Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Audi S6 - Affordable?

What you regard as affordable is obviously very subjective. I learnt many years ago that there were some people in the world that had the kind of money that I could never aspire to, and that equally, there were people in the world who could hardly aspire to the level of spending that I occasionally indulge in.

Four years ago, when my father died, he left sufficient money to each of his children that I decided to spend a portion of it on a brand new car, and I ended up getting an Audi S4 Avant. Apart from a couple of relatively minor incidents, I’ve been very happy with my choice, and regular readers will know of my fondness for the “marque with the four rings”.

Just occasionally, I get the opportunity to drive other cars from the Audi range, and recently, I had the latest Audi S6 Avant to evaluate for a few days. And here is where the introduction is relevant, as the S6 is not cheap motoring. But neither is the S4 that is my everyday transport – it just depends on how much disposable income you have.

The basic price of the Audi S6 Avant is £54,590 but the one I drove had more than £10,000-worth of optional extras on it, including a head-up display, electric boot, 20-inch wheels, dynamic steering and Bose surround sound – each adding more than £1,000 to the cost. Again, depending on your priorities, each may or may not be worth the money: but Audi at least gives you the choice to decide for yourself.

So the car I had the use of would have cost very nearly £70,000 to put on the road (including a tax disc at £815!). But it is a very good car, and given the choice, I would far rather have it than the S4. Would I be prepared to pay the difference in price though? Possibly.

The heart of the S6 is its engine: it is very, very wonderful indeed. If anything would convince me to buy the car, it would be the engine. My S4 is equipped with a 3-litre, mechanically supercharged V6, giving 333PS. The S6 has a 4-litre, twin-turbo V8, giving 420PS. For my money, or rather for somebody else’s money, that makes all the difference. In truth, there are not many occasions when you really need those extra 87 horses in normal, everyday motoring - but the V8 gives you such a lovely exhaust note, such a responsive growl, that it doesn’t always come down to the raw statistics. Sometimes it is the mind's response to the input from the ears that sets the pulse racing and the smile spreading across the face, more than a couple of tenths in the 0-60 figures.

The other significant difference between the two cars is the gearbox. My S4 has a manual box; the S6 comes with Audi’s S-tronic gearbox as standard. Now I’ve driven other Audis with this but it is remarkable how easy it is to get used to. By default, it works like an automatic, putting you in the right gear all the time, and giving you split-second changes as you accelerate. What it can’t do for you though, is to read the road conditions,  which is where the paddle-shift comes in. If you find yourself in the situation where you know you are about to need a lower gear, just flick the left hand paddle to drop it down a gear (or two), gently squeeze the throttle and you’re away, with none of the jerkiness that is often associated with the kick-down of a normal automatic ‘box.

I have to admit, that apart from this I hardly used the paddles at all. Except for occasional hard braking, when it just sounded better to have the gears tripping down as the speed reduced.

As for the optional extras, if you are in the market for such a purchase, then here are one or two very personal observations:
•    SurroundSound – I am not sure that spending money on a sound system for a car is ever worthwhile. I would far rather listen to my favourite music in the comfort of my living room without the inevitable background noise which accompanies driving.
•    Advanced parking system – I like the audible warning tone when reversing, and a rear-facing camera is good to distinguish branches and leaves from brick walls, but the “top view” is just overkill, in my view.
•    Head up display – remarkable useful. I found myself missing it when I was back in my own car.
•    High beam assist – just doesn’t work well enough.
•    Audi ambient lighting – very moody; very effective. I like it.
•    Advanced key – no need to lock or unlock the car… again it’s surprisingly easy to get used to. Get it.
•    MMI Touch – writing with your finger on a touch-sensitive pad. Not really necessary: I find the voice recognition that comes as standard far quicker, easier and more usable. The left-handed might find it easier.

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