02/04/2007 00:00 | By Kyle Fortune, contributor, MSN Cars

Audi S6 Avant review (2006-2011)

Audi S6 Avant (© Image © Audi)

Model: Audi S6
Bodystyle: Avant (estate)
Engine: 5.2-litre Petrol V10
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Date of Test: March 2007

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What is it?

A V10-engined super saloon – or in this case, estate – that combines Audi’s usual traits of impeccable build quality, unassuming styling and effortless performance. Under its bonnet and behind that more aggressive grille sits a 5.2-litre V10 engine that is mated to Audi’s quattro four-wheel-drive. That engine produces 429bhp, and with all that traction from the quattro system it is able to sprint to 62mph in just 5.3 seconds. That is not quite as fast as the load lugging versions of the BMW M5 or the Mercedes-Benz E63 at 4.8 and 4.6 seconds respectively - but what is a few tenths of a second anyway? The S6 is a very, very quick car.

Where does it fit?

The S6 sits at the top of the A6 range. Its V10 engine is often referred to as the same one that powers the Lamborghini Gallardo, which isn’t technically correct as it is significantly different, but Audi seems happy enough with the association. And why wouldn’t they be, after all a super saloon with its powerplant borrowed from Italy’s most outrageous of supercar manufacturers sounds far more exotic than any of its rivals. Those rivals are the aforementioned BMW M5 and Merc AMG E63, and, if you are only after a saloon, the Jaguar XJR and Maserati Quattroporte. So think circa £60k and outputs in excess of 400bhp then.

Is it for you?

If you are after a very fast, very capable family car then absolutely. The S6, perhaps more than any of its rivals, blends everyday usability in with its quite ridiculous performance potential. It is a subtle looker too, only serious car spotters will recognise the S6. So if you are after a discreet, fast car that will carry the kids, and all the associated paraphernalia they bring, while still entertaining you with big performance then the S6 is a desirable choice. It is the only car in its class with four-wheel-drive too, so if you are partial to the odd trip to the Alps for skiing then it is perhaps the perfect vehicle – as long as your wallet is deep enough to cover the fuel.

What does it do well?

Put its power down. Really. Ask any of the S6’s rivals to effectively use their enormous power in anything less than perfect conditions and they will bog down in a display of wheelspin and flashing traction control lights. The S6 just distributes its ample power and torque to the wheels that can utilise it best, its traction very impressive indeed. Do so and you are rewarded with a glorious deep growling from under the bonnet, and searing pace. The six-speed auto ‘box is smooth, the interior is better built and styled than any of its rivals and the S6’s discreet looks appeal to us too. That large estate boot, with its (optional) load controlling partitions is also very useful.

What doesn’t it do well?

Any car with a 5.2-litre V10 engine is going to like a drop of fuel and the S6 is no exception – think mid to late teens in consumption. Being a sporting car the ride can sometimes be a touch jarring, and oddly the throttle can be jerky until the engine is warm. Fast and relatively composed as the S6 is it is not as involving to drive as its rivals. There is little communication from the chassis and steering, the S6 not a car you will derive pleasure from for its intimate feedback and pin-sharp responses. It is not the easiest car to park either, the long bonnet and narrow rear visibility making the optional parking sensors a must.

What’s it like to live with?

Very nice indeed. Our week’s tenure with the S6 covered everything from long, slow slogs through a busy London, to sustained high-speed cruising on the motorway. During all the S6 remains a very nice place to be. Being the range-topper it is fully specced, which means DVD sat nav, some of the most comfortable seats around and an interior that all other manufacturers should look at for both quality fit, finish and feel and style, too. All 133 Audi dealers should be eager to please. It is also nice driving something with so much in reserve…

How green is it?

Not hugely, 319g/km isn’t brilliant and is firmly in band G for tax, and an official combined consumption of 21.0mpg is hardly parsimonious either. It is impressive though when you consider this is a 5.2-litre V10, capable of quite sensational performance. Bear in mind too that this current S6 delivers more performance, more power from more cylinders than its V8 forbearer, while using less fuel and emitting less CO2. The car industry is constantly improving in this area, which is more than can be said of other sources of CO2…

BMW M5 v Mercedes E63 AMG

Would we buy it?

We would be very tempted indeed. It might not have the ultimate power and pace of rivals like the M5, but it is exactly for this reason why we would seriously consider it. It is a more civilised car more of the time, its rivals always feeling like they’re trying a bit too hard to be everything to everyone. The S6 isn’t a sports car, nor is it trying to be. It is a very fast, very refined, beautifully built and useful all-rounder. And that makes it hugely desirable.

Driven: Audi RS4
Used Audi S6 Avants from £10,000


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