2016 Audi A6, S6 First Drive
Audi Adds Power to A6 and S6: Other Changes Are Less Noticeable but Certainly Welcome
In the automotive world, there's no such thing as too much power.
There's power people cannot control and power that will shred tires in a fit of white smoke. But too much power? No, that's never a complaint.
So when Audi invited us to Dresden, Germany, a place that has seen its fair share of abusive power, to test the new and more powerful Audi A6 and S6 expected to come to America next year, there's no way we could decline.
If you liked the previous A6 and S6, you won't be disappointed.
The A6 feels just as planted as ever. Acceleration is quick, the steering taut, the ride compliant. These cars have that confidence-instilling performance that will help you set fire to curvy roads, though that may not be the best cliché to use in Dresden.
For the 2016 model year, Audi will offer a few more horses for its A6 and S6 models. There are also some other changes coming, such as cleaning up the front and rear fascias, new interior touches, and new driver features in the mix.
While the Europeans will get eight different engine offerings, ranging from 1.8-liter turbo diesel four-cylinder to the 4.0L V8 and a slew of diesel variants, Americans will get only four engine choices, only one of which is a diesel. The A6 will offer the 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4, the 3.0-liter supercharged V6, and a 3.0-liter turbo diesel V6. The S6 will return with Audi's 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8. Horsepower jumps 30 ponies to 450 horsepower for the S6, while the smaller gas engines see smaller increases: another 12 horsepower for the 2.0-liter (now 252 horsepower) and 8 more horses for the 3.0-liter (now 333 horsepower).
While final mileage numbers have not been released, these cars should all see increases over the 2015 models, which are: 2.0T, 25/33/28 city/highway/combined; FWD, 20/29/23 AWD; 3.0T, 18/28/22 AWD; 3.0 TDI, 24/38/29; S6, 17/27/20.
Engine improvements stem from painstakingly reviewing and tweaking nearly every aspect of the engine, Audi says. Cylinder heads have been changed, different heat management systems have been adopted, and chain drives have been modified. Engines have dual induction and adjustable camshafts, and the 3.0-liter has added a new electromagnetic clutch to deactivate the supercharger when it is not needed. Many of these changes will increase the A6 and S6's efficiency, which will continue to be an issue as emission laws grow tighter.
Audi also introduces a new seven- and eight-speed twin-clutch Tiptronic transmission. (There will be no manual A6 offerings in America, though Europe will get a lightweight six-speed manual for some diesel variants.) The new transmissions have removed the traditional oil pumps and now use an electric pump that moves oil to the top of the transmission and drips it onto each individual gear. The idea behind this was to create a more efficient transmission. Instead of gears sloshing through oil at the bottom of the transmission and losing energy, the individual drops, each meticulously adjusted for premium performance, can lubricate gears without slowing them down.
All of the A6 versions come with the eight-speed, twin-clutch automatic with paddle shifters mounted onto the steering wheel. The transmission is extremely smooth and crazy quick. The S6 will keep its twin-clutch seven-speed transmission.
Furthermore, Audi changes out the front and rear fascias, creating a bigger grille and slightly more intimidating look. The fascia changes also mean the headlights are new. In Europe, the A6 will feature Audi's Matrix lighting system that uses dozens of LEDs to track objects in front of the car. It will turn off some LEDs so things such as oncoming cars will not be bathed in high beams, even while the rest of the road is still lit up. It's a neat system and really improves the driver's visibility. It will likely come to America, but still needs Department of Transportation approval.
Of course, in the meantime, the A6 will feature a night-vision device similar to the one found on some Mercedes-Benz vehicles. All of my test driving was done during the day, so I was not able to try this particular feature. Admittedly, however, anything with night vision is automatically cooler.
There have also been some interior changes, an upgraded MMI, and Audi's infotainment system is displayed on a 7-inch color screen at the top of the dash. The controls are located on the center console and allow the driver to easily move through the different screens and commands. Want to change the steering feel? Click, spin, click, and it's done.
Designers changed some of the color schemes inside the cabin, which still has lots of aluminum touches and beautiful wood-grain finishes. A new dark red, called Salsa Red, is a striking addition to this sedan.
While many of these changes are not noticeable at first glance, they create a wonderful car. The vehicle that stretches more than 190 inches long but drives much smaller. Put the transmission in Sport mode, and it becomes much more responsive with tighter steering and later shifts. (I actually preferred the Comfort mode steering, even in Sport mode.)
The S6, with its additional power, is still one of the best sleepers around. Most people will never suspect this car will go from 0 to 60 mph in about 4.5 seconds. (Audi's testing numbers in Europe are 0-62 mph in 4.6 seconds.) It has a top speed of 155 mph and, during our quick autobahn drive I was able to reach 130 mph. The car felt extremely well-planted as I blasted past other cars as if they were standing still. It barely felt like I was going 90 mph.
Perhaps the best part is how well this sedan provides luxurious features without compromising performance. The second row is spacious and can easily carry three adults. The front is comfortable and surrounds the driver with technology and the scent of leather. The S6's exhaust note provided an audible power cue as it echoed through the valleys surrounding Dresden.
When people look at this car, they might not know how powerful it is or even how luxurious of a ride it provides, but they will know that there's something right about it: its long exterior lines, its great proportions, and that smile the driver always has whenever he or she gets out of it.
Power does that to people, absolutely.