn signal?

        • 0 avatar
          th009

          One could argue that the BMW drivers wouldn’t know what a turn signal is …

          Just kidding. All vitriol aside, I find that idiot drivers not restricted to any particular brand of cars.

  • avatar
    Synchromesh

    Audi is definitely the best looking out of all current German sedans. But I still wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    This is a beautiful car. Having seen some of the pedestrian version in the street, I must say this car has the best led lamps I’ve seen so far (the Q3 is there too).

    You can’t really compare the Audi LED lamps with the elcheapo versions from other OEMs.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      I think that automotive styling is going to start evolving more quickly in the coming years. Headlamp styling is going to get more interesting as manufacturers move into full LED headlamps which will provide a whole new avenue for design and implementation.

      The new LED lightbars that Audi implements look a lot cleaner and in a subtle way make the impementations in other brands look very cheap in comparison (I think that VW’s implementation is one of the tackiest).

      My preference for Audi styling is that it looks contemporary, stylish and will continue to look good for another ten years. Yes, it is a bit boring, but I find the A6 and 5-series to be classy. I appreciate what Mercedes has been doing, but it’s not my style. Lexus on the other hand, is trying a bit too hard with their “Predator” face.

      Designs from Hyndai/Kia? I think those will age about as well as many Pontiac designs from the 80s and early 90s…

  • avatar
    PCP

    Wonderful writing…

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Nice, penetrating review. It’s all about the bragging rights . . . until the warranty expires.

    Then, you pay.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Let’s be honest about a few things:

      1. The people who can truly afford these kinds of cars can afford the maintenance and repair bills;

      2. The people who are driving these cars are more than likely leasing them for 3-4 years and will remain within the warranty;

      3. Those who have bought and figure they’ll hold on to the car for 5-7 years will likely pony up the extra $2,800 for the 7/100,000 warranty;

      The only people complaining about the out of warranty or maintenance costs are those of us in the peanut gallery. ;-)

      • 0 avatar
        lon888

        Every person I know who gets a luxury car like usually leases them, so no worries about the warranty running out.

        • 0 avatar
          th009

          I bought my (premium) car. Am planning to keep it long after warranty expiry, too (it was 7 and 8 years for the last two, neither one with an extended warranty).

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        I’m sure someone at the captive finance company complains about the inflated residuals underpinning all those leases, come return time. I’ve returned some hipo Bimmers, and no way could any dealer turn around and sell them at projected residual.

        Of course, halo cars are necessary a necessary part of a Teutonobarge peddlers’ repertoire these days. BMW would have an even harder time passing themselves off as the “Ultimate Driving Machine” if it wasn’t for the Ms.

        • 0 avatar
          genuineleather

          My grandfather just leased a 750LI; the three-year, 45k mile residual is $58K.

          In other words, not-gonna-happen dot com. Don’t think I’ve seen a single off-lease Sibener listed for over $50k, with most selling in the low-to-mid 40’s.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I have made this same point before on here. If you can afford the price of admission, you can afford the repairs. A 5-year note at .9% with a decent down payment on my lightly optioned BMW is $6600 a year in payments. This car would be about DOUBLE that. Just to buy it in the first place. Do you REALLY think you are likely to have $13-14K a year in repairs year in and year out? If you can afford to buy the car new, you can easily afford the maintenance and repairs for as long as you want to keep it. If you buy an $90-100K car used for $30K, and can only afford a $30K car, you are monumentally stupid.

      The people who lease these cars can afford to get a new one every few years regardless, so they generally do. And why not? If you’ve got the cash. My practice is payments or repairs, never both on the same car. If I can’t comfortably pay it off before the warranty is up, I can’t afford it. And I would rather gamble in Vegas than buy an extended warranty, the odds are better there. I did stack the odds in my favor with my BMW through careful specification though.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “If you buy an $90-100K car used for $30K, and can only afford a $30K car, you are monumentally stupid.”

        Now they tell me.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        Dude, you just offended all those second and third hand Phaeton owners who picked them up for $35,000 and then $15,000, respectively, only to shell out an additional $50,000 in repairs. ;-)

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        +1 (or more) to krhodes1. Spot on.

