The first time I drove ‘my’ new Audi S6, it left me feeling a little cold. Don’t forget, this is a model that started life in 1994 with an inline-five and V8, after which the second-gen S6 continued the V8 theme with another 4.2. Then, Audi went full petrolhead and crammed a 5.2-litre into the third-gen C6 S6.
Fast forward to the fourth-gen C7 of 2012, and the S6 went back to V8 power, this time featuring the legendary 4.0-litre TFSI with 414bhp and 405lb ft.
Which brings us to the present day, and the latest S6 (also the car I’ve been living with for three months) which is a very different beast…
You see, Audi ditched petrol for the new C8 S6, fitting it instead with a V6 diesel for the very first time. So along with a flexible, petrol-powered rev range, the excitement of a turbocharged V8 or the howl of a V10 are no more.
However, the V6 diesel is a fantastic engine with 342bhp and a massive 516lb ft of torque. It also gets the same clever electric compressor as the SQ5, which works together with a more conventional turbocharger to kill turbo lag.
That said, the current semi-hot S6 wagon doesn’t sound like it’s got what it takes to fill its predecessor’s big boots, which is why I’ve spent three months trying to figure it out. So here are the things I love and hate about it…
Audi’s decision to fit both the S6 and S4 models with a 3.0-litre diesel took everyone by surprise, and as a big fan of big oil burners, I’m glad that Audi’s found a couple of cars to cram this one into.
Despite its size, the S6 Avant will hit 62mph in 5.1 seconds ahead of a limited top speed of 155mph, and for that reason, hammering down a motorway is enjoyable, effortless and fairly economical.
In fact, over the last 2664 miles and 87 hours of driving, the S6 has achieved 32.8mpg with an average speed of 31mph.
My biggest gripe with the S6 - by far - is the gearbox which, when you need to press on from a standstill, will leave you in the lurch.
Too many times have I wanted to accelerate onto a roundabout, only to be confronted by a no-man’s land of nothing, nothing, nothing at which point I’ve missed my opportunity to make the gap and have to back out.
This gearbox makes low-speed city driving especially frustrating, but the S6 isn’t the only culprit. All 3.0-litre V6 diesels with this gearbox that we’ve tested - including the VW Touareg and Audi S4 - share the same annoying trait, making them far better suited to motorway driving where the gearbox works seamlessly.
Until recently, I’d been driving the S6 in Comfort mode only because I’d resigned myself to the fact that this was nothing more than a hyped-up S-line model with an S6 badge. And while I stand by my opinion that the S6 badge doesn’t belong on the boot lid, I’ll admit that I’ve overlooked quite how dynamically capable and fun the S6 can be.
Pressing the Dynamic Mode button unleashes another side to the car that makes it more eager to power up a road and hunker down on the tarmac ready for the next corner. Now with stiffer suspension and a lower ride height, the paddle shifters finally make sense, and before you know it, you’re looking for a place to turn around for another go.
So credit where credit’s due, because the heavy, diesel-powered S6 hides its weight well and makes a mockery of an 8000rpm petrol rev range.
Don’t get me wrong, the ride is surprisingly good and they fill the car’s arches nicely, but the optional £1800 21-inch wheels make driving in London very stressful (that, and the fact that the car costs £78k with options).
Every kerb, corner and width restriction has to be taken with extra caution because if you scuff anything bitey, it’ll hurt not only the rim and your bank account, but also potentially the tyre. So thank God I have a driveway, otherwise I’m sure I’d be apologising to Audi at least a few times a week.
One thing I can’t fault is the S6’s build quality (well, almost, but more on that in a bit). The interior is wonderful, comfortable and quiet, the ride - despite those 21s - is sublime, and the general feeling of security is up there with the likes of the Land Rover Discovery.
Everything feels right and proper, and despite the massive panoramic roof, there are no creaks when I reverse onto my off-camber driveway (by contrast, one roof clip on my girlfriend’s Peugeot 206 CC pops open without fail during the same manoeuvre).
There is, however, a rattle somewhere behind the instrument cluster that’s started to annoy me. It only happens occasionally at low speeds, and will need to be looked at soon. Overall, though, the build quality is A1.
City Assist Pack is a £1375 option that I’d do without for the simple reason that I don’t like Audi’s ‘pre sense plus collision mitigation system’. The reason why I don’t like it is because it brakes the car for you when you’re about to crash. Except it doesn’t only do it then; it’s done it to me four times already, each time when there was no need to, especially while trying to reverse.
My poor dog, Maisy, has felt the force of the brakes from the boot a couple of times and wondered what the hell I was doing. Unfortunately I don’t speak dog, so now I have to live with the fact that she thinks I’m a crap driver…
It’s taken longer than any car I can remember to warm to the S6, but as time’s gone by and as my understanding of it has developed, I do like it. But I don’t like it as an S6, I like it as a luxury wagon with a big diesel engine, and the ability to occasionally be fun rather than always being up for a B-road blast. So it’s best to think of this car as an S-line model and not an S6.
A bit like me, then, the S6 has grown up, entered a new phase in its life and has said ‘to hell with what anyone else thinks’. I respect it for that, but for my £78,000, I’d opt for something with a little more personality.