Audi’s RS models have finally hit their stride in recent years. Not only is the German carmaker consistently releasing new and exciting cars like the RS 3 Sedan, RS 6 Avant, and RS Q8, but it’s also updating long-lived models like the RS 5 to make them competitive once more. However, while Audi’s flagships have improved significantly, so too have its midrange offerings; you just haven’t heard of them.
This latest S6 Sedan has a lot working in its favor. Its RS 5-sourced 444-horsepower twin-turbo V6 makes it sports car quick, while its adaptive air suspension allows it to retain excellent comfort. Inside, bucket seats, a flat-bottom steering wheel, and plenty of sporty graphics make its cabin nearly identical to the RS 6’s. And thanks to significant styling updates introduced for its fifth generation, it’s stylish, too.
Why, then, would a seemingly well-rounded sports sedan still be so often overlooked by enthusiasts?
One of the biggest hurdles the Audi S6 has to deal with is recognizability. If an RS 6 Avant flies by, it takes a fraction of a second to know you’re looking at something special. Its flared wheel arches, aggressive bumpers, and squatted stance are dead giveaways that it sits at the top of the RS food chain. The S6, on the other hand, may look sporty and elegant, but so does the standard A6 these days.
Take the second and third-generation S6s as examples. They may have been thoroughly linked to the base car, but items such as their boxed fenders made it clear that they were anything but. Compared to their fairly ordinary counterparts, they looked as sporty as they drove, and enthusiasts loved them.
However, by the time the fourth-generation Audi S6 arrived, things had changed because the standard A6 had. The visual gap between the base car and its sporty sibling was no longer the chasm it once was, with the pair looking eerily similar to the untrained eye. The days of the A6 being a luxurious but somewhat conservatively styled sedan were over, and the S6’s recognizability suffered.
So much so that a fourth-gen Audi S6 is the current cross-country Cannonball run record holder, selected for the gig because of how subtle it looks despite housing a powerful twin-turbocharged V8 under its hood. It can cruise at triple-digit speeds without attracting much attention, which is great for cannonballers but not so much for its desirability.
The arrival of the current fifth-generation A6 complicates things further because it’s never looked better. It’s styled elegantly, has killer proportions, and offers a wide stance even in base form thanks to a larger footprint.
The S6, on the other hand, gains an extended diffuser with quad tailpipes, a trunk lid spoiler, a unique set of wheels, and darkened trim but not a distinct aesthetic. Items like its aggressive front and rear bumpers, upgraded LED headlights, and wide grille with horizontal slats are also available for the A6 Premium Plus, making its great looks far from model-specific.
If for nothing else, the Audi S6 deserves its own identity and, thus, a spot in more enthusiasts’ hearts because of how good of a luxury sports sedan it is. Although it’s no longer running on eight cylinders, its 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged V6 is a killer powerplant in its own right. It produces 444 hp and 442 pound-feet of torque, enough to complete the run to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and top out at 155 mph. All of which are sports car figures from a sedan that weighs no less than 4,486 pounds.
The S6 gets a model-specific eight-speed automatic transmission, a Quattro all-wheel drive system, and adaptive air suspension as standard. As equipped on my tester, an optional $4,000 S Sport package adds all-wheel steering, a sports exhaust system, and an upgraded rear differential.
While all of these components sound undoubtedly sporty, Audi S6 is far from the firm canyon carver the RS 6 is, and it’s all the better for it. Its straight-line acceleration may be explosive thanks to the abundant low-end torque its V6 generates and quick-shifting transmission. However, its suspension never truly firms up, even in its most aggressive setting. While this results in plenty of body roll and even a fair bit of understeer in the bends, it makes the S6 a better luxury sports sedan everywhere else.
Rather than tackling a twisty road, the S6 feels most at home on the highway, sat in the left lane, effortlessly cruising at triple-digit speeds. Despite offering straight-line performance comparable with a sports car’s, it glides over road imperfections, offering a near-perfect blend of comfort and performance, exactly as a midpoint between the A6 and RS 6 should.
Its steering backs up this laid-back, almost muscle car persona because although it’s relatively light and direct, it is utterly devoid of feedback. It’s a similar story with its brakes, which, although upgraded to handle the S6’s added speed, are easy to overwhelm as your pace picks up. At everyday speeds, however, they’re effortless to modulate and make no unwanted noise.
Like its styling, the Audi S6 benefits from the many quality and refinement improvements introduced for the A6. It’s as quiet as you’d ever expect a large luxury sedan to be. Aided mainly by its adaptive air shocks and a set of sporty but plush front seats, its cabin is a great place to spend a decent amount of time.
As part of the $2,500 Design Edition pack, my tester gets a black leather interior with contrasting red stitching, a black roof, a heated flat-bottom steering wheel, and dark chrome trim throughout its cabin. Options aside, other elements, such as its digital instrument cluster and twin dashboard-mounted central screens, carry over from the A6.
My 2023 Audi S6 tester starts at $74,795, including a $1,095 destination fee. However, optional extras such as its $8,800 Prestige package, $4,000 S Sport package, and $2,500 Design Edition package, its as-tested price is $91,165. For context, that’s a lot less than the $145,440 as-tested price of last year’s RS 6 Avant, despite offering comparable performance in most daily-driving scenarios.
The Audi S6 is a not-so-sporty sports sedan in the best way possible. Despite offering formidable straight-line performance, it doesn’t compromise on comfort or its luxury roots. It’s the ultimate daily driver for those looking for sports car feed without the added firmness associated with supercar hunters like the RS 6 Avant.
The S6 is a car whose driving experience delivers on its sports sedan intentions and yet another product of Audi’s recent winning streak. However, none of that matters if the enthusiasts who would buy one wouldn’t consider it because it’s practically indistinguishable from a standard A6. The S6 is a great car that’s a few visual upgrades away from being truly exceptional, and it certainly deserves them.