DRIVEN: AUDI S6 AND S7
VW Group's new twin-turbo V8 filters into the new S6 and S7 Sportback. But are they convincing sporty execs?
That modest fuel consumption is helped by cylinder deactivation technology that turns the V8 into a four-cylinder engine under certain conditions (the noise and vibration cancellation tech for which is identical to that in the Audi S8 we drove last year - and very effective).
Besides, for the moment there is no RS6 range-topper (though it's a racing certainty that one is in the offing); so this is the fastest A6-type Audi saloon you can get for now. And it is fast. There's 420hp available at 5,500-6,400rpm, and a steady wallop of 405lb ft of torque between 1,400 and 5,200rpm, giving both S6 and S7 the capacity to hit 62mph from rest in 4.6 seconds on the way to an electronically limited top speed of 155mph.
Part of the reason for Audi UK's modest ambitions is that the S6 and S7 are not really aimed at the British market. Audi implicitly admits as much, citing the US as its primary market for the cars.
Further proof comes when you take a look at the cars Audi wants us to think of as rivals for its S6/S7 pairing: The BMW 550i M Sport and Jaguar XF V8 for the S6, the BMW 550i GT and the Mercedes CLS 500 for the S7. None of which exactly flies out of the showroom.
What's also particularly interesting about these rivals is that, unlike the S-badged Audis, they are not marketed under a sporty sub-brand; Jaguar, Mercedes and BMW (at least for the moment) save that sort of thing for more hardcore offerings only.
This is where the S6 and S7 hit an identity crisis. Drive them and they feel precisely as you might expect, given the market position Audi is angling for; like high-end versions of large, relatively sporty executive cars.
The problem is that the S heaps a rather more sporty weight of expectation upon the cars' shoulders. Lower down the Audi sporting pecking order, the TTS and S3 are both sufficiently lively and involving to feel genuinely enthusiast oriented, but in the upper echelons of Audi's range that ground is very much left to the RS-badged products of Quattro GmbH.
As a result, the subtle-but-definitely-there sporting cues (trademark silver door mirrors, supportive quilted leather seats, 'V8 T' inscribed on the wings and a smattering of S6 or S7 badges) strike a discord with the way the cars actually drive. Sure, there's no doubting their pace - which is actually quite a surprise given that the S6 and S7 give away a solid 100hp to the similarly-engined S8 and yet weigh a mere 80kg and 30kg less than the big 1,975kg limo respectively - but there's a soft, refined edge to their dynamic behaviour that is a little unexpected, given their performance-saloon visuals.
It's a question of perception
This is not necessarily a bad thing, however. Approach the S6 and S7 with your expectations adjusted to a less focused, er, focus and the cars suddenly begin to make sense.
The interior design and quality is everything you expect in an Audi, for example. It's beautifully put-together and well equipped, but there's now an added softness and luxury feel to the cabin design - both S6 and S7 have virtually identical interiors since they are basically different bodystyles of the same car. It's a similar quasi-cosiness that makes the A8 and takes away the cold edge of Audi interiors of old.
Combine that ride, the quality-feeling interior and a seven-speed S Tronic dual clutch gearchange that seems perfectly matched to the torquey twin-turbo V8 and you've got an appealing high-speed cruiser with a whiff of sporting intent.
Same, but different
It should be noted, though, that the S6 and S7 are not identical twins. Despite running identical running gear and suspension set-ups, the different bodies (in particular the S7's extra weight) make the cars feel subtly different from one another. Of the two, it is the S6 that feels marginally more taut and sharp in its responses, the heavier body in the S7 giving it a little more lean in corners, and dulling its responses a touch.
The S6 and S7 are not the last word in sports saloons, then (the S7 isn't even a 'saloon'). But if you are one of the hundred-or-so 39-55 year-olds 'fascinated by technology', with two cars and a 'top executive' job (or, presumably, if you are an American), then one of them might just be the car for you. Everybody else will probably want to wait for the RS6...
Engine: 3,993cc V8, twin-turbo
Transmission:7-speed dual-clutch, four-wheel drive
Torque (lb ft):405@,1400-5,200rpm
0-62mph: 4.6 sec
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 1,895kg (S7: 1,945kg)
MPG: 29.4mpg (NEDC combined)
Price:£53,995 (S7: £56,050)