Raised, as I was, on a steady
diet of T-square tidy Volvo wagons (one of which I was proud to grow up with and now call
my own), I was wholly unprepared for the raw, visceral punch Audi packed into the
otherwise harmless A6 Avant when they fortified it with Vitamin "S".
Lemme put it this way: Remember muscle cars? You
know, Chargers, Cudas and Chevelles? The secret was to take the biggest engine you
made and stick it into the sleepiest intermediate in your lineup. Well, guess what. The
Germans cribbed that page of our playbook and have done us one better. Instead of just
bolting the monster motor in and hoping for the best, they actually built up the whole
car around it.
But this is the best part: Though not usually known
for their sense of humor, these wacky Westphalians are only producing the S6 only as an
"Avant" which, in Audispeak, means station wagon. No sedans, no coupes. No
kidding. Now I could bore you with the alphabet soup of all the supertechnology inside the
S6 Avant, from ESP to DSP, ABS to ASR. The list of awesome accoutrements Audi includes is
truly impressive, but here are a few of the highlights.
Chief among them, of course, is the 4.2-liter,
40-valve, DOHC V8. This potent powerplant sucks in the atmosphere through variable length
intake runners, converting it via all manner of wŁndertech into 340 horsepower and
310 lbs. ft. of torque. Though its a few ponies shy of the version found in the S8
(Audis performance flagship), this baby will still kick you like a mule when you
stand on the gas.
Unlike many other such street scorchers, the S6
Avant puts its twist to all four of its tires via the latest version of firms
ubiquitous "quattro" full-time all-wheel-drive system. In the S6, the generation
4 quattro system and its Torsen center differential split the power evenly fore and aft
until a wheel starts slipping. Then, via all manner of frenetic electron exchange, the
quattro system and its allied equipment hustle the power to the wheels that grip, and no
one in the cabin is the wiser. Adding to this blissful ignorance is the sheer mastery of
the latest Tiptronic transmission.
Though you may be familiar with the "Tip,"
the S6s new gate may surprise you. Down there at the bottom, where only D used to
be, theres now an S as well. S, as everyone knows, means speeding ticket in cars
like the S6, and this new addition to the Tiptronic lexicon does not disappoint. Whereas
once performance-oriented drivers shunned "leaving it in D" in favor of shifting
for themselves via steering wheel buttons or bumping the stick, it is my prediction that
they will do what I do and leave it in S, unless they are showing off for friends or
This new Sport setting, via nearly indecipherable
technical jargon, does everything that you would do when you take matters into your own
hands, only better. It knows when youre going uphill, or around a corner, or just
about any other instance in which youd want to downshift or hold in a gear to get
the peak performance from the powerplant.
Speaking of performance, before the S6 hit the
streets, Audi had already introduced a souped-up version of the A6 Avant, calling it the
allroad (yes, again with the lowercase). Its certainly a fine machine, with a
twin-turbo version of the firms 2.7-liter V6, an adjustable ride height system and a
full complement of Audis electrickery. Audi had also installed the 4.2-liter motor
into an A6a sedan, in this instancecreating the A6 4.2.
Though probably not intentionally, what Audi
actually created with these two machines are two benchmarks against which the true measure
of the S6 can be tested. Thanks to a diet plan that would do Calista Flockhart proud, the
S6 Avant and the A6 4.2 (sedan, remember) are within ounces of each other. So the fact
that they both sprint to 60 in the same 6.4 seconds should surprise few. But as with all
good tales, its the twist in the end that counts.
Track testing shows that the S6 Avant leaves its
four-door sibling behind soon after 60 mph, blasting through the century mark in 15.8
seconds, a full half-second ahead of the A6 4.2. Should you need further proof of the
concept, the off-road oriented allroad uses every bit of blow from its turbos to make
7.7-second dashes to 60, with 100 coming in a comparatively leisurely 21.4 seconds. Should
you be shopping for an A6 derivative but are short on cash, forget it. The A6 Avant,
without any of the aforementioned warming-over, hits 60 in 9.6 seconds and eventually
cracks 100 in 26.
There is one good thing about the standard
cars relative sluggishness: stealth. Save for broader shoulders, bigger wheels and
beefier front and rear fascias, there are really few visual clues that give away the fact
that youre piloting a rocket ship and not a rocking chair. (Just make sure you
dont order yours in the Amulet Red found on my test car. Something in a beige,
Let me digress for a moment by mentioning that all
of this boy-racer bravado has been achieved in conjunction withnot in spite
ofthe A6s posh and plush appointments. With available Alcantara suede on just
about every surface that isnt already creamy leather, flawless aluminum or
beautifully polished Gray Birch wood, the S6s cabin is a fully stocked garden of
Everything that could be power adjusted is,
including the foldaway exterior mirrors, one-touch up and down window switches and the
heated, infinitely adjustable seats. An automatic dual-zone climate control system will
keep things comfortable as you marvel at the perfect sound generated by the 200-watt Bose
"Symphony" sound system and its integrated 6-CD changer.
Also available are side curtain airbags for the rear
(they are standard up front), OnStar with its premium service package, and the only blight
on the otherwise fantastic S6 is the navigation system.
Im not quite sure why a company that can get
so many things right has to be so obstinately goofball about their in-car mapper.
Its certainly not a money issue as they want $1,350 of your money for a 2x3-inch
monochrome screen that cant even show you a line drawing map of where you are in the
world despite the fact that it takes an advanced placement computer programming class to
get the dang thing to work.
You wont look at it anyway, as the point of the S6 Avant is to
point it in the direction of your favorite stretch of twisties and stand on the gas,
knowing that no matter how nasty the road, weather or traffic may get, the S6 Avant will
keep you blasting through it. Did I mention that its a station wagon?