Audi S6 beats Mercedes and BMW (tell us something we don’t know!)

For  assessments of the BMW M5 and Mercedes Benz E63 AMG, see the July issue of Car & Driver magazine, on sale now)

Up in Ingolstadt—right in the center of Bavaria—the aluminum and steel S6 wasn’t created to be the last word in performance for this model line. You get twin turbos on a V-8, you get larger wheels and tires, you get scads of  interior details, but you only get so much additional performance. The S6 is 98-hp less murderous than the next-most-powerful contender, the E63.

Okay, but aside from us just telling you all that, how would you know? The acceleration times to 60 mph are practically a dead heat. The cabin is richly furnished with special treatments such as carbon-fiber-pattern trim and high-backed, deeply hugging sport buckets with a lovely diamond-pleat pattern repeated on the rear seats. The S6 sits low and crouched, its wheel wells stuffed with aluminum and rubber. Goose it, and the V-8 sounds technically gifted and expensive while the seven-speed is both immediate and seamless, and the standard rear torque-vectoring differential helps overcome the front weight bias.

The twist gets distributed to all four wheels, and even with the extra Quattro driveshafts, the Audi’s curb weight still lands between those of the E63 and the M5. The S6’s back seat was judged the roomiest for two, its instrument panel the most attractive, and its navigation and radio interface the easiest to use.

What are we missing here? Why do the other cars need 18 to 20 grand more in cash due at signing?

A word about acceleration: While the M5 and the E63 are spinning tires on launch, the four paws of the S6 have already propelled it off the reservation, which is why it’s so quick to 60. Later, the Audi gets reeled in and passed by the others, which definitely feel stronger in passing situations on the autobahn. In the M5 and the E63, you get more motor, and in the E63, you get better brakes.

Pitted against the finest chassis ever to carry a Mercedes E-class, the Audi’s handling is a half-degree flabbier. It understeers more and hesitates slightly longer before responding to a challenging steering input. And, if  you can find bumps in Germany, the ride is slightly stiff-legged on the optional 20s.

The S6 has the simplest driver-selectable DEFCON settings: There are four, lumping together everything from the transmission shift schedule to the air-suspension stiffness. Instead of individual buttons, the modes are selected through the multimedia screen. However, if  you set the car in “dynamic,” the sportiest option, it stays there until you change it. Both of the other cars default back to their cushy settings on restart.

We’ve been here before with the A7 and A8: down to the final paragraph of a comparison test musing about how the Audi offers comparable or better features, only slightly reduced performance, and a significantly lower price. Bavarians aren’t big on change, but down here, old regimes are rapidly being overthrown.

The Audi S6 – coming to Audi Mission Viejo this Fall!

About Audi Mission Viejo
Audi Mission Viejo is the last family-owned Audi dealer in South Orange County, with a commanding inventory of new and Audi Certified Pre-Owned vehicles. Audi Mission Viejo is also a multiple winner of Audi’s Magna Society recognition – an award reserved for dealerships with exceptional service. Orange County’s exclusive Audi-only dealership, Audi Mission Viejo is an authorized Audi A8 and Audi R8 dealer, earning the right to sell, lease and service these rare Audi models – currently the only such dealer in Orange County. For more information please visit