What's New for 2009
The 2009 Audi S6 receives mild front- and rear-end styling revisions, including revamped taillights, as well as updated graphics for the instrument cluster. Also, some optional equipment from last year is now standard.
It's hard not to chuckle at the basic concept of the 2009 Audi S6. It's like the guys at "Pimp My Ride" got tired of installing 20-foot-tall inflatable movie screens in broken-down economy cars and said to themselves, "What's the most ridiculous thing we could do with an Audi A6?" The answer, of course, is stuff a version of the Lamborghini Gallardo's 5.2-liter V10 under the hood. And that's precisely what Audi did in the course of creating the S6 supersedan.
Unfortunately, this concept is considerably more appealing in theory than in practice. There's no denying that the S6's 435-horsepower V10 has an intoxicating wail, but it's also tasked with lugging around nearly 4,500 pounds. The result is a disappointing 5.7-second sprint to 60 mph, a full second or so behind the BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG. Moreover, 59 percent of that prodigious poundage is distributed up front, which produces precisely the sort of speed-scrubbing understeer that supersedans are supposed to eschew.
One might hope that the S6 at least offers a pleasant ride along with these shortcomings. Sadly, it doesn't. On the contrary, the S6's ride is bemusedly bone jarring given its relatively modest handling capabilities. At least the brakes are strong -- panic stops from 60 mph take just 110 fade-free feet, an impressive performance indeed for such a heavy car.
Aside from the rock-hard suspension tuning, many of the S6's enhancements over the regular A6 are appreciated. The 19-inch wheels look great, the subtly aggressive exterior styling treatment is a success and the aggressively bolstered front seats are a constant reminder of the S6's sporting pretensions. On the other hand, the mandatory six-speed automatic transmission is rather conventional and little better than what you'll find in the supercharged A6 3.0T, a car that comes uncomfortably close to the S6's performance capabilities for about 25 grand less. The S6 may be notably cheaper than the M5 and E63, but the old "you get what you pay for" adage is certainly in effect here.
If your heart is set on a high-performance Audi, allow us to recommend either the S5 coupe or a leftover '08 RS4 sedan. These cars offer mellifluous V8s that outperform the S6's V10, and their handling talents are also superior. If it's a supersedan that you're looking for, we'd steer you toward the E63 AMG, the M5, Cadillac's bargain-priced CTS-V, or even the smaller C63 AMG or M3. Like so many of those "Pimp My Ride" creations, the 2009 Audi S6 seems like a pretty cool idea until you see the finished product.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Audi S6 is a high-performance version of Audi's A6 midsize luxury sedan that comes in one loaded trim level. Standard equipment includes 19-inch wheels, performance tires, a sport-tuned suspension, upgraded brakes, adaptive bi-xenon headlights with washers and LED daytime running lights, keyless ignition and entry, a sunroof, a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front sport seats with adjustable lumbar and driver-side memory, premium leather upholstery, Bluetooth, a DVD-based navigation system, voice-recognition capability, a back-up camera, Audi's Multi Media Interface (MMI) system and a Bose surround-sound audio system with satellite radio, an iPod input and a six-CD changer in the glovebox.
Among the limited options are 18-inch wheels, non-sport seats, carbon-fiber interior trim (versus standard wood), heated rear seats, a blind-spot warning system and a sunroof that uses solar energy to power a ventilation system that cools the interior when parked.
Powertrains and Performance
The AWD 2009 Audi S6 is powered by a Lamborghini-sourced 5.2-liter V10 that cranks out 435 hp and 398 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control is the only available transmission. At our test track, the S6 ran from zero to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. EPA fuel economy estimates stand at 14 mpg city/19 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined.
Standard safety equipment on the 2009 Audi S6 includes antilock disc brakes, stability control, all-wheel drive, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. However, rear side airbags are an extra-cost option. In crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Audi A6 (on which the S6 is based) scored the highest possible rating of "Good" in both frontal-offset and side-impact tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Trimmed in leather and aluminum with birch wood accents, the S6's cabin carries on the Audi tradition of finely wrought interiors. The amply bolstered front sport seats provide good support during aggressive driving. The standard MMI system controls entertainment, communication and navigation functions via the dash-mounted LCD screen and a large knob on the center console. We wouldn't go so far as to call it user-friendly, but you get used to it. The S6 sedan offers a large 16-cubic-foot trunk.
The S6 handles well for a nose-heavy 4,500-pound AWD sedan, but it simply can't keep up with the quicker and better-balanced competition when the going gets curvy. There's no payoff in terms of ride comfort, either -- the S6's suspension is sports-car stiff. As good as the V10 sounds, it doesn't produce the thrust needed for the S6 to be competitive in this rarefied high-performance segment, and the six-speed automatic isn't as responsive as we'd like. Braking is about the only thing the 2009 Audi S6 unequivocally excels at.