I am well aware that the press are not particularly enamoured of the car that comprised my latest test vehicle.
Nevertheless, in my quest to find a suitable replacement for the S4, I decided to give the S6 a test drive. Well, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss, even if ultimately, I were to conclude that they are right!
The car was delivered to our offices on Friday while I was still stuck somewhere on a BA plane en route back from Barcelona, and first notice that it had arrived came in the form of an email from the Security Guard advising me that a blue Audi had been delivered for me. Sure enough, when I arrived in our off-site car park, there was a Sprint Blue S6 waiting for me. Although my first task was to transfer items from my car, and then to move the S4 to our underground car park for the weekend, I could not help getting in the S6, and just firing the engine to hear it! At that point, I was pretty sure that I was going to like this car!
On Friday I only drove it the 8 miles home, in the rush hour, up the M32, in the rain. Nevertheless, this was more than enough to give me some first impressions. The inside of the car is so obviously an Audi. Everything about the ambience, and indeed a lot of the individual components, has the family resemblance and style. The dash is beautifully finished, and with the same clear, unfussy dials as you find in the S4. Many of the switches are exactly the same, so it was easy to feel quickly at home in an unfamiliar car:
The seats – a unique item for the S6 – proved supremely comfortable, and with all the electric adjustment that you would expect. I was a little surprised to find that the rather nice silk nappa leather covering is not standard, though, costing an extra £350.
Everyone who knew I was borrowing this car told me it was “too big”. Well, for sure it is larger than even the new A4 (just!), and that is manifest in the acre of space in the back. There should be no complaints from anyone who has to ride there for long distances.
There’s a massive boot, too, which stretches so far back that I could not reach the rear seat backs! Those seat backs fold forward to create an even longer loading platform (though it is not level). I was surprised, and pleased to discover that the reason why there is a slight hump in the boot floor is because a proper full-sized spare wheel (along with a gargantuan battery) is under there.
However, enough of the practicalities, what about driving the S6? This is the first V10 engined car I’ve driven, and although my expectations were high, I do not feel disappointed. The engine generates 435 bhp, which, although it powers quite a large and heavy vehicle, is way more than enough. The surge forward when you press even quite gently on the accelerator pedal is truly impressive. And the noise that accompanies it is even better. More than once yesterday, I found myself deliberately holding back a bit in traffic, so I could then press the throttle and zoom up to 60 mph, and enjoy the noise that was generated. Piers may think I did this for his benefit, but I can assure you all that it was for me, too……….. indeed, I can still recall feeling the grin that was all over my face every time I accelerated yesterday morning, as I was still getting used to the car. Piers did tell me that the car sounds even better from the outside, which would not surprise me! Although I don’t think I would ever tire of the noise, this is actually a truly refined cruiser. 70 mph, in sixth gear, is less than 2500 rpm, and the car is very quiet indeed. This high gearing also means that at a steady speed, feeding those 10 cylinders is not quite as thirsty as I feared. I managed to average 25 mpg on the trip to Goodwood!
If you look under the bonnet, it is clear that the V10 is mounted well forward in the car. That might lead you to fear for the handling characteristics of the car. No doubt that in extreme, things could get interesting (!), but for me on public roads, in an unfamiliar (and borrowed) car, I found no issues at all, and am perfectly happy that the steering and handling would be perfectly acceptable, even if the car does not feel as nimble as an RS4. It is the ride that the press really castigated. Fearing the worst – they had used words such as “appalling” – I wanted to test the car out on some of my regular routes, such as the M4, and I concluded that although it is not particularly good, it is no worse than the (admittedly not very compliant) ride in my S4, and I could certainly live with it. Closer examination of the S6 revealed lots of little details which pleased. I loved these S6 logos in the brake discs, for instance:
I also noted the neat chrome finisher on top of the door handles, and the fact that the lock itself does not rise with the main handle.
The equipment feature that impressed the most were the headlights. The advanced Xenons are standard on the S6, and the throw of light that they gave on main beam is just astonishing – the best I have ever encountered, I think. In fact, the standard spec of this £56k car is actually pretty good, and there are few items that would have to be added. The usual trick of charging for metallic paint applies, of course, but pretty much everything else that should be there is included.
So, the press might not like this car……… but I do. In fact, I loved it! It’s going to be very hard handing it back tomorrow morning!
As is now well documented here, I ordered a car just like this machine. It arrived in May 2008, and has not disappointed. Without question, the best car I have ever owned.