        • 0 avatar
          hreardon

          Trust me when I tell you: the manufacturers get this point. In many ways you could argue that the move downmarket is what has, and will, drive the improvements in overall reliability in these cars. Talk to any dealership service department for a premium brand and they will tell you that 90% of the time the complaints and sticker shock for service come from people buying the entry level models.

          The guy buying the A8? Yeah, he expects to pay $200 for an oil change and considers it a value because the dealership came out and picked up his car at work. Not so much the schlub on the $329/month A4 Premium lease.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Shhhh, don’t let the secret out. More cars for me.

        ::If you buy an $90-100K car used for $30K, and can only afford a $30K car, you are monumentally stupid.::

        This is really the operative point. If you can’t afford an unscheduled $1000 repair (rare, but possible), you’re like most people in the US (::http://www.nfcc.org/newsroom/newsreleases/floi_july2011results_final.cfm::), but you probably shouldn’t be buying a luxury car of any type.

        I feel the same way as krhodes1 about extended warranties. There’s a reason companies are willing to sell the extended warranty — it makes them a nice profit. There are probably extended warranties that are better than others, however, but most of them will never pay off and never meant to pay off. It’s more like insurance than a warranty.

  • avatar
    Aquineas

    Subjectively, respectfully and certainly constructively, I’m not sure why, but I didn’t enjoy reading this review. I have never driven an LM002, so the reference is partially lost on me (while I *think* I get what you’re trying to say). In general it feels like you’re trying to flex your wittiness and metaphors and cram too many into a short space. We get it, you are intelligent and witty (I don’t mean that facetiously). Perhaps a little less demonstration of that and a little more plain talk about the car?

    Again, I don’t mean this at all disrespectfully…

    • 0 avatar
      typhoon

      I found the writing overwrought as well. A clever line here or there is great, and certainly a writer should have his own flair, but this was too much, to the point of being tiring to read. I feel it would benefit from being dialed back a bit. Remember, the notes you don’t play are as important as the ones you do.

      I really enjoyed the photography, though. A coldly beautiful setting for a coldly beautiful car.

    • 0 avatar
      Brendan McAleer

      Such gentlemanly criticism – I thank you for it. This is not the first time I’ve been told I can carried away, and it almost always happens with a car that I found a bit boring: I’ll try to watch for that next time.

  • avatar
    carguy

    An elegant and beautiful car and probably more capable than any of the 5 series. If it wasn’t for the understeer that Audi manages to build into all of its models (minus the R8) and the less than stellar long term reliability record, the A6 would be on my shopping list.

  • avatar

    My dad has a 2013 S4. Almost everything here applies there, but at 3/4 scale.

    It’s very very nice, a great combination of speed, style and comfort, but it doesn’t elicit any emotion. All I can muster is the Obama “not bad” meme face.

    Oh, and a deer impact put it in the shop for 3 months at a $16,000 bill. For the sake of my inheritance, I hope he sells it before the warranty expires (as opposed to the ’03 A6 2.7T he had).

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    There’s another big difference between this car and the old V-10 S6. For a VERY modest sum, APR, Revo, etc can turn this 420hp beast into a well over 500hp MONSTER that noms on M5s for breakfast, with enough torque to pull a tree out of the ground.

  • avatar

    HILARIOUS. The Manual is dead and now reviewers are complaining “there’s little to do besides steer left and right, or jam on the brakes when needed”.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      It sort of seemed that way to me until my 2012 S4-owning buddy took me for a ride around the freshly paved clover-leaf in his area that he’d been practicing on. That AWD drift was a whole new experience for me. It made me understand why he said he might not need his C6 Z06 anymore, a statement that made no sense to me prior to that drive.

      Yes, both my buddies who own B8 S4s special ordered them with manual transmissions, just to spite you! :P

      But I’m in Canada, so in both cases there was already an MT S4 on the lot. They were both willing to wait a few months to get them exactly the way they wanted.

  • avatar
    ccbc

    I’m really asking myself how you can continue to get $100k car from a manufacturer when writing such negative things about them ?

    My comment isn’t a complain; the article is very funny and a breeze to read. But really, Audi will continue to bring you cars after lines about their crappy reliability ?


